Category Archives: Film

Queer Black Cinema Takes NYC This Weekend

Noah’s Arc isn’t the only movie featuring the Black queer community. And if you want a little more gender parity of Black queer life in the mix, you can’t miss this weekend’s Queer Black Cinema Film Festival in New York City, running from Thursday, October 30-Sunday, November 2.The films they have on hand are diverse in subject and range of experience, and some feature or were made by friends of mine including Ignacio Rivera, C. Sala Hewitt, Hanifah Walidah & Olive Demetrius, and Maurice Jamal! CHECK THE SCHEDULE HERE:

Queer Black Cinema , New York’s first and Only Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer monthly micro-cinema series and annual film festival. We are a grassroots, volunteer-run organization who mission is dedicated to showcasing independent narrative and documentary works by U.S. and international Black LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer). We screen and promote all people of color artist by screening their trailers and original music . QBC film series takes place varies times once a month at the LGBT Community Center and other locations throughout the New York Metropolitan area. YOU MUST CHECK THIS SITE OR WWW.QUEERBLACKCINEMA.ORG FOR UPDATES.All are welcome to attend regardless of their sexual orientation, race or gender. We aim to entertain, enlighten and educate through our niche programming.

Please attend, tell your people, and watch the trailers here.

Noah's Arc: Why I Want to Hate it, But Can't!!!

When I heard that there would be a Black gay series on the first all-LGBT cable network, LOGO, I was highly skeptical. Who wouldn’t be? Hollywood (including gay cinema) has such a bad track record presenting Black people period, let alone Black gay men. Not only that, even if it was created, written, and directed by a Black gay filmmaker, what were the chances that it wouldn’t still not reflect what I think is an accurate view of Black gay life?

Well I watched the series Noah’s Arc, and though I sometimes cringed, I still like it. I saw the new movie “Jumping the Broom” which brings back the characters where they left off in Season 2, and though I also think it was far from perfect, I still, liked it.

The film, as the title suggests, picks up with the impending nuptials of Noah and Wade. They, along with their closest friends prepare for a weekend wedding on Martha’s Vineyard. And the DRAMA unfolds. I won’t give the film away, but it is much like the series in what it gets wrong, and what it gets right.

The Wrongs:

  1. It tries to take on too much, too many issues, too many subplots and twists. The script is over-written, but not broad enough to be a farce. Much like Tyler Perry, it’s hard to know what genre we’re playing in.
  2. Though improved over the series, some of the acting is not all that great. I “buy” the characters as they are, but sometimes they don’t convince me of the moment itself, which can be a weakness in the acting, the writing, the directing, or all three!
  3. It relies way too heavy on the upwardly-mobile, bourgie aspirational lifestyles that seem unrealistic. Much like Sex in The City, you wonder where they get the money for the lifestyle they seem to be able to afford. But unlike Sex in the City, some of it actually detracts from the story, rather than enhancing it. When I saw the film in NYC, the audience seemed more horrified than wowed by some of Noah’s outfits-me included. The costume designer did not give us Carrie Bradshaw, but someone doing a bad job of trying to copy it.
  4. You all know how I feel about the marriage issue. And this film is about a marriage. Need I say more?
  5. They clearly don’t know any lesbians or transwomen. I guess I do know some Black gays who don’t know (or like) queer women or trannies, but I don’t take these characters to be those kind of gays. I think it’s fine to not try to do everything in a script but I think (maybe I am being too generous) we tend to live a little more across gender lines than that.

The Rights:

  1. The relationships between the friends is the main reason we forgive Noah’s Arc for where it comes up short. I know alot of people who feel like the show is so unrealisitc and doesn’t represent the Black gay community, and it doesn’t entirely. But I think it does, generally speaking, represent the way many of Black gay men are differently gendered. There are some who feel like the characters are too femme, but I think there’s actually a range of genders represented.
  2. Though it tries to take on too much, it does at least try to take on some issues that we deal with from HIV/AIDS–sero-discordance and if it’s ever OK to stop using condoms in a committed relationship, ambivalence to marriage, raising kids, aging, butch/femme and top/bottom issues, being out to the family, etc. It’s refreshing to see the new young character in the film (played by the boy who was once once of Sandra and Elvin’s twin babies Winnie & Nelson on The Cosby Show), trying to figure some of this stuff out, but also has as much agency as the older characters.
  3. I think one of the things we severely lack in the Black gay community is examples of other Black queers negotiating dating, sex and relationships, and i think this film and the show does a good job of providing some models of how Black gay men love each other, whether in the friendships of the four main characters, or in the romantic and sexual relationships they have (or desire) with other men.
  4. It’s a good time! Though it gets ridiculous, hokey and melodramatic, much of the films is laugh out loud funny–especially the character Alex, and the Hollywood scenester and fag-hag Brandy. I was never bored, nor did I find it so problematic as to be irredeemable. It’s a good time at the movies, and sometimes it doesn’t need to be deep.

