spike lee

BlacKkKlansman Review

BlacKkKlansman Review

Hate conversation and racial slurs were a small part of the tactics Colorado-based undercover detective Ron Stallworth used to infiltrate the Klu Klux Klan in the 1970’s. The true story of the African American cop is the inspiration for the comedic and shocking Spike Lee directed film Blackkklansman.

The new critically acclaimed film is one of Spike Lee’s best, contending with his 1990’s blockbuster movies (Malcolm X, Jungle Fever), pushing the limits on social issues including racism, community and police brutality.

SPIKE LEE’S OSCAR: NEW BIRTH OF BLACK FILM

When the Academy Awards are presented in Hollywood in late February 2016, there will be new elements of the film business in play. Some things have already been put into effect, such as the changes in Academy membership that seek to remedy an old-guard condition reflected in awards nominations that exclude not only African American but just about all people of color. This controversy began with Spike Lee receiving an honorary Oscar for his nearly thirty years of consistently high-quality films, all involved in various aspects of the Black experience.

Spike Lee’s new film, Chi-Raq, is based on an ancient Greek play, Aristophanes’s Lysistrata, whose theme is built around the withholding of sexual congress by women who are fed up with war. Although the original play is considered a comedy, this particular takeoff is more in the tragic realm, as Chi-Raq takes place in a community that appears to be involved in almost ritual self-destruction.

Vibe magazine reported the following in late October 2015:

The film was expected to premiere for Amazon Prime subscribers, with a debut scheduled at the Cannes Film Festival next year. But after Amazon’s production sector teamed up with Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate, it’s looking like Chi-Raq is getting a much bigger platform.

Chi-Raq was released with one of the most ambitious publicity campaigns of any of Lee’s previous films. The trailer was issued by Amazon—promoting its first feature film release—on November 3, 2015 a few days after the Day of the Dead (November 1) and just prior to Lee’s honorary Oscar ceremony on November 14. The proximity of this award was optimally placed within the film’s ad campaign—not long before the official release of Chi-Raq, on December 4, during that highly significant season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. No Spike Lee film had ever received such a major promotion, and this campaign, coordinated as it was with Lee’s honorary Oscar, would instantly mark Amazon as a major player in the movie business. The film will eventually be made available via Amazon Prime’s streaming service.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, an African American, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since the summer of 2013, was delighted to welcome Lee into the hallowed hall of Hollywood’s chosen people. In welcoming him to the stage to receive his award, she announced a new Academy initiative, A2020, which will seek to promote a “greater diversity in terms of age, gender, race, national origin and point of view among filmmakers over the next five years.”

For the formal Academy Awards ceremony, statuettes are traditionally given out in a luxurious Hollywood theater, telecasted to a worldwide audience before a glamorously attired who’s who of the industry, especially the star talent, directors and producers. Before the big event, more intimate ceremonies are held, possibly as a way of promoting the awards ceremony itself. At a special gathering to recognize those of great achievement who have not received a statue in the usual categories, Spike Lee was slated to receive an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement (so to speak). His appearance and remarks, having aspects of controversy, could be said to be not only a prelude to the Oscar presentations themselves, but also as the first level of promotion for this new addition to his oeuvre—Chi-Raq.

Juxtaposing the violence against Blacks in Chicago with the violence perpetrated by the Iraq War, Lee hyphenated the two realities into Chi-Raq, causing Chicago mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel to request that Lee excise the allusion to the city from his title. Lee’s refusal gained him some timely early publicity.

At the awards presentation Spike came jubilantly to the stage, resplendent in a high-collared blue suit that closed at the neck, a silver chain holding an unusually thick cross, and a black beret, on its crest the red, black and green logo of Chi-Raq dominant in white. He wore pair of strange pink-rimmed glasses, and in a long shot he revealed something special for the occasion: custom-made high-topped sneakers.

He was flanked by Wesley Snipes, Samuel Jackson, and Denzel Washington, three heavyweight Black actors who have starred in his films—arousing the curiosity of the audience as to why they were there. The three stood stock-still, almost at military attention, sometimes engaging in praise or unanimously emphasizing an important point made by Lee, who spoke in a straightforward manner, often critically analyzing his lifelong work as a director in the film industry and both condemning and praising the Academy for recognizing and not recognizing his work. His supporting cast, standing strong throughout his ten-minute talk, stood a few feet in front of a life-size golden Oscar.

One’s heart goes out to Spike Lee in recognition of the dilemma he must have found himself in. Obviously, at some prior point, there was no question that he would receive the honorary Oscar, and receiving such an honor without addressing the major issues at hand would have been too great an oversight, especially for a Black man prominent in a film world that rewarded and denied him rather evenhandedly. But nailing down the major issues—or not—was up to him.

He handled it well. After all, he is also an actor. Although his on-screen character role is significant in She’s Gotta Have It, his later roles have been more public persona than showbiz director cum working actor. But today he is a figure in the business—and judging from his references to his students at NYU and his connection to ancient Greek literature, he may be somewhat of an academic as well.

Spike Lee is one of the great filmmakers of our time, having made that art form his total focus for just about all of his adult life. He discovered film after his sophomore year in college, when he received a Super 8 camera and a box of film from a friend who, rather than study filmmaking, decided to go to medical school.

“How did I get here? I was born in Atlanta and moved to Brooklyn, and my late mother, who died when I was in film school—she was the one who introduced me to film. My father, a great jazz musician, hated movies. So I was my mother’s date, drag me to movies. She introduced me to Scorsese when she took to me to see Mean Streets.

