In many of my courses (both Feminist Film Studies and Intro, specifically) we spend a lot of time analyzing the images of women. Here's the latest edited/retouched photo in the news:
One of my students this summer pointed out these great sites:
If you go to IMDB.com, the Internet Movie Data Base, you'll find a disturbing statistical blip. Of the roughly 350 films that have earned more than $100 million, about 50 of them have love scenes. You know the drill: Boy kisses girl, they sink together onto a bed, more kissing and touching, fade to black...
If you scan the same list for American films with non-white leads (again, there are about 50), you'll find love scenes in zero percent. That's right, zero. No blacks. No Latinos. No Asians. Hollywood makes such films; you can find them further down on the list. But America won't watch them.
Read the take on this on Rachel's Tavern (a great blog about race, pop culture +)
What do you think??? Why is this the case? It is American audiences? American values? Ideology? Strange phenom? Why ZERO people of color in these roles in top grossing film?
Have you seen any documentary films/videos/tv shows about theater, dance, arts and/or hip hop w/high school students? incarcerated populations? Basically, I'm interested how arts are being used as tools for personal and social change. In addition to programs themselves, I'm interested in films/videos that share the power of this work. Anything you've seen? Please leave me a comment!
Hollywood narrative films I've seen:
Take the Lead
Please contribute some ideas! Links to programs, films, videos, works-in-progress, anything!
Tony Bingham in Burkina Faso
According to a Code Z News Article:University of Alabama at Birmingham professor Tony Bingham is taking a learn-by-doing approach to teaching African American film history to his students. Part of his "Black Image: Screen and Television" class for the spring 2007 semester will have students make their own documentaries using local history and personal interviews as a foundation.
To help his students get over the hump of first-time film production, Professor Bingham is seeking to acquire documentary films made by other black film students from around the world. He hopes the peer-to-peer approach will prove less daunting for his students than concentrating only on works by established filmmakers.
Bingham hopes to receive 20 to 30 student films for his students to consider. Although the class will focus on films that explore community history, a broad range of subjects is needed to explore all the technical and creative aspects of filmmaking.
"I like the idea of observing how visual ideas are being worked out all across the land by African American film students, " says Bingham. "This generation is the first to comfortably embrace video production and documentary production as a means of personal expression."
Professor Tony Bingham
University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)
African American Studies
1055 Bldg Room 102
1530 3rd Ave S.
Birmingham, Alabama 35294-4480
I bit the bullet and joined Blockbuster online. I was trying so hard to support a local video store but $4 movies (they stock mostly all Hollywood, "major" indies and hardly any docs) wore its course. I was a Netflix member but started having shipping prblms and they seem pretty corporate now (partnered with major corps). Blockbuster offers 1 free in-store rental per week (which works well for honey's Friday night new release movie nights). Plus, I
got a rent in-store for $1.99 through August. It's hard to beat corporate offers.
My recent rents:
THE hairdo for country westernn fans, 80's rock band fans, bikers, mexicans from yucatan, soccer players, lesbians and more! Really funny and loving. Go Jen Arnold! I LOVE to see people I went to school making movies! She is the lady getting the mullet over the end credits. Awesome!
I am thinking of showing this film in my Fall course. It's not the greatest cinematic feat but good for my students. It's a Hollywood film, directed by a woman (I loved Whale Rider), is on a very WoStie topic (WoStie = Women's Studies designator WoSt --> my adjective for anything to do with the discipline), and takes place in Northern Minnesota, where many of my students are from. The DVD also has interviews with the real woman from the court case, I love bonus features!
The Joy of Life
16mm images of San Fran, transman voiceover about relationships, life, and suicide. Really interesting mix of doc and experimental film. Maybe will show a clip for class. Students rarely have seen anything experimental.
The director, Jenni Olson, explains it better as "an unconventional blending of documentary and experimental narrative strategies, combining stunning 16mm landscape cinematography with a bold, lyrical voiceover (performed by L.A.-based artist/actor Harriet 'Harry' Dodge) to share two San Francisco stories: the history of the Golden Gate Bridge as 'suicide landmark,' and the story of a butch dyke in San Francisco searching for love and self-discovery. The Joy of Life is a film about landscapes, both physical and emotional."
Next in my cue:
Always A Bridesmaid, Boys Don't Cry, 30 Days Season 1. I will update as I view.
Just read article "No Such Thing As An Old Girl's Network" about gender disparity and directing in Hollywood. No surprise, but might be good for course pack add.
In theaters, I want to see:
Next, I want to read:
It's getting pretty good reviews. I am thinking of embarking on a similar book project - I love books that allow women to tell their own stories. Would love to do with a companion DVD. Dissertation project maybe??!??
thus far, my summer favorites:
The Heart of the Game - doc about seattle high school's girl bball squad & struggles of teamwork and specifically some of the life complications of darnellia (who desires to play in the wnba and quite possibly has the skills to do so)
finally a film both my honey (an avid bball player/obsessive fan) and i could enjoy together! i most appreciated the filmmaker's dedication. he follows the team over the course of years. i know he must of had hours and hours of footage to edit through. he was a cpa so he's probably pretty patient. i'd love a pass through the footage for a re-edit (less voice over, sorry Luda!) and some more about more of the players, and maybe a bit more of darnellia's pov and her struggles. still, i felt a bit of an outsider just peeking into her life (i know that i am, but i enjoy intimate docs). tho there were a few messages that hit home for me:
the world says: if u get pregnant miss thing (read: young, poor, brown), you will be punished (read: good bye opportunity)
the brown girls (read: unwed pregnant w.o.c.s like me) say: watch me now!
when i was in film school pre-daughter, i was also treated as a rising star: $, opportunites, attention, support. when it was "found out" that i was pregnant i got a pretty cold reaction from most "in power": lost $ (scholarships, free film, recommendations for jobs, etc...). one faculty member who i had worked with thru undergrad (and the one who encouraged me to apply for grad school & nominated me in ((a rarity at UCLA)) called me "oh yah, what's her name, the one with the baby" to a group of my student friends - deplorable.
some of my "rising star" friends weren't much better. one lady - a variety top 5 to watch for - told me to give up. i recall our convo about my pregnancy (while it was still unknown in the dept.):
me: i'm pregnant, due in august
filmstar girl: so, what are you going to do? i mean, when are you going to get it taken care of.
me: ummmm, i'm having it
filmstar girl: so, you're giving up on film school? do you know how many girls would die to go to ucla?
me: i'm not giving up on anything. things are just changing.
filmstar girl goes on to chronicle about her recent abortions and the reasons why she thought that the only way: you just can't be a filmmaker and a mom
me: maybe you can't but i'm not you
we haven't spoken in many years.
i am a filmmaker and a mom but my priorities are being a mom and a filmmaker. i guess this is the compromise she wasn't willing to make. she's still struggling to direct her first feature, and still no kids in her mid-30's. i know kids aren't for everyone but i love being a filming soccer mom.
i've decided to make films as i feel passionate about them. take and give. give and take.
The Devil Wears Prada- i actually really enjoyed this hollywood film. normally i'm rolling my eyes at this sort of film but i could relate with the story and the main character. working for a brief stint for rhino fashion brand and having a job that i thought was my dream job (which really could be a horrific nightmare) and quitting to go back to school, i could do a rachel re-make (hip hop style) of this film. maybe i'll read the book (if someone gives it to me free).
Mad Hot Ballroom - documentary about New York City kids (black and brown / mostly Dominican / "urban kids") who learn ballroom through the dancing classroom program. they learn many styles of dance and compete against other schools in the program.
the films feels more subtle than other docs i've watched about inner city kids and their struggles. lack and poverty are a backdrop, a subtext, but the smiles, concentration and energy of the kids are at front. how often do you get to see brown kids learning something and really enjoying it. think of the work of professor Tara J. Yosso. she has a video she uses for teaching (well, she will have a newly updated one once i get editing and stop blogging!) that includes clips of chicano/a and latino/a students in classrooms. dangerous minds, 187, High School High (and the list goes on and on) all feature scenes of "bad" unruly students that act like wild animals. so as a "real" story (please remember documentary is a constructed reality), i appreciate that most of the on-screen moments feature brown kids smiling!
Yo Soy Boricua - i love the music YerbaBuena! produced by liz garbus, rory kennedy (a powerhouse team) and directed by rosie perez (who has bothered me my whole adult life, because living outside of NY i've been called rosie rachel cuz of my "accent"). the film is a bit too pbs-y for me (long voice-overs, distant from the subject matter (even tho the film is about rosie's family) and a bit surface. but, i love the section about the forced sterilization of puerto rican women which i will definitely show in a women's studies class. overall, wanted more.
with family movie watching:
Akeelah and the Bee
Take the Lead
Into the Wild
with honey movie watching:
Dave Chapelle's Block Party
Da Vinci Code
40 Year Old Virgin
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Every Mother's Son (again)
Panther in Africa (again)
tried to watch:
Munich - fell asleep
want to see:
Quinceanera - two white gay filmmakers cast "normal" people in this story. "As Magdalena's 15th birthday approaches, her simple, blissful life is complicated by the discovery that she's pregnant. Kicked out of her house, she finds a new family with her great-granduncle and gay cousin.
Urban Explorers- "POLICE THINK THEY ARE TERRORISTS BUT URBAN EXPLORERS ARE ACTUALLY A GROWING SUBCULTURE OF ADVENTURE SEEKERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD WHO EXPLORE PLACES WHERE MOST PEOPLE WOULD NEVER DREAM OF GOING."
Slingshot Hip Hop - "a documentary film that focuses on the daily life of Palestinian rappers living in Gaza, the West Bank and inside Israel. It aims to spotlight alternative voices of resistance within the Palestinian struggle and explore the role their music plays within their social, political and personal lives."
I'm really happy to read this - NO MORE UNCUT!
I'm really excited to see this - Heart of the Game
except review says: Documentaries should ask questions, explore subjects and universalize the story. "Heart of the Game" does none of these; it's too much game, not enough heart.
Still, I think it will be a great teachable moment.
May be good for this class I'm teaching in the Fall.
I'm really intrigued about this - short film made of just STILLS
I'm doubtful about this - Now that Lil Kim is Free Will She Fight For Other Prisoners?
I'm energized listening to this - YerbaBuena
So I receive an email from miss Mona from the Hip Hop Association inviting me to screen at the Black Filmmaker Magazine Film Festival. She asked for press links and stills and all the things I should have organized and easily accessible but for some reason I've been lost for the last couple
months years. So I grabbed a couple links:
and even found a video clip that I never saw before. How do I not find these little clips until like a year later?
LADYFEST BERLIN (4.-13.august 2006)
Is looking for YOUR movies/shortfilms/documentaries/splatters/pornos/lovetragedies/everydaylifes
Diy, veryvery diy, semiprofessionell, autodidactic or so called professional films can be submitted!!!
This is your chance for political statements, crossdresses, utopian sciencefictions, reclaims, daydreams, caught in actions and actual reflections!!!
VERY WELCOME are submittings by females,lesbians,feminists,transgenders,intersexes,queers.
CREATE YOUR OWN GENDER SPACE
And send your previewtape (vhs, mini dvd or dvd-pal) to
or email to
Will keep and archive every previewtape at bildwechsel (Dachverband für
frauen/medien/kultur) which is in Hamburg.
It has one of the biggest European archives of fem/les/trans videos.
If you do NOT want to donate your film, please please let us know!
we literally just got home from seeing RIZE at the theater. tiana liked the dancing and was bouncing to the beat in her seat. i liked the film because anything that shows black and brown kids chanelling their creativity and their energy in postive directions make me happy. but, thats not without saying i am so disappointed. i wanted to love this film.
about 3 or 4 years ago i first heard about clown dancing. my ex's little brother was about 12 or 13 and he used to beg me to drive him to anywhere that tommy the clown was going to be. he even danced at a couple of birthday parties with the clowns. he was real good. i first laughed, seeing what i perceived to be little crips and bloods (and many of the guys i was watching were the children of og's) doing stripper dance gyrations and modified c-walkin' to gangsta music. but to see my little brother get down so hard and feel so inspired by it, i knew there was something to it.
a few months later i got a call for an editing job for a project they were calling big top hip-hop. it was a documentary by 2 guys in long beach about clown dancing. i went and saw the footage and was amazed. i worked with the footage for a short time but decided that i wasn't the one to cut it. they wanted lots of special fx and motion grafx (which is not my strength, nor is it my desire to learn fx well.. now im considering playing with some animation and titling motion grafx). i got very hyped watching the footage and called a bunch of my friends at magazines and had many a writer and editor laughing at my pitch - "so these kids paint their faces like clowns and shake it crazier than the harlem shake...". people thought that i was crazy (and truth is, i am). still, no one ran that story...
now i wish i had stuck with those guys and helped them finish their big top DVD. the footage was tighter than Rize. the biggest difference is, i think, that these 2 aspiring filmmakers were from the hood themselves and had participated in the battles, were tight with the dance crews and if they had been a few years younger, they would have been dancing themselves. their footage was raw, initmate, honest, and so engaging. much better than what i saw in Rize.
don't get me wrong the "LaChapelle look" of the beach sequence and the ending montage in the LA riverbed were dope if you like his work.
i have always been annoyed by his images. like this one that was in Vibe a while back:
separate but equal? squeezing my cherry so hard the juice drips out?? okay, so it was a story about outkast and their solo projects and the next page looked like this:
more on my feelings about his work after this rant about rize....
LaChapelle and the DP (director of photography) created a spectacle - i felt like a voyeur looking in and literally down upon the circles of these kids. maybe the cameraman was just too tall and for most shots the camera gazed down to see these kids. there were some wide, low angle shots that showed the dancing but quickly cut upwards above the circle. most of the film was shot in very close shots which helped to make it seem very intimate and revealing. in my own films i always use very intense close-ups (and a good friend told me she felt that my work is so claustrophobic because i lack many wide shots). but the interviews were edited and structured the film in such a way that it felt very heavy-handed and so constructed while only scratching the surface of the story. these are very complicated people with very intense stories living in crazy hoods. the film was set against the backdrop of post-riot energy. the film opens with images of the watts riots and then footage from the 92 LA uprising. but rarely do we ever see shots of the dancers in the hood. we see them at tommy's spot, in their apartments and in some unindentified area dancing but rarely do we see their hoods - why? was the cameraman afraid? why didn't we know more of their lives, their everyday lives? we knew enough to understand the pain and struggle - but only on the surface. we knew the mothers that smoked cracked, the fathers that gang-banged, the grandfather who shot his son and the father who shot himself in the head in the family's back yard - but we saw so little of their "real" lives. just heard quick pieces of the pain. how did the mother get off drugs (beyond "i gave myself to christ...)? where does she work? do these kids go to school? do they work to eat and live? how did tommy (who got robbed and evicted) afford to get the great western forum??? so muc of the story isn't told...
the film's narrative was centered around 2 interviews of guys painting their faces (like warriors preparing for battle). they talk about being oppressed, having nothing to do, needing and the creating this outlet for them.
quickly the film jumps off with a sequence intercutting some unidentified "african" images of tribal dance (i wanted to see how this footage was credited but tiana was getting antsy and wanted to leave). i wanted to see who was in those images and where lachapelle had gotten the images from. so in a very surface and uncritical way, the film embarks on this montage sequence intercutting the krumpers with "africans". no context just simply black bodies, intense, muscular, and sweaty, an object of our voyeristic gaze spanning across time, space and land masses.
i truly felt that rize was a product of racist, anthropological/ethnographic gazes of outsiders peering into the hood. now i'm not callind the filmmakers outright racist - lachapelle gets paid lots of money to objectify women and black and brown bodies.. but i can only imagine... they rolled into watts in their SUVs, unpacked camera equipment, filmed (hoping for no gunfire), then rolled out back to the hollywood hills.
the "beautiful"/LaChappelle classic sequences - on the Santa Monica beach and in the LA river bed seemed to snatch these dancers off the streets of Watts, LB, and Inglewood and plop them in these other landscapes. their bodies were oiled up, like the video hoes on set, and told to shake it fast for the camera.... now i don't know what "really" happened - i don't know if the whole camera crew and production team were white (nor do i think it really matters) but, i think they were so far from the hood that the whole film played out like an ethnographic spectacle intercut with surface interviews of "objects of study" whose stories should have been honored in a documentary, not in a voyeur's spectacle.
why did i expect more? i hate LaChapelle's images:
for most of his work, the bodies seem to just be props.
why must it always be like this? it's always gotta be like hoop dreams.
with tears still in my eyes and a heaviness weighing in my heart, i type. for all the pain and suffering that is unnecessary and at the hands of those who are supposed to protect us, i will always stand up.
every mother's son has affected me so profoundly.
The film is made Kelly Anderson and Tami Gold, two Film/Media professors at Hunter College. There is hope. I will get back to work...