Thursday, 26 February 2009

Would Martin Luther King Jr. Have Been As Successful Without Black, Gay Civil Rights Activist, Bayard Rustin?

Bayard Rustin was an integral part of the American civil rights movement. He worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. with the Montgomery bus boycotts and was instrumental in organizing the historic March On Washington, yet, because he was gay, his name is only now emerging from the closet of history. Thanks to Bennett Singer, co-director and producer of the documentary, Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin, this oversight is finally being addressed.

Also on the show is my chat with BaKari E. Lindsay, choreograper and co-Artistic Director of COBA (Collective of Black Artists)

Jimmy Cliff, "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" from Reggae in Your Jeggae compiliation CD
Dr. Matin Luther King, Jr. speech "Birmingham 1963-Keep Moving" + SNCC Freedom Singers "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" from Every Tone a Testimony Compilation CD
Melanie Durrant "Sky" + "Bang Bang" from Where I'm Goin' CD (Cdn)
Chet Sing "Price is Right" from Darkness of Daylight CD (Cdn)

Thanks to COBA for the giveaway of a pair of tickets to BANTA.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Why Hasn't the BBC Released this Black Comedy Series on DVD?

The Real McCoy. Think In Living Color, but British and Caribbean.

Two Misery's West Indian Restaurant Sketches from the BBC Series, The Real McCoy. Enjoy!

Despite on-going requests from its legions of fans, the highly successful BBC series, The Real McCoy (1991-1996) is still not available on DVD? There is a group on Facebook and an online petition. Clips are available on Youtube, but this series and its talented actors deserve a quality transfer to DVD.

The Real McCoy--I'm Sorry We're Full

(This one of for The More the Merrier Supporter and CIUT Member, GYLES)

Monday, 23 February 2009

Oscar...Oscar..Oscar...Who Won?

So, how did Kirk and I do with our Oscar picks? Have a look:


WINNER: DEPARTURES, dir. Yojiro Takita (JAPAN)

dg: MILK
dg: MILK (Gus Van Sant)

dg: SEAN PENN (Milk)

dg: MELISSA LEO (Frozen River)

KC: HEATH LEDGER (The Dark Knight)
dg: HEATH LEDGER (The Dark Knight)

dg: VIOLA DAVIS (Doubt)
WINNER: PENELOPE CRUZ (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)




Sunday, 15 February 2009

And the Oscar Goes To...

The Oscars are coming up next Sunday (Feb. 22nd) and Kirk Cooper is more excited about them than I am. Maybe it's because he has something to root for in Slumdog Millionaire. During the second part of my Feb. 14th show (see In the Mood for Love post) we talked about our picks for the 81st Annual Academy Awards. He is feeling the magic of Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, a magic that I have never felt since seeing the film at the Toronto International Film Festival last September. To me and the few others I have met who are not enamored of the film, it is understandable why most people have enjoyed this film about two impoverished brothers from the slums of India aspiring to wealth--rags to riches stories always do well with the general public. What we don't understand is why this film has become so award-worthy. The only thing I would accept this film winning an award for is cinematography, but anything else is baffling. It's a case of the Emperor having no clothes. Everyone else is seeing the Emperor in his splendiferous, royal robes and all we can see is a naked man. Oh, well, let's see what happens on Oscar night. Maybe I'll feel the magic and underdogs Richard Jenkins and Melissa Leo will win in their categories. Yes, I voted for Sean Penn, but a win by Jenkins, whom I have long admired, would be a magical feat.


The film and actress missing for me is the French film, I've Loved You So Long/Il y a longtemps que je t'aime with a brilliant performance by Kristen Scott Thomas. I would also have liked to see Kevin Bacon nominated for his supporting role in Frost/Nixon. Kirk has a special place in his heart for WALL-E

Will you be watching? What film/actor do you think is missing from Oscar's list?

In the Mood for Love

In a continued celebration of Black History Month and Valentine's Day, I invited Kirk Cooper to the show for a quick chat about Black Love in film. Our conversation mostly centred on romantic comedy/romance DVDs. Turns out most of our selections were from "back in the day". There haven't really been any significant Black romances released in the past few years (Tyler Perry films dominate the Black film scene, but you wouldn't exactly call them romantic). As for films featuring Black Lesbians and Gays, we came up with a couple of suggestions, but that market is sadly lacking in product. Other peoples of colour (Korean, South Asian, Chinese) have seen some development in LGBT romantic films, but when it comes to Black LGBT films--forget it! The phrase "down low" or "DL" came out of our culture, and our closet is large, deep and conspicuously silent.

Here are some of the films we talked about and some we recommend, but didn't have a chance to mention on air:

One Love

Cherine Anderson plays the devout church girl and Ky-Mani Marley is the Rasta in the Jamaican film, One Love. This Romeo and Juliet film is an entertaining fantasy with great chemistry between the two stars. Who cares that in real life Jamaica this fairy tale would never come true? The music is great too--gospel and reggae.

Brown Sugar

An interesting twist on the romance as it uses a hip hop metaphor to mirror the relationship between the Sanaa Lathan and Taye Diggs characters. The Queen Latifah and Mos Def subplot is cute, too.