At the end of the day, no one show/film will ever be everything to everyone. And as much as I want so much more from it, I think the Noah’s Arc film Jumpin the Broom is worth seeing, for what it does give us. If you live in NYC, LA, DC, Atlanta or Chicago, where the film is screening (and did quite well opening weekend), you also get to be in a theater full of Black queers, which like, NEVER happens. It’s fun to just be in a movie theatre with nothing but the Kids and their best girlfriends. Black gay cultural critic Ernest Hardy didn’t dig it so much, but I think his Village Voice review is totally fair.

Tropic Thunder: The Joke's On Who?

So last week when Tropic Thunder opened there was a controversy over Robert Downey Jr.’s use of the word “retard” in the script (and I think some really disgusting mockery of people with disabilities in the film).  The film’s opening night was met with about 200 protesters at the premiere. This did not stop the film from grossing over $25 million it’s opening weekend.

While I support the  critique of the way people with disabilities are treated in American comedy and the way so much of our language is infused with references of disability and usually as a joke(retard, lame, riding the short bus, etc.)

But what’s interesting about this film is that there is seemingly no lack of discussion or outrage at the racial blackface and portrayal of Asians (i.e. Vietnamese) in this movie. Here’s the trailer:


Though I have not seen the movie, the synopsis from IMDB pretty much tells me exactly everything I need to know. So the film, written by Ben Stiller, is about a group of Hollywood actors (and one rapper-turned-actor) making a Vietnam War flick, which they will do on location in the jungles of Vietnam.

The film is supposed to be a spoof of how these blockbuster films get made, complete with archetypes of Hollywood actors. Robert Downey, Jr. plays the “artist/actor”–the Academy Award winning actor who is so dedicated to this film, he undergoes an operation to turn his skin brown, since the character he wants to play is written for a Black actor.  From the trailer, the scene with him practicing his “black” accent is right out of an old vaudville/minstrel act. Is this making fun of “actor’s actor” or is it making fun of how Black people supposedly talk–so convoluted and full of malapropisms that it is difficult even for the “actor’s actor” to mimick? What is really getting the laugh?

Furthermore, the actors get to the jungle, and think they’re shooting a film, only to find out that they are really at war with some guerrila Vietnamese  heroin growing/smuggling gang, who mistakes the actors for DEA agents. One actor is ultimately captured by the gang, of course called “The Dragons,” led by, according to the synopsis on IMDB, a “prepubescent” boy. The actor is later recognized by the gang as an actor, and is forced to act out one of his most famous films over and over. He even attracts a “son”, a young gang member who becomes infatuated with him. Is the joke on the actors, or Asians who are continually infantilized in white supremacist imagery–and yet at the same time, are threatening and can be prone to violence?

The last turn of events is with the rapper-turned-actor, who is shown early in the film (I think the opening scene to boot) promoting “Booty Sweat” energy drink and “Bust-A-Nut” candy bar, while performing his hit song, “I Love Tha’ Pussy”. After this overt performance of Black male hypersexuality, it is later revealed that he is gay. With the hip-hop persona as the backdrop, the “down-low” framework isn’t too far behind. Is homophobia and misogyny indicted in this portrayal, or are stereotypes about Black covert and overt sexuality reinforced as a punchline pretending to be satire?

There are other acts of violence that happen to the “The Dragons” as the “heros” escape them, make a movie, and ultimately win Academy Awards.

Many people will want to say well they “go after everybody” and I obviously “don’t get it.” But “going after everybody” doesn’t make it OK, and if it is satire, and it doesn’t push past the narratives enough to render them powerless, then it is actually just plain ole’ minstrelsy.

Shock of the Week: Wesley Snipes Gets 3 Years for No Tax Pay?

I don’t know why I’m shocked–this is America and Wesley Snipes is Black. But the actor got 3 years for non-payment of taxes–which is a misdemeanor crime???? One year for each year he didn’t pay?

It’s not about how I feel or don’t feel about Wesley Snipes, but this is fuckin ridiculous. Willie Nelson (who I like, so I ain’t frontin on Willie!) owed the IRS $16million dollars for the same shit, and did not do one day in prison. Snipes owed $2.7million. AP has the full story.

