Category Archives: Documentary

Otherworldly Videos: Danger Word+HowDoYouSayYamInAfrican+Old Money+Tiombe


Here is the Web premiere of the short film Danger Word, directed by Luchina Fisher and starring Frankie Faison and Saoirse Scott. The film, which is based on Devil’s Wake from Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes, follows a 13-year-old girl and her grandfather in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. If you enjoy zombie shows and films, like The Walking Dead and The Night of the Living Dead, this is a nice addition, mainly because 1) the lead characters are not the stereotypical ones — a young black girl and an older black man, 2) the zombies develop a trait that gives a an interesting twist to how would living humans be able to differentiate between themselves and the dead and also gives a slight remnant of humanity to the zombies, 3) the film has good story and character development that I see potential in it becoming a larger film, and 4) did I mention the black girl, who is the hero of the story, although it does end tragically, and I wonder what happens next for her character.

The collective, HowDoYouSayYamInAfrican‘s behind-the-scenes video of their film, Good Stock on the Dimension Floor: An Opera, which is “reimagining the traditional opera to pose a central question: “What happens to the black body when it is haunted by a ‘blackness’ outside of it?” The spoken, chanted, sung, and screamed libretto explores the consequences of centuries of global racial strife that are thrust upon on those born of African descent.” The film will be showing at the Whitney Museum of Art from May 14th-25th.


Continue reading Otherworldly Videos: Danger Word+HowDoYouSayYamInAfrican+Old Money+Tiombe


Rewind: “Cry of Jazz” and Restrictions on Black Excellence

Watching Ed Bland‘s short film, Cry of Jazz, this morning reinforced how times have not changed much.

The 1958 controversial documentary-styled film sets on a discussion after a jazz club meeting and the discussions and arguments literally feel like deja vu – white dismissals of black cultural contributions, black suffering, black knowledge and black excellence while ignorantly appropriating (“taking away our souls”) productions of our cultures. This is viewed again as a form of progress, using a color-blindness and individualism approach as defenses.

Other important points from the film:

Continue reading Rewind: “Cry of Jazz” and Restrictions on Black Excellence

Modern Griots Reviews: “Finding the Funk…

Source: VH1

…and getting the respect!”

Author, music historian and filmmaker, Nelson George, said at a rough cut screening of his latest film, Finding the Funk, that funk music was a music for outsiders. Reaching its peak in the 70s and early 80s, the short time between the eras of soul and post-bop/funky jazz and the rise of hip-hop, funk and its pioneers have left a prominent impression on current music, but do not receive as much historical analysis as other genres of popular music. While other genres, like blues, jazz, soul and even our most current hip-hop, have tons of books and documentaries about them, George himself said he could only find one definitive book about the history of funk, Rickey Vincent’s Funk: The Music, The People, and The Rhythm of The One. Basically in popular culture, funk almost still remains an enigma or a shadow of the future, despite having the likes of James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament Funkadelic, Zapp, Cameo, Slave, Mtume, Prince, LaBelle and plenty more in that legacy.

In comes, George, with his documentary to give a chance for audiences now to get to know better the history and faces of funk, if they have not already. Although this was a rough cut — the final version will premiere on VH1 in November with more performance footage and songs — George’s film had a lot of potential mainly because of the interviews with many of those involved in funk, most prominently George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and the elusive, and kind of spaced-out interview-wise, Sly Stone. Opening with a joke from one of funk’s founding father’s, James Brown, about a guy who doesn’t know the directions in Harlem, but yet knows he’s not lost, the film balances the heavy baselines of funk with lighthearted laughter in the interviews.

Continue reading Modern Griots Reviews: “Finding the Funk…

Moving on the Wires: 2 Years+Break, RebelMatic, Deluge Trailer, Meridian, Tawiah, Tar Baby Jane

*Today is my the anniversary of the day I started this blog, which was two years ago, and I am going to take a small break (maybe a week or two) to celebrate.

Running this blog by myself can be tiring sometimes and so I should do this so i don’t tire myself out. I will still post things on facebook and twitter and will repost older posts on there as well.

Thanks everyone for your support for the past two years!


Rebelmatic – “Mirror”

The second single from their upcoming Elephant Amnesia album, gives forceful and memorable vocals and music to encourage people who feel as if they don’t fit in to just look at themselves.


The trailer for director Nijla Mu’min upcoming Deluge film. Here is the synopsis:

After witnessing the mass drowning of her friends and struggling with the decision not to jump in, 15-year old Tiana must decide if she will join the order of black mermaids that protect the waters where her friends rest. This film is partly inspired by the 2010 mass drowning of six black teens in a Shreveport, Louisiana sinkhole. None of them could swim. The film blends coming of age drama and fantasy to explore traumatic memory in a post- BP oil spill New Orleans.

Deluge layers personal, historical, and environmental trauma into an intimate portrait of female teenage awakening and realizations about mortality and fate. Through the merging of subtle moments and emotion, we find each character on edge in some way; on the edge of teen sexual discovery, on the edge of life, and on the edge of a dual existence between two worlds.

Continue reading Moving on the Wires: 2 Years+Break, RebelMatic, Deluge Trailer, Meridian, Tawiah, Tar Baby Jane

Black Girls/Black Women Are from the Future: Q.U.E.E.N., Black Girls Code and MBIB

Janelle Monae’s “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring Erykah Badu. This song is a much better anthem than, dare I say, “Run the World (Girls).” It is funky and fierce with thoughtful commentary about those who judge and put others down. Check out Monae interview yesterday on 106 and Park.

Black Girls Code Trailer — the short film about the Kimberly Bryant’s San Francisco organization, and directed by Shanice Johnson will be shown at the Cannes Film festival this month. The organization is also developing a web-series and a feature.”

My Black is Beautiful trailer for Imagine A Future documentary, which will be released in July on BET (it showed with the Tribeca Film Festival last month), is part of the Imagine a Future initiative that began last year with Black Girls Rock and United Negro College Fund to open up a dialogue with young black girls about self-acceptance, beauty and empowerment. The film follows Janet Goldsboro trip to South Africa as she learns to accept herself as a beautiful. However, although I think this is a nice effort and I want to see it, I find it problematic that Procter and Gamble supports the film and My Black is Beautiful, but also sells “skin lightening” creams all over the world (read all the articles here). Hmmm? Some people say that these are only skin tone evening creams, but is that how they are marketed or used? I imagine a future where companies actually do make a legitimate effort not to make money off our low self-esteem, not seem to support something to assuage their guilt (but should I expect companies not to be hypocritical in their actions?)

Modern Griots Reviews: Films at the Crossroads – Revolutionaries and Outsiders

Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, Toussaint, Boneshaker and Alaskaland may seem like distinct films on the surface, but underneath they all have similar themes of people who feel as if they don’t fully fit as if in a state of in-betweenness, and trying to find a place to belong, whether it’s a community, a cause, family, or “home.”

In Shola Lynch’s Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, a documentary following the social climate surrounding the trial that indicted activist Angela Davis on murder and conspiracy charges for the Marin County courthouse incident, Angela is a figure who has several outsider characteristics. As one reporter mentioned in the film, she had an upper-class background, but she also had the privilege of going to a school up north when Birmingham was reaching its peak in Civil Rights Era as well as going to Germany for grad school. But the racial events happening in America, such as the formation of the Black Panthers, brought her back home. Yet, even home, she felt as if she didn’t fit in and others saw her as an outsider coming in to their territory at first. She felt slightly uncomfortable amongst the Panthers because of their sexism and nationalistic views, so she went to search for a collective to be part of and found the Che Lumumba Club, a communist party club.

Although experiencing the world as a black woman already made her an outsider, those other experiences separated her too — as an educated person, as a communist, as a feminist. Having Ronald Reagan wanting you fired as a professor because of your views doesn’t help either. Those experiences helped to shape Davis and probably helped her to handle being a fugitive, later incarcerated and put in solitary confinement. She could understand more concretely how being an outcast, like a prisoner, felt, and the film executes that well.
Not to mention, that the movie brings to light other areas of intersection, like the white farmer, Rodger McAfee, who put up his farm as collateral to help pay for Davis’ bail. That was delightfully unexpected. To top it all off, a great choice to use the Freedom Suite as the soundtrack to not make viewers feel comfortable. Together, it made the film much more sweeter when Davis received support from all over the world and was eventually cleared of the charges.

Continue reading Modern Griots Reviews: Films at the Crossroads – Revolutionaries and Outsiders

Black Girls/Black Women Are from the Future: Free Angela

Angela Davis is more than an afro and if you think wearing an afro is radical and revolutionary enough, then you do not know much about Angela Davis’ life. Having grown up in Birmingham and knowing the girls who were murdered in the Birmingham church bombing, Davis seemed destined to want to make a change in the world and she did. Here was a black women who received a Ph.D. in philosophy, spoke out against the Prison Industrial Complex long before it was a popular phrase and in the mainstream, was tracked by the FBI for her outspokenness and links to communism and the Black Panthers, and later came out as a lesbian. And she did this all as a black woman!

Living in a world where power and knowledge is equaled to mainly male, white and heterosexual, all of that was quite a feat. We need to know about her and others like her as a part of our history, and the many aspects of them that connect to us. As Erykah Badu said in The Black Power Mixtape, what we need to do is read, write and document our stories because if we do not, we allow people to twist those stories in their favor. Shola Lynch’s film Free Angela and All Political Prisoners is another chance for the hunted to take back their story from the hunter. Happy Women’s History Month to Angela Davis and the film will be in theaters April 5th.

Continue reading Black Girls/Black Women Are from the Future: Free Angela