Something New

Queen of the Black romance, Sanaa Lathan again with the newly popular, Simon Baker (The Mentalist). The black/white romance also includes a class difference that adds interest. Academy Award nominee, Taraji P. Henson plays one of Sanaa's girlfriends in the film.

Jason's Lyric

Allen Payne is Jason and Jada Pinkett (pre-Smith) is Lyric. This was one of the few films at the time that showed Black lovers on screen in a truly beautiful outdoor lovemaking scene. At that time in the early 90's many Black films came with guns and lots of blood--this one has it's share, but majority of the films is focussed on the lovers.

Love Jones

Nia Long and Larenz Tate stars as a photographer and a spoken word artist who make a connection and have to figure out if they are in love or just playing at love. The spoken word scenes make you want to jump into them as do the shots of Chicago and the jazz score (the soundtrack also includes lots of R & B). Like most good romances you want to yell at the screen for them to smarten up and get together, but alls well that ends well...

The Indredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love (lesbian).
Nicole Ari Parker stars as Evie, an upper middle class high school student who falls in love with Laurel Holloman's working class character, Randy. This is a very sweet romance, and groundbreaking at the time as it was a film aimed at the youth market.

Rag Tag
It may surprise many to know that Rag Tag's writer, director, producer is a woman, Adaora Nwandu.
An interesting take on the gay love story as this film also deals with differing cultural perspectives: Caribbean and Nigerian (set in Birmingham, England and Nigeria), and family drama.

My ultimate "back-in-the-day" favourite is Claudine with Diahann Carroll as a welfare mother with 6 kids daring to dream of romance with garbage man, Roop played by a pre-Darth Vader, James Earl Jones. Pick up the DVD and the CD featuring Gladys Knight and the Pips singing music by Curtis Mayfield.

Here are some other titles for your consideration:
A Warm December
Beauty Salon
Black Orfeus
Carmen Jones
Karmen Gei
Mississippi Masala
How Stella Got Her Groove Back

I'm sure we missed a few, so please email me or post your comments for others to enjoy.
Jamesking, "Show Me" from self-titled CD
Brown Sugar Soundtrack, "Brown Sugar" by Mos Def
Gladys Knight & the Pips, "Mr. Welfare Man" and "On and On" from Claudine/Pipe Dreams CD
Mosa Neshama, tracks 1-6 from Back in Town CD

Thanks for Theatre Direct for the ticket giveaway to the family play,Binti's Journey.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

d'bi young.anitafrika: "rivers...and other blackness...between us"

We've never met, but her welcoming laughter greets me over the telephone as if we are friends reconnecting. I am kicking off my Black History Month celebrations with an interview with d'bi young.anitafrika, the extraordinarily gifted dub poet, actor, playwright. d'bi (rhymes with "to be") has won many awards for her work, including a Dora Mavor Moore award for Outstanding New Play (2006) award for her play, blood.claat--one womban story.

We discuss her book of poems, "rivers...and other blacness...between us". The book is divided into those 3 segments as broken up by the title. The number 3 is a magical number for young, and she tries to encorporate its mysticism into her writing.

She's Black, young and political, so I ask her about her audience, wondering if they were a predominently young crowd. It turns out that her audience is more varied than one would expect. She supposes that her diverse fan base is an off-shoot of being surrounded her whole life by the spoken word community. Her mother is dub poet pioneer Anita Stewart, and a few of in d'bi's circle include Dr. Afua Cooper, Ahdri Zhina mandiela (her mentor), Chet Singh, and Blakka Ellis (another mentor) and peers Motion and Jemini. Her popularity also grew out of the success of trey anthony's play, "Da Kink in My Hair", in which she plays an incest survivor--something d'bi experience herself. She credits director Weyni Mengesha for creating a healilng space for the entire cast over the plays run. Two of the poems in rivers is dedicated to Mengesha.

Today d'bi has chosen to read, Politricks. Like all of her work, the title came to her before the poem. Politricks is dedicated to Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and was inspired by the anger she felt about daycare funding (she had just given birth to moon)and other social services being cut..."mi have a dream last night"/dat some man did a play a game wid mi life"...

Because she is know for her commentary on racial and social issues, I ask her to read the poem, "blood orange". The poem is one of my favourites in the book, and is from the 3rd section of the book (...between us). She has never performed the piece in public, so I was very honoured that she agreed to read it over the phone. It's a pleasure to hear her read words such as these:

"a harvest moon
bleeds like a blood orange
you peel patiently
wrapping your mouth
around its fleshy surface
allowing your teeth and tongue and lips
to press and pull into it
until you separate parts of the whole
not violent
not forceful
and those separated parts become
what makes you a complete human being"

in rivers, young constantly reminds us all of the power of the storyteller, and their importance in telling the truth, whether we as a society want to hear it or not.

d'bi young on storytelling

African Reggae Compilation--"Bo Ten Qu'Luta" by One Love Family--Putumayo World
Sangoma --"Ngihawukele" by Sibongile--Indie release
Freedom & Dance--"Woman of Many Hands" by Lillian Allen--Verse to Vinyl
In My Soul --"Africville" by Four the Moment--Atlantica/Jam
Honey Drops Compilation--"Feelin' It" by Motion--Phem Phat/Universal
Honey Drops Compilation--"Break the Rulez" by The Day After feat.Michie Mee--Phem Phat/Universal

