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Review: DVDs

 

By Dr. William (Lez) Henry

 

Burning an Illusion and Blood Ah Goh Run, DVD Release, United Kingdom: BFI - 2005
Directed By Menelik Shabazz

Burning An Illusion (1981) and Blood Ah Goh Run (1982) represent a seminal moment in the history of Black British Film for quite different reasons. Blood Ah Goh Run is a short film which captures the mood on the streets of
London in the aftermath of the New Cross Fire in 1981 and demonstrates how, well before the days of mobile phones, African people can unify to chant down Babylon. The film is raw and real, providing an insight into the pains of a generation who were expected to fit into a racist society that, for many, was akin to living in the womb of a scornful, resentful mother.

Burning An Illusion, on the other hand, as a piece of fiction, demonstrates what can be achieved when those who live and breathe the reality have the skills to render that reality without compromise. In casting Cassie Mcfarlane in the lead role as Pat, Shabazz unlocks a gem who effortlessly conveys to the audience the trauma and tribulation that always accompanies a journey to a knowledge of an African self.

 

For once, the character begins to challenge her designated 'place' in an inherently racist, sexist and class-based society and gains a profound insight into the system of racism. Thus, during her tempestuous relationship with Del (Victor Romero), Pat realises that black people can only 'burn the illusion' when alternative knowledge of self is used as the fuel for the fire.

Review by Dr.Lez Henry

Recommended Films List

Akeelah and the Bee
Lionsgate Films, 2006
See the website: www.akeelahandthebee.com

Directed by Doug Atchison


The story of an African American girl called Akeelah played by Keke Palmer who lives in South Central LA with her mother and finds that she has a great aptitude for spelling.  But, like all too many black children in the
UK, let alone the US, she initially hides her talent from both her peers and her mother.  However, she comes to the attention of a professor who pushes her to pursue her talents.  The film has a well-worn triumph-over-adversity storyline, but at least it has black protagonists at its heart.  Due for release on 4 August, this film re-teams Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburn for the first time since their Oscar-nominated performances in What's Love Gotta Do With It.

Black and Gold

Big Noise Films, 2000
Directed by Jacqui Soohen and Richard Rowley

The Latin Kings were once the most feared of New York's street gangs, as well as the most prosecuted. In 1994, the Kings realized that the collective strength of the city's Latino youth could be put to use as a powerful force for positive change, and they transformed into the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation. They put aside drugs, guns, and violence to heal their community through activism and education. Yet like other militant political groups, the Kings have been relentlessly hounded by police and government agencies.

The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off

Produced for Channel 4 by Yipp Films Limited, 2004

Jonny Kennedy died in 2003 aged 36. He had a terrible genetic condition called Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) – which meant that his skin literally fell off at the slightest touch, leaving his body covered in agonising sores and leading to a final fight against skin cancer. In his last months Jonny decided to work with filmmaker Patrick Collerton to document his life and death, and the result was a film, first broadcast in March 2004, that was an uplifting, confounding and provocatively humorous story of a singular man.

Buena Vista Social Club
Dendy Films, 1999
Directed by Wim Wenders


A group of legendary Cuban musicians, some as old as their nineties, were brought together by Ry Cooder to record a CD. In this film, we see and hear some of the songs being recorded in
Havana. There is also footage from concerts in Amsterdam and New York City's Carnegie Hall. In addition, many of the individual musicians talk about their lives in Cuba and about how they got started in music. 


                     

               Buena Vista Social Club

Bus 174

Zazen Produções, 2004
Directed by Jose Padilha


A documentary that depicts what happened in Rio de Janeiro on June 12th 2000, when bus 174 was taken by an armed young man, threatening to shoot all the passengers. Transmitted live on all Brazilian TV networks, this shocking and tragic-ending event became one of violence's most shocking portraits, and one of the scariest examples of police incompetence and abuse in recent years.

