Coffee Rhetoric: Film
Showing posts with label Film. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Film. Show all posts

February 28, 2014

Revisiting the Film: Little Senegal

Updated review. Originally posted December, 2011


Last night while in the throes of insomnia, I decided to lull myself to sleep with a mini-movie marathon of sorts via Netflix. I watched and stopped several films before deciding on one: Little Senegal.  This film left enough of an indelible impression after I finished watching it; I was up until about 4:00 AM this morning mulling it over.
The Netflix reviews were ambivalent at best, suggesting it was dull, uninteresting, and that the acting was "wooden", however, as far as I'm concerned this reaction is par for the course from folks who don't have an emotional or vested interest in these types of films unless it's palatable and more along the lines of ‘magical negro’ fare with a white savior trope.

Little Senegal, a 2001 film directed by French-Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb, was far from uninteresting. It explored elements of the African Diasporic, immigrant experience and was somewhat reminiscent of Haile Gerima's film Sankofa, in that it charts the history and effects of the Atlantic slave trade. While the main character in Sankofa— a self-absorbed, black fashion model living in the present-day— is forced back in time to a plantation in the West Indies, to experience the horrors of slavery and learns the importance of community and advocacy; the protagonist in Little Senegal, an elderly man named Alloune, researches his heritage and those of his ancestors who were kidnapped and sold into American slavery, prompted by his own curiosity.

May 30, 2012

Michelle Rodriguez Says Only 'Black and Trashy' Roles Get Oscar Nods


When thinking down the line of Hollywood actresses of color who’ve made an indelible impact on current films, Michelle Rodriguez probably doesn’t register on anybody’s radar; at least not enough so, that she’d be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So when Vulture caught up with the actress at an amfAR event at Cannes this past week, the actress had just come from a screening of the controversial Lee Daniels-directed film, The Paperboy-- (which has been garnering unfavorable reviews by critics) -- and expressed her appreciation for the film…
“I say fuck them because they don’t get it”, the actress opined. “He’s so good at keeping me entertained. When I don’t like the dialogue, I’m amused by the visuals. And when I don’t like the visuals, I’m amused by the dialogue. It’s always switching up senses. I’m intrigued by his ability to capture me in a theater. It’s not easy to capture me in a theater — I’m ADD like that.” 
When prodded about a scene in which Nicole Kidman apparently pees on actor Zac Efron to soothe a jellyfish sting, Michelle waxed philosophical about the politics surrounding Black actresses and actors who’ve been nominated for and/or won film awards,
"I fucking loved it. One of my friends said, 'She’s going to get nominated for an Oscar for that.' I was like, 'Nah, man. She’s not black!' I laugh, but it’s also very sad. It makes me want to cry. But I really believe. You have to be trashy and black to get nominated. You can’t just be trashy."  (Source)
It didn’t take long for Michelle’s public gaffe to start circulating those Black pockets of the social media realm. Re-tweeted and re-posted on Twitter and Facebook, Black bloggers and pop-culture critics were not amused and immediately took offense; but doesn't Michelle Rodriguez present a very good point about the worth of Black actors and actresses (or anyone in that industry, of color) in Hollywood? As a woman of color, navigating the landscape of the Hollywood machine, Michelle herself has been typecast since making her debut in Girlfight, whether she’d be inclined to agree with that very obvious point or not, so on some level perhaps she speaks a very honest (albeit it an unfiltered and somewhat tactless) truth.

Consider some of the voices of displeasure when Octavia Spencer nabbed an Oscar for 'Best Supporting Actress' for her role playing a sassy domestic worker in The Help. And most of us couldn’t even fathom Viola Davis emphatically defending having played a maid in the same movie.  Some of us still harbor the bitter aftertaste Halle Berry’s 2002 Oscar win for her turn in Monster’s Ball left in our mouths; the same evening Denzel  won for playing a corrupt and unscrupulous police officer in Training Day, to which he quipped, “Two birds in one night, huh?” during his acceptance speech.

In a sometimes tense Black social media sphere, where certain ones us hurl accusatory epithets like Mammy, Ghetto Queen, Sapphire and thug towards entertainers who portray such roles, directors (both Black and non-Black, who help steer actors in those roles), and towards everyday people who don’t convey modes of behavior befitting the ideals and expectations of an upwardly mobile person of color; I get and understand the exasperation and desire to see better images of ourselves on the big screen and to see better behavior modeled by some folks in our community.  So in essence, isn’t Michelle Rodriguez mimicking a truth we often voice out loud about ourselves?  One commenter who actually agreed with Michelle’s assessment wrote on Facebook,
The "black and trashy" are the most recognized and talked about which tends to silence all the valuing nominations into the backdrop or a footnote. What she speaks of are not absolutes but are of the most resonating nominations.”
Is Michelle Rodriguez’s comment about rewards for “Black and trashy” roles a dig at Black actors or a critique of Hollywood’s perpetuation of racial stereotypes?

Also read: Barbara Jordan: Trailblazer, Leader, ... Common Asexual Mammy?  


August 15, 2011

Ousmane Sembène's 'Black Girl'

Since I'm one of the people that have little to no desire to see The Help and tried (to no avail) to finish Kathryn Stockett's book, I decided to re-visit a 1966 French classic from the New Wave era, called La Noire de... (or Black Girl). Written and directed by Senegalese filmmaker and auteur Ousmane Sembène (christened the Father of African film). 

La Noire de...charts the tragic story of Diouana, a young woman from Dakar who moves to Antibes, France to work for the wealthy French couple she nannied for during their time in Dakar. Excited, Diouana looks forward to taking in the sites of the Riviera and living a cosmopolitan life as she cares for her young charges, however, upon her arrival to Antibes she finds that her mercurial mistress has other plans for her... Diouana is treated harshly (much to the indifference of the man of the house) like a servant; not allowed to leave the confines of the apartment or wear any of the nicer clothes she brought with her. She's not paid in a timely fashion either. Aware of her exploitation in Antibes, a defiant Diouana starts to withdraw and becomes increasingly overwhelmed by homesickness and despair. 

Black Girl definitely touches on the effects of colonialism, post-colonialism, and racism within the confines of Europe and Africa. During one scene Diouana is asked to cook a traditional Senegalese dish for her employers- (she mentally notes that she never had to cook for them when she worked as their nanny in Dakar)- and their affluent friends during a gathering. They openly discuss her exoticism. One of the men excitedly jumps up and demands a kiss, as he's "never kissed a Black girl before." 
This film is subtle and the black and white cinematography is simple; yet La Noire de... is hauntingly tragic in its message, commands attention, and is definitely still relevant as it charts the devastating toll anti-Blackness, postcolonialism, and misogynoir takes mentally, emotionally, and physically.