Shout Out!
Thanks to Hot Docs for their giveaway of 1 pair of tickets to MILKING THE RHINO, screening at their Doc Soup monthly documentary series.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Michelle Williams is Brilliantly Understated in WENDY and LUCY--Opens Feb. 6th in Toronto, Feb. 13th in Vancouver

If you listen to my show on a regular basis then you know I am not a fan of the film Rachel Getting Married nor Anne Hathaway's showy performance as a recovering drug addict. Hathaway has received an Academy Award nomination for in the Lead Actress category, but I feel that Michelle Williams should have been the one nominated. Williams is absolutely flawless in Wendy and Lucy, the story of a young woman who's car breaks down on her way to Alaska. Stuck in a small Oregon town until her car is repaired, Wendy (Williams) and her dog Lucy cope with hunger and dwindling funds as they interact with a few of the town's citizens--some nicer than others.

Director, Kelly Reichardt documents Wendy and Lucy's situation in a minimalist, realistic manner that relies heavily on Williams, whose style of acting appears effortless. I tried to look for the "acting" but I never once saw it (even in documentaries the subjects can sometimes seem too aware of the camera).

Filmmakers of the silent era would have loved to have Williams' face in their lens. Her eyes break your heart and you sit in the theatre trying to project courage her way. Of course, you're not able to help her, but you can't help trying to channel her some good fortune--that's what Williams' performance evokes in those of us who appreciate this type of filmmaking.

I also enjoyed the small supporting cast, especially actor Walter Dalton, who plays a store security guard. It is Dalton's character with whom Williams shares the most screen time, and it is through him that we learn that the town is experiencing an economic downturn.

This is not a film that has wide appeal. Not everyone can sit through a film that plays like a silent film and is about one particular moment in someone's life. Those who like their films complete with explanations will also not ejoy filling in the deliberate gaps in the plot. We hear Wendy's sister through a pay telephone, but we never see her and we have to fill in the blanks of what their relationship is like and why Wendy would go all the way to Alaska at the prospect of a job.

She won't get an Oscar (she was nominated for Broke Back Mountain), but Michelle Williams did win the Toronto Film Critics Association's award for Best Actress and Wendy and Lucy garnered the Best Picture honour. The TFCA also gave awards to Rachel Getting Married. If you have seen both pictures please post a comment.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

NURSE.FIGHTER.BOY Opens Feb. 6th at the Yonge/Dundas AMC--Let's Get 500 People in the Theatre This Weekend!

I never thought I would see a Canadian film, set in Toronto, that had characters mention nonas and St. Elizabeth, Jamaica--Kingston, yes, St. Elizabeth, no.

Nurse.Fighter.Boy screens at Yonge/Dundas AMC Theatre and the Royal Cinema. Filmmaker Charles Officer will participate in Q & A’s, Friday and Saturday, February 6 and 7, at the following Nurse.Fighter.Boy screenings:
-After the 7:15 pm shows at Yonge & Dundas, 10 Dundas St. East .
-After the 9:30 pm shows at the Royal, 608 College St .

Nurse.Fighter.Boy needs 500 "bums in seats" this week-end in order to remain at the Yonge/Dundas AMC theatre. Director, Charles Officer is hoping for a 3 week run, an ambitious hope for any Canadian film, let alone this intimate look at a single mother, her 12 year-old son, and the world-weary fighter that enters their lives. Outside of the Quebec market it is extremely difficult for English Canadian films to find an audience given their limited promotional budgets. As I've said in previous shows, the faces of Canadian actors don't show up on drink containers at your favourite fast food restaurant.

You need good actors to pull off a film like this (there's no CGI backwards aging as in Benjamin Button), and Charles Officer has managed to pull together an amazing primary and secondary cast. This quiet love story offers images I have never seen on a Canadian screen: the nurse, Jude (Karen LeBlanc)is battling Sickle Cell Anemia; her son Ciel, (Daniel J. Gordon) is both the man of the house and nurturer, and the fighter, Silence (Clark Johnson) becomes an unexpected mentor, a role he never anticipated. Young Samantha Somer Wilson, who plays Ciel's next door neighbour and friend is also incredible.

This is a film of "feeling" rather than "thinking"--moods are set by a soundtrack that fills in lines that are never spoken, warmth is derived from earthtone sets and natural lighting. One of my favourite scenes occurs at night when Silence takes the risk of reaching out to Jude by asking her if she "has someone". The scene is very quick, but it stayed with me because it was so believably romantic.

Refresh your movie palette and try something different on Feb. 6th. Do it for Charles and for Bob Marley (it's his birthday).

Shout out! to:
-Kelsey and Mars at the First Weekend Club for a great Canada Screens preview of this film
-Tovah Barocas at Canadian Film Centre
-Ray Nishimura (film lover) for the invite

I was reviewing past coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and realized that as good as it is to use social media, I m...