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Vicky Wright has created a character that most women and possibly men can relate to and the role was filled by a black woman. I made it a point to say that because there has been a lot of talk in the media about “black themed” films being successful. As if it is damn near impossible for a film with a predominately black cast to be successful since no one other than black people can relate to and enjoy the stories being told on the screen that use black actors and actresses to fill major roles. This is obviously a complete insult especially since the films that have been released are not “race themed” films, they just happen to star a roster of black talent. So I would invite the media to stop using the term and consider instead the story and plot elements as opposed to the skin color of the main cast when thinking of a way to describe these films.

That’s enough, I’m getting off my soap box so that I can talk about what I intended to and that is the extremely complicated character of Leigh in The Volunteer. Leigh is seemingly at a crossroads with her life…she is completely burnt out at her job and is drowning in depression. In an effort to find to possibly find herself and some clarity, she volunteers at a soup kitchen. Where she meets and eventually enters into an affair with a homeless man, Ethan.

I say that this character is relate-able to anyone because I think there is a massive epidemic of people who are lost and are in shitty careers just trying to stay sane and they happen to be all sorts of different types of races…this is why it makes no difference that the woman portraying Leigh is a black woman. This is story with elements that a lot of people know all to well.

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I have always been a sucker for heist movies. I don’t know why, but there is just something about cleverly orchestrated schemes to stick it to the “man” (whomever that might be) that fully capture my attention. I’m not condoning theft of any kind, but when I heard about the 80-something international jewel thief who also happens to be an African American woman…I had to know more. With enough digging I was able to find the documentary The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne

Her recounts of schemes and escapes from authorities seemed to be pulled out of your favorite thriller; however they have all been confirmed by the FBI. She tells stories of how racial discrimination prompted her to steal her first piece of jewelry and helping her mother flee from an abusive husband led her to continue. 

The filmmakers do an excellent job painting all sides of Doris…which causes you to empathize with her as she sits on trial for her latest heist, but time to time you also have to wonder if you’re being conned by this sweet little old lady.

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When you first hear the premise of Virgin Margarida you think that this is something that could have never happened. However, this film is a fictional account based upon stories collected by the director, Licinio Azevedo, during time spent in an actual re-education center for Mozambique’s prostitutes. Set in 1975 during Mozambique’s rebirth after years of colonial rule. A young girl, Margarida, is accidentally taken into custody after a raid that was meant to rid the city of its prostitutes takes place. The women are taken to a “re-education” camp in the middle of nowhere. They are then taught how to be “proper” women.

There are a lot of interesting dynamics at play in this film, particularly because the soldiers that are assigned to keep guard over the women are women. In Virgin Margarida, you will see women who struggle with internal conflict as they follow the orders of patriarchy that doesn’t serve them or the women imprisoned in the camp. You will also see women who band together to survive their hardships.

This is a film that should not only be seen, but absorbed and discussed.

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I just can’t get enough of the diverse black cinema that has been hitting the internet and theatres all over the world. Recently, I saw the satire Destination: Planet Negro.

The film begins like a cult, sci-fi classic film set in 1939. Renown African-American leaders come together to discuss the best place for African-Americans to live and build their life without the plague of societal ills such as Jim Crow. Dr. Warrington Avery has the brilliant idea that the race should have their own plant hence the name Plant Negro.

So Dr. Avery, his physicist daughter, a pilot and robot load a rocket ship powered by George Washington Carver’s rocket fuel and take off towards Mars to ensure that it is inhabitable for humans. However, instead of ending up on Mars, the four accidentally end up in the future.

Destination: Planet Negro makes you ponder the answer to the question: what would our ancestors and past leaders think if they could see us now?

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You expect summers of children to be filled with playground games, vacation trips and late nights without homework. However, in The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, Mister and Pete spend their entire summer dodging child protective services while finding ways to feed themselves.

After Mister’s mother has been taken into custody by police, he is pushed to his limits as he tries to endure the summer with no food and no money while looking after his friend, Pete. Although a fictional story, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, makes a painful and somewhat accurate observation of how society’s impoverished children can be driven to the brink…just when you think they might make it, they’re defeat seems almost inevitable.

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Blue Caprice is a quiet, chilling exploration of the development of a serial killer. In 2002, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Malvo terrorized the DMV community by randomly shooting and killing people that went about their everyday business such as simply pumping gas.

In the film, Malvo has been abandoned by his mother and Muhammad takes him in and treats him as though he is his son. From that point on, Muhammad slowly and methodically molds him into a child killer. 

Blue Caprice was one of the rare instances of black actors being given the space to depict complicated characters. Although Tequan Richmond does an impressive job of portraying the vulnerabilities of Malvo…it’s very difficult to feel sympathy for him.

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In Otelo Burning, three Lamontville teens discover a love and passion for surfing. However, the lead character, Otelo, is forced to choose between surfing success or justice.

Shot in Durban, South Africa and set during the time of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, a recurring theme in the film is freedom. The lead characters are constantly talking about what freedom feels like and what it means to them. As person who has inherited freedom, Otelo Burning led me to also question what freedom means to me. And what came to mind is a saying my father says constantly, “Freedom is free.” This is made ever so apparent in Otelo Burning.

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Watching Portrait of Jason was a cross between sitting in a room with your favorite aunt or uncle, listening to them tell interesting, engulfing stories and a social experiment. Jason Holiday is the center and sole subject of this documentary. He is a former “houseboy,” hustler and aspiring nightclub act.

In the beginning, Jason entertains everyone with stories of orgies, jazz singers, hustling and working as a “houseboy.” However, as the documentary progresses you can’t help but feel a little sadness for this man who eventually begins to tell stories of rejection from family and loneliness due to hustling so many people.

Although, I have mixed feelings about this documentary, I still think it’s worth the watch and conversation.

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The Robots of Brixton is a short film by Kibwe Tavares. Robots in the film are enduring poverty, police brutality and have been relegated to an undesirable part of London, Brixton. Fed up with the poor treatment and living environment, riots erupt. Footage of the actual riot in Brixton that occurred in 1981 is used in the film.

This film not only echoes what occurred in Brixton, but also what has happened in other cities throughout the world in which minorities and poor people have been placed in inferior positions within society.

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As much as I love a man with a fresh hair cut The Fade: A Clean Cut Documentary is about more than that. Filmmaker Andy Mundy-Castle follows four barbers living in four different countries: US, UK, Ghana and Jamaica. Although each barber is considerably the best in his country they all face four very different realities. However, despite each barber’s differences, there are still common threads that connect them: they’re ambition, drive, determination and entrepreneurship.