Boondocks Takes on BET

Remember just a few short weeks ago I said that Hillary Clinton’s campaign made a huge mistake to have choice of BET founder Bob Johnson stumping for her to the Black community? You don’t? Well here’s what I brilliantly predicted:

Bob Johnson, founder of BET had the unmitigated gall to stand up in front of a crowd and act as the authority on Black people, and defend Clinton’s record with Black people…As black as the Clintons think they are, they are white enought to not realize how many Black people actually despise Bob Johnson. Many of us blame him for cutting BET news programming (and firing Tavis Smiley), and turning the channel into a video channel replete with images of violent black masculinites, hypersexualized black women, with a hefy dash of homophobia. In fact, THE SAME NIGHT he made these comments, Black folks were protesting outside the taping of a BET Awards show in DC.

Not only were they protesting. Thet were actually organizing hunger strikes! Well, at least lil Huey from The Boodocks was. The rumor has it that BET has used its might to keep this episode from airing.


NYC Theater Bags 'Dirty Laundry' After Smash Weekend

This is an instance where “green” does not override “black.” Even in limited release in LA and NYC, the new comedy “Dirty Laundry” was the highest grossing movie per screen this past weekend, making a whopping $12,000 per screen, with The Golden Compass coming in second at $7,308. And yet, the Chelsea Clearview, the theater that caters to the white gay community, decided to close the film this Thursday, after only one week. The film opens widely on the 28th.

According to Keith, the film producers don’t want people to protest, but would rather focus on the positive, and gear up for the nationwide opening. Apparently the theater said that the opening success (with two sold-out shows in a 24 hour period) was not enough to keep running the film. Mind you, I know I have seen films at the Clearview with a damn near empty house, and yet somehow or another, ‘Dirty Laundry’ didn’t make enough money? Chile please!

I haven’t seen the film yet. I was out of town this weekend, but had made plans with a friend to try to catch it this weekend. Now, I guess that will not happen. I hope Maurice Jamal and the rest of the production team pushes to get the film opened elsewhere.

I don’t really know if the Clearview is a white and gay owned establishment. But I do know that is who they cater to. And this goes to show, (contrary to the people who like to think we’re “beyond race” and it’s just about “class” now) Black queers are still black and white people still see us as such, gay or not. In addition, black people’s buying power is never respected to the degree that if this had been a white gay film opening.

Seeing My Relatives in Africa

Yesterday I was watching the History Channel. There was a two-hour documentary called Blood Diamond. It chronicled the history of diamond mining in Africa, and what lead to the conflicts in Angola and Sierra Leone/Liberia over the last decade or so. The documentary is very well produced and really informative, but often hard to watch the footage of all kinds of carnage that took place against people caught in between the political/financial gluttony of a few.

As I well know, Liberia and Sierra Leone were established as countries by the US, France and Great Britain to re-patriate (formerly i guess) enslaved blacks in the Diaspora back to the continent in the 19th century. Well I had never thought about the possibility of my own family members possibly being among those who left the US to go to West Africa.

That is, until last night.

As I was watching Blood Diamond, and during one segment when they were interviewing a woman fromSierra Leone, in what appeared to be a small village. She was telling her storyof having been raped and beaten by army and/or militia men. While she was speaking, her name across the bottom of the screen: Musu Farrow.

Farrow is not a common last name in the US (though it is somewhat in the UK). Basically, there are Farrows in NE Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. If they’re black, they’re related to me. There are also a lot of “Farrows” in the Carolinas. One of the major roads in Columbia, SC is Farrow Rd. A paternal great-grandfather was from South Carolina, and had migrated to Western PA where my paternal grandfather and father were born. The first time I went to Columbia, I thought, “The Farrows must have owned a lot of slaves.”

I do not know for sure if this mahogany brown woman (with small almond eyes like my younger sister) is at all a distant blood relative. For years I have wanted to research my genealogy, and both sides of my families feel as though I am the one to do it (because I am a writer, I suppose). But as she may or may not be a relative, it did awaken in me a series of questions, those inaudible voices about who we are and what happened to us, that I think that every African in the diaspora is continuously haunted by.

And will probably never be fully heard.


BET's 'Read A Book' PSA Causes Controversy


Now that you’ve watched it. What do you think? I gotta say, I kinda LIKE IT! Before I go into why, I’ll say upfront that it is not without its problems. Who’s watching this video? Will this create another case of people laughing at us, and not with us? Does it further stigmatize black youth? This seems specifically targeted to black boys/teens–why are black women’s bodies still exploited as the vehicle to carry this “message” to them? And does this undermine or outweigh the messages it’s trying to hit home?

