|Title:||Is That Black Enough for You?!?|
Other Movies Seen By This Director (0)
|11.12.22||Internet||This Screening is part of event: DVRfest 2022|
When I moved to austin and started going to the alamo drafthouse a lot, I was really opened up to a whole other world of cinema that I wasn't aware of (if this journal is good for anything, it's a document of that time circa 2005 - 2008). Of all the stuff I was exposed to, i gravitated toward the Blaxploitation genre as a favorite. I was really taken by the exuberant energy suffused in so many of them, where a lack of budget or resources didn't stop the movies from not only be important representation of a culture but also fucking hilarious. I still remember a screening of Human Tornado that brought a full capacity house down. They had a series on February that showed Tick... Tick... Tick, Penitentiary, and The Spook Who Sat by the Door... and every one of them really stuck with me. Since then, I went through a period and tracked a lot of them down online and have notes on here documenting how I felt about them, but I really enjoy them for the most part. Yes, the socially-conscious melodramas are harder to get through than the Jim Brown action movies, and the term "blaxploitation" is somewhat divisive as is how the black community sees that era, but with as much cultural aspect aside, they are really fun movies to watch.
So when I learned that Elvis Mitchell had put together a documentary about the decade in which they flourished, it was immediately on the watch list. No question.
Mitchell hosts The Treatment on kcrw, a show which I've been listening to in podcast form for years and years and years. I saw him one night for one of the QTfests talking to Quentin and fanboyed out more for him than Tarantino. Didn't go up and say hi because I'm a coward, but I definitely stared at him from across the venue like an idiot, so that's cool. Anyway, I'm really happy that it seems like Soderbergh and Fincher and some people got together to help him make this visual essay because he's the guy that I want this document from. This is maybe the longest movie of the fest but it didn't seem that way. I loved it.
...with just a few nitpicks. As a documentary about the films from years 1968 - 78, we spend a looong time getting to 68. Maybe he wanted to tell himself it was just about this decade so he didn't feel the weight of having to tell the story of the entire black history of cinema, but that's kind of what he did. You could argue that to understand the impact that these movies had you have to know the context of where they came from, but he's going back to Birth of a Nation! Gone with the wind. It's like a half hour to get to Putney Swope. which I have no problem with, except on the other side of the coin, representing all the movies made by black artists after 78 we get like a 7-second montage of random film posters. I mean I know I just watched Deep Cover so it's fresh on my brain but how are we not gonna get more than a literal afterthought for the various waves of black movies from the decades after the 70s? Trying hard to avoid Tyler Perry? whatevs.
Also, even with the scope tightened to a decade, some parts of the film start to feel like a laundry list with each movie getting one, maybe two sentences of narration before moving on. It reminded me of when i tried to do a mix cd of rock songs and have them completely mashed up together and I wanted to call it "30 rock songs" but I don't know shit about music theory like which songs are in what key so in the end it was more like "the beginnings of 30 rock songs." I know it's a hard choice in which movies to spotlight, which to include, and which to exclude... but a few of these films are like "then this came out."
And lastly... I'm not trying to say I know more than Elvis Mitchell here, but for all the pivotal films and independent stuff he included... no Welcome Home, Brother Charles? Jamaa Fanaka was another ucla student like Charles Burnett who released his thesis film except for instead of a poetic family drama it's about a wrongfully-imprisoned guy who gets revenge by strangling people with his huge dick. No room for that in your doc, Elvis?
So those three admittedly minor nitpicks aside, I thought this was great. It's cool to see so many good movies in one place, see the genre blossom, and special shout out to Odds Against Tomorrow which is one of my favorite noirs (a 50s noir, connecting it to my Brute Force notes, where the protagonists' plans come apart due to Robert Ryan's racism).
And putting footage of Once Upon A Time in the West set to Isaac Hayes' Walk on By? Perfect.
ok. I don't know where the time went. It's already 11 and I have 3 more movies planned for tonight. I may have to do some shifting but let's see what we can do. Next up is a double feature from a black director, both of which were acclaimed but I haven't seen.