The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power

Big Picture Media Corporation, 2004
Directed by Mark Akbar and Jennifer Abbot

Based on the book by Joel Bakan, this documentary is a timely, critical inquiry that examines the very nature of the corporation; its inner workings, curious history, controversial impacts and possible futures. Featuring candid interviews with CEOs, whistle-blowers, brokers, gurus, spies, players, pawns and pundits, the chronicle charts the spectacular rise of an institution aimed at achieving specific economic goals as it also recounts victories against this seemingly invincible force. Once you see it, you may find yourself thinking twice about what you eat, what you wear, what you watch and what you read.

Dave Chappelle's Block Party

Kabuki Brothers, Partizan, Pilot Boy Productions, Bob Yari Productions, 2006
Directed by Michel Gondry

Comedy superstar Dave Chappelle presents a Brooklyn neighborhood with its very own once-in-a-lifetime free block party. As a diverse crowd comes together, Mr. Chappelle's freestyle wit guides them (and us) through a day-long, life-affirming celebration of music and comedy, history and community. The line-up of performers is distinguished not only by the calibre of their music but also by the strength and power that their art draws from keeping their creativity pure.

Death in
Gaza
James Miller, 2004
Directed by James Miller


This was to be part one of a two-part documentary detailing the effects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on children. The first part follows the lives of three Palestinian children and the way the war affects them. Unfortunately, the second part of the documentary was never made because the director was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier while in
Palestine.

Life and Debt

Tuff Gong Productions, 2001
Directed by Stephanie Black


Direct and accessible, this documentary gradually unfolds the facets of paradise and poverty. Through the tools of the tourist industry, we are shown in stark contrasts the implications of currency devaluation, lack of infrastructure, and the dichotomy between different lives on the
island of Jamaica. Featuring Michael Manley, Edward Seaga, farmers and women working in the free trade zones, a narrative transcends the images to explain the ills of structural adjustment programs and the destruction of self-sufficient industries by imports and foreign investor's exploitation.

Live and Become
(may be known also as; Go, See, and Become under its international English title or Vai e Vivrai in Italy)
Radu Mihaileanu, 2005

Directed by Radu Mihaileanu


This is a very-well made movie about the life of a Christian Ethiopian boy whose mother sends him with a Falasha Jew to Irsael in order for him to escape the draught in Ethiopia. The story follows his life from childhood into adulthood. Very well done. 

Loose change 9/11

Dylan Avery, 2005
Directed by Dylan Avery


A barrage of facts and figures that leaves little doubt as to who was responsible for the twin towers tragedy. Defense strategies and test programs sanctioned by the key players in US military operations are clearly part of pre-defined terror campaigns to instill fear in US citizens. Simulations, chemical analysis, documented data, and eyewitness accounts even from those sources at the helm of the
US administration's defense are used as evidence. See for yourself.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Directed by Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain, 2003

Hugo Chavez elected president of Venezuela in 1998, is a colourful, unpredictable folk hero, beloved by his nation's working class and a tough-as-nails, quixotic opponent to the power structure that would see him deposed. Two independent film-makers were inside the presidential palace on
April 11, 2002, when he was forcibly removed from office. They were also present 48 hours later when, remarkably, he returned to power amid cheering aides. This film records what was probably history's shortest-lived coup d'état. It's a unique document about political muscle and an extraordinary portrait of the man The Wall Street Journal credits with making Venezuela "Washington's biggest Latin American headache after the old standby, Cuba."


Team
America: World Police

Trey Parker/Matt Stone, 2004
Directed by Trey Parker


No matter how passionate a person is, everyone needs to laugh. This movie is a comedy about the way Americans trample over the rest of the world and are very ignorant toward Muslim culture.

 

 

Dr. William (Lez) Henry is an Afro-centric cultural historian and has published in the areas of race, ethnicity, music and education in the context of the black experience in Britain.

 

With thanks to Ricenpeas - the UK-based award-winning documentary film-makers.

 

Please e-mail comments to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com

 

 

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