I think these are all questions I have watching this video. And they are more than just rhetorical questions, I think they bear some thinking about, and demand answers.

But what I like about this video, as someone who is uber interested in media messaging, is that it does, in a really clever way, intervene on what can no longer be denied as problematic behavior. It’s especially interesting in a time where there is an ever-growing conversation in Black communities and on the left about how do we “reach” black youth. It does what the hip-hop activists and scholars, and “conscious” hip-hop artists have failed miserably at doing over the last decade–which is to use the language and visual culture of hip-hop to drive home messages to create what public health folks call behavior change. I think this has the potential to do that–albeit with the problems it has.

Certainly has come a ways since School House Rock!


Much love to Pop Gumbo for writing about this first.

Things to See & Hear: Don Cheadle in 'Talk To Me'; Prince's 'Planet Earth'

I have been extremely busy this week, catching up on work and getting some new things together for the upcoming year. I have definitely one new anthology I am co-editing which will be out next year, and working on a second that also will most likely hit the streets in 2008…so be on the lookout!

But if you need something to do this weekend, go see Talk to Me. It’s director Kasi Lemmon’s third film (also directed Caveman’s Valentine and my favorite of all time, Eve’s Bayou.). It brilliant, the performances are brilliant (Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Taraji Henson, Cedric The Entertainer, Mike Epps) and I am afraid people will miss this one before it leaves the theaters. It is the story of real life D.C. DJ Petey Greene. I think the film asks a very important question of the audience–do people only ever see Black people as caricature (The answer made Dave Chappelle walk away from a $50 million television deal? It asks this question in a very subtle way, and it demands you, the viewer to ask yourself, exactly what is it that I find funny? It does this without being overly-didactic, but being thoroughly engaging.

Also, don’t sleep on Prince’s Planet Earth. The reviews have been mixed, and it’s not a perfect album. But get past it kids, he’s never going to make another Parade, Sign O The Times, or Lovesexy. He’s older, less angsty, and his music may never reflect that kind of bite he once had. So to that end, the standouts to me are Somewhere Here on Earth, The One U Wanna C, Chelsea Rodgers, & Mr. Goodnight (which should have been the first single). Most of the tracks give you a pop/rock feeling, and you can definitely tell he’s working with Lisa & Wendy again, who play on this record, and there influence is felt. Don’t sleep. Check it out.

Other than that, I’ll be back with you next week!

Afro-Punk Festival Rocks Brooklyn!

If you’re in NYC over the next week, and you’re Black, and you wanna meet up with some other Black people who are a little left of center, head over to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (and several band venues) to check out the 3rd (and biggest) year of director James Spooner’s AFROPUNK Film Festival –named after his groundbreaking documentary on Black folks in the punk-rock scene.

It’s been really amazing to watch Spooner (who recently relocated from NYC back to his native California to be closer to the film world…aka Hollywood)grow this scrappy lil film into a major brand, with his periodic Liberation Sessions parties/conceerts, DVDs, online community of thousands of Black rockers, clothing, and now, an entire film festival with one of NYC’s most prestigious artistic venues, BAM. This year, Spooner is debuting his second film, this one a feature called White Lies, Black Sheep, and has added a visual art installation and an Afro-Punk block party!

I have been an attendee of the first two festivals, and it’s definitely worth it! Spooner has helped to create community spaces of Black folks of all nationalities, genders and orientations to celebrate a more expansive definition of Black culture. And to also create an opportunity for black artists who are shunned by both white or mainstream and (usually white-owned) “Black” artistic venues to show their work, or to play music. Black rock, has been especially maligned by mainstream record industry, who didn’t think white kids would listen to black rock artists, much less Black kids (heard Rihanna’s new single Umbrella? I can hear the capitalizing on a Black rock-ish sound in the instrument and vocal arrangement. In fact, it’s actually a little Grace Jones sounding, don’t you think?). But I bet that some record company execs have their greedy little eyes all over this scene, and is probably searching for their own tired ass version of any number of these artists.

So if punk rock is not your thing, never you worry. The film are a collection of rare black films past and present, and span different subject matters. The bands are heavy on the rock end of things, but some are a more souful or funky sound, some are more hardcore. Spooner also plays host to a number of DJ’s who are usually more on the house/rare groove/funk side of things, so you can usually go to another space and shake a tail feather if you’re not feeling the band.

Anyhow, I am in ATL now for the US Social Forum. When I get back to NYC, catch up with me at the AfroPunk Film Festival. Here’s a clip of the film, AfroPunk: