Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Black List: Vol. 1

Last night I watched this intriguing documentary, called "The Black List," which airs on HBO this week. The documentary is a series of short introspectives done in slide-show style and given by prominent black figures in America. The doc was conceived by well-known journalist and NPR radio host, Elvis Mitchell, and by photographer/filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Check out the trailer below:

An Official Selection at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, Elvis Mitchell interviews (from off camera and off-mike) such high profile celebrities and professionals as: Toni Morrison, Vernon Jordan, Colin Powell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Serena Williams, Sean Combs, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Slash, and quite a few more. Each interviewee expresses in their own, unscripted words what it meant to them growing up black in this country, and in which unique--and often very subtle--ways they've experienced negativity towards the color of their skin. And, more specifically, how these experiences have shaped their professional lives. The most heartfelt and emotional stories, for me, came from Lou Gossett, Jr. and Chris Rock.

Lou Gossett talked about winning an Academy Award and expecting so many jobs to come knocking on his door, only to get ignored by an industry that did not know what to do with a prominent black American actor with the accolades to back up his serious acting presence.

Chris Rock offered a poignant example of the difference between the chuckling, side-shuffling "sidekick" type roles for black comedic actors before Eddie Murphy, and how Eddie was the first to change the paradigm in Hollywood with the depiction of confident, black men as action and comedy heroes in his movies.

The documentary is well-directed and beautifully shot, with the interviewees speaking humbly and unflinchingly candid about their experiences. It never delves into vicious, racist undertones or points fingers at any one person or establishment. Everyone is proud to be an American and believes in what this country stands for.

If you get the chance to catch this on HBO or any of its many mirror channels, please do so. It's 90-minutes long, but worth every minute.

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