AfroFuturism with Kibwe Tavares & Keguro Macharia

Jonah (trailer above) premiered at Sundance 2013. A synopsis of the film from its creators follows:

Mbwana and his best friend Juma are two young men with big dreams. These dreams become reality when they photograph a gigantic fish leaping out of the sea and their small town blossoms into a tourist hot-spot as a result. But for Mbwana, the reality isn’t what he dreamed – and when he meets the fish again, both of them forgotten, ruined and old, he decides only one of them can survive. Jonah is a big fish story about the old and the new, and the links and the distances between them. A visual feast, shot though with humour and warmth, it tells an old story in a completely new way.

The visuals alone captured my attention, but reading up on the director, Kibwe Tavares, got me excited. On the TED Blog, Tavares discusses the relationship between his training as an architect and the science fiction aesthetic of his films:

As an architect, you’re always thinking about the future, too. You build in narratives that are in the future, because you’re always thinking, “When I design a building, I’m designing it for what happens 10, 15 years into the future.” And when you start looking at the future, it’s hard not to have that kind of science-fiction element.

Tavares’ commentary took me back to my initial impression of the film trailer. Afrofuturistic.

Hopefully you haven’t grown too tired of the word’s (mis)use because I think it’s really important here, especially after I’ve read Keguro Macharia’s Imagine in Black. In the blog post, Macharia offers a parallel between our everyday lives and those in dystopia:Read More »

Watch Short Film: Tall Enough

So I’m supposed to be abstaining from films of the romantic kind but I was over at Colorlines checking out the new reality web-series K-Town.  In considering comments from the show’s executive producer about the exaggerated stereotypes and the model minority that the media often portrays Asians as, I started to think about Barry Jenkins’s short film Tall Enough.  As I said in the comments sections on the Colorlines article, Tall Enough was the first time I’d seen the Chinese language portrayed in a romantic way from an American filmmaker.  It completely turned the presentation of Asian languages as comical on its head.  Check it out below:

On My Radar: La Playa D.C.

The trailer:

A synopsis from Shadow & Act:

The film centers on Tomas, an Afro-Colombian teenager struggling with the difficulties of growing up in a city (Bogota) of exclusion and racism against those who look like him; When his younger brother disappears, Tomas is forced to leave his home to look for him. With the help from his older brother Chaco, Tomas roams the city’s streets, as his search becomes more of a journey in which he’s forced to face his past, and to leave aside the influence of his brothers in order to find his own identity, all with the vibrancy and instability of a city in flux as the film’s backdrop.

Medicine for Melancholy

Watch a film multiple times and you can expect to see something new in each viewing.  I’ve seen Theodore Witcher’s Love Jones an uncountable amount of times – I’ve moved past the stage of seeing new things into reciting the lines in sync with characters. Baby, you ain’t got to save mine for later, I’d rather have it right now.  Nina we’ve already done it before…repeatedly!  It’s my go-to movie when I’m in need of a heavy dose of romanticized love.

However, when I’m in need of something a little more relatable, I turn to Medicine for Melancholy – Barry Jenkins’ feature film debut that was released in 2009.  I own it on DVD and have seen it about six times with others and on my own.  I’ll never get enough of the beautiful images of San Francisco, Wyatt Cenac’s quirkiness, or the film’s amazing soundtrack.  I’ve probably noticed something new in each viewing of the film, but it was during the last one that I felt something new.

No I love this city, I hate this city but I love this city.  San Francisco is beautiful…You shouldn’t have to be upper middle class to be a part of that. – Micah

I could write for days about my love for NYC, but I could do the same about my hate for this city.  I love that NYC has given me so much access to different cultural experiences and that a car doesn’t have to figure into that; but I absolutely hate some of the rude thoughts and behaviors I’ve developed towards the elderly and other slow-moving people on crowded sidewalks.  I love that with $30 and a few hours to spend, I can make a round-trip to Philadelphia, Boston, or Washington D.C.  I hate that because Manhattan is so expensive to live in, a bus ride to Philadelphia takes almost the same amount of time as my commute to work.

While NYC’s fast-paced rudeness is in direct opposition to the more laid-back ways of San Francisco, the dating scenes of the two cities seem to be similar:

Is it any surprise that folks of color in the scene date outside their race…everything about being indie is all tied to not being black…People call it interracial dating but there’s nothing interracial about it, nine out of ten times it’s somebody of color hanging on to a white person  – Micah

It was shortly after this statement that I felt Micah’s loneliness for the first time and I empathized because I’ve been there.  I grew up in a city that, from my vantage point, might as well be 99.9% black.  Call me naïve, but I never anticipated living anywhere with demographics so different from my hometown.  I was completely unprepared to live in cities that are similarly segregated but with fewer black people.  It’s not that I didn’t have exposure to non-black people growing up, but in my new surroundings I had to re-examine my ability to navigate interracial relationships.  I worked jobs where I had to process the undertones of racism alone.  I met black women and men who had no problem identifying as black but felt no need to be connected to other black people; and this crazy idea that black women struggle in trying to partner with black men became a reality.

So I feel like I’m seeing myself on-screen as I watch Micah go from an angry rant about interracial dating to begging JoAnne to stay with him, if only for one more night.  I’ve been there.  I used to rant to no end about how black men in New York City hated themselves and were only seeking women with physical characteristics that I do not have and refuse to obtain.  It was only after a friend checked me about my complaining that I eventually got to my truth: I miss black men.

When I left home, I left all of the men that I love the most: my father, my brother, and the friends I’ve made throughout the years.  In an attempt to fill the spaces that Skype and phone conversations can’t replace, I, like Micah, tried to hold on to the few black men I met regardless of our compatibility or their availability.  I’ve since realized that relationships built over years cannot easily be replicated in such a short period of time, especially in a city as transient as NYC.

There are so many layers to learning how to survive “the big city.”  If there is one thing I absolutely love about New York City, it’s the lessons in relationships and emotional maturity I’ve learned.