Sunday, 15 February 2009

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.

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