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Monday, December 24, 2012

Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed (1968)














Hosted by: Bill Cosby

IMDB.com
This is a very poignant documentary that was narrated by Bill Cosby back in 1968. The film is about Black identity and pride and how they have been compromised due to omissions in history books as well as Hollywood's depiction of Black America. Both of these problems essentially boil down to a disdain for Black culture and identity. This film came out in the 1960s when Black Americans were no longer accepting that they were second best--a very positive step in our society.

I first saw this film when I was in middle school back in the late 1970s. Sadly, our teacher tried showing it to us because the film had many wonderful lessons but what I remembered most about the film is how the White students laughed at the images of Blacks in films, such as from BIRTH OF A NATION or the antics of Steppin Fetchit. Now, thirty years later I was able to get my own copy of this documentary--no small feat considering how obscure it now is.

I was very impressed by this film and liked the overall message. Bill Cosby is a reasonable man but it's also nice to see that at times, he's angry as he talks about the de-humanization of Black men and women in films--with "Aunt Jemima" images, the myth of the "happy slave" as well as the "slow-witted Negro". All this is very poignant and can't help but make his point. If anything, this documentary actually was somewhat gentle in its condemnation of these films--and made no mention of the worst offenders, cartoons (such as the horrible COAL BLACK AND DE SEBBEN Dwarfs).

Also seen in the film is some of the counter-reaction to these images in the Black community--such as a school intended to "brain-wash Black kids" (Cosby's words) so they won't buy into the lies that make a Black man any less of a man. Sadly, however, this film was made in 1968 and there is so much to the Black Power movement and the 1970s that couldn't have been covered. In fact, there's so much from the 80s and 90s and today that couldn't be covered. This film is aching to be remade by Cosby, as racism is seen in different forms today and there are still unnecessary divisions in our country that need to be identified and addressed. He's a very, very smart and talented man and I would love to see his take today on what's going on right and wrong between Black and White America.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Huey [a.k.a. Black Panthers] (1968)















Starring:
  • H. Rap Brown
  • Stokely Carmichael
  • Eldridge Cleaver
"This riveting documentary, "Black Panthers - Huey!", directed by French filmmaker Agnes Varda transports you to the pivotal Free Huey rally held on February 17th, 1968 (Newton's birthday), at Oakland Auditorium in Alameda, California. Newton, the charismatic young college student who, along with Bobby Seale, created the Black Panther Party, had been jailed for allegedly killing a police officer. His arrest--widely believed at the time to be a setup--galvanized Party support throughout the nation and led to a boom in Party membership, bringing a new level of public attention to the Panthers' cause. Over 5,000 people attended the rally, which featured Party leaders and guest speakers including Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale, James Forman, Bob Avakian, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown and Ron Dellums. Through stark un-editorialized footage, this documentary chronicles the speakers outlining the Party's platform goals, their strategies for freeing Newton from jail and more."

Plus: BLACK PANTHER NEWSREEL (USA, 1968): The California Newsreel was an underground alternative to the commercial broadcast media of the 1960's.

No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Nigger (1968)














Director: David L. Weiss

IMDB.com
Filmed at an anti-war march from Harlem to the United Nations in 1967 on the occasion of Martin Luther King's speech at the U.N in which he questioned the disproportionate percentage of black soldiers in combat in Vietnam. The title is a quote misattributed to Mohammed Ali on why he refused to serve in the war. Four hundred thousand people participated in demonstrations ion New York on that day. On-street interviews with black residents of Harlem are interlaced with the comments of three black soldiers who had recently returned from the war.

The Brother From Another Planet (1984)












Starring:
  • Joe Morton
  • Daryl Edwards
  • Rosanna Carter
IMDB.com
The Brother is an alien who has crash-landed on Earth, in New York City. While mute, strongly empathic, and able to fix things, he resembles a Black man with strange feet. His attempt to make a place for himself in Harlem is an allegory for the immigrant experience in the United States. Meanwhile, two bounty hunters from the Brother's home planet arrive and try to capture him.

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