“Then I went away to college, Morehouse College. I was third generation; my grandfather and father went there too. He was a freshman when Martin Luther King was a senior. And my mother and grandmother went to Spelman College. They were two historic black schools across the street from each other in ATL So I went to college. My first two years I was lost in the wilderness. I was a D-plus, C-minus student. It wasn’t that I wasn’t smart. I wasn’t motivated. At the end of my sophomore year, it was time to go back to New York City; I had to choose a major because I’d exhausted all my electives. I came back to New York the summer of 1977. I thought up to that point I could always get a job in New York. But that summer, there were no jobs.

“I made a film about that summer, The Summer of Sam.”

Could the general public be aware of the crippling racism that has infused the film industry since the post-Reconstruction bible, The Birth of a Nation (1915), became an early hit, propelling its director, D. W. Griffith, into legendary status, setting up his association with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Charlie Chaplin in establishing United Artists, a production company that still exists. Also existing today are the continuing depictions of African Americans as blackfaced “negro” ghosts who inhabited The Birth of a Nation and most Hollywood films from that point well into the late-twentieth century.`

“I want to thank my grandmother. Her grandmother was a slave. And for fifty years, she taught art. Van Gogh was her favorite painter. She taught in the state of Georgia, and in fifty years she never had one white student because of Jim Crow laws. For fifty years she saved her Social Security checks for her grandchildren’s education. And since I was firstborn, I had first dibs! My grandmother, fifty years of saving her checks, put me through Morehouse, put me through NYU Film School, gave me the money for my thesis film, then gave me the money for She’s Gotta Have It.”

He tells this story in a section of his speech thanking the Academy Board of Governors for his lifetime achievement award, although his life is still intact and his public expects much more from him than the considerable and well-developed oeuvre he has amassed since 1986, when She’s Gotta Have It, his first feature-length film, was a surprise hit. This established him early on as a director with auteur potential who could just as well be simply a successful Hollywood filmmaker. Whether he has accomplished either of those things is arguable to some, but to my mind he is both, and more.

The Blaxploitation films that emerged in the 1970s during a downturn in the U.S. film industry set the stage for someone like Spike Lee. Although there were other African American filmmakers who made their mark in American film, it would be he who crossed over, with “original” hipsters as part of his main audience.

Do the Right Thing put Spike Lee on the map as a serious filmmaker who could deal with vibrant social issues without having to rely on the soft sexuality of She’s Gotta Have It to gain and hold an audience. As a moviegoer, I became hooked on him and followed his career. The year after Right Thing, 1990, his Mo’ Better Blues was credible in telling what it was like being a jazz musician. Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, and Crooklyn followed in each subsequent year. Although Malcolm X was right on and a story that needed to be told, especially from the perspective of a Black filmmaker, the history was well known, and there could be no surprises—and there weren’t. I especially liked the scene with Delroy Lindo and Denzel as Malcolm, as it brought up his West Indian background in a pithy and indelible manner when they exchanged words in a patois known only in that part of the world. Delroy Lindo would come back with a larger role as father to all those bad children in the endearing Crooklyn, in which Lee hit the nail of the head in telling oft-maligned stories of adorable Black children.

The following year, 1995, his next film would begin to alienate me. Clockers, whatever it was supposed to be, was, I thought, “a Spike Lee joint,” as he used to like to say about his movies. But as I discovered, Clockers was derived from a novel by Richard Price, a white novelist, supposedly about a Black teenager who becomes enmeshed in the drug trade but really is about the two white detectives. Moreover, the images over the opening credits set the tone—close-ups of Black male torsos featuring bullet entry wounds. I couldn’t believe Lee was doing this, yet I accepted it conditionally: it had better be worth it. But the film did not hold up to his earlier standard, and I left the theater more than disappointed, vowing to forgo any more Spike Lee movies—with no time limit on that vow. And I held to it through his next, Girl 6 (1996), although I was curious as to how he would deal with a screenplay written by a Black woman, the playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. That same year he came out with a small film about folks on a bus heading to the March on Washington. I did not see it then, as I was still holding to my vow.

The next year, 1998, caught me in a dilemma. Searching for a late movie, I found nothing playing in the neighborhood except He Got Game, starring Denzel Washington. I hated to break my vow, but it was all there was to see.

And what a surprise: a beautiful, moving story of an imprisoned father whose son was about to go very high in the college draft. The father had been a basketball player; he had had game, but lost it in a descent into crime that cost him his liberty. He was furloughed from prison in order to convince his son to go to the state team, which would have appeased the governor enough to allow for Denzel’s release.

He Got Game was a totally unpredictable masterpiece. I was back in fandom. But the sequence had been broken. I saw Bamboozled, an interesting critique of the media, before I saw the next film after He Got Game, which was Son of Sam—yet another masterpiece. This time Lee took on “white” working-class Italian and Irish youths who lived in the outer regions of the Bronx and created their own universe. Integrating a neighborhood in that region as a teenager, I knew their ways firsthand. John leguizamo, a Colombian American, played an Italian and aced it. I could not believe his verisimilitude. He deserved an Academy Award; Lee deserved an Academy Award. But if one had not been forthcoming for the screenplay to She’s Gotta Have It, for which he was nominated, or the monumental Do the Right Thing, or Crooklyn, or He Got Game, or Son of Sam, none of which even came near being nominated, then it was clear that the fix had been in. He would not get one unless something extraordinary happened. And I believe it did—this year, last month, and continuing into another place altogether.

Chi-Raq, Spike Lee’s vehicle onto this new film-biz terrain, is a “joint,” its elements textured to exist within their own distinct energy: there is poetry (especially in the brilliant opening sequence), excellently produced bombastic hip-hop beats, deft choreography, even a script that rhymes. Everyone seems to live pretty well, most look good, and even the grieving mothers—a Greek chorus of women in tears—are attractive for their ages and stations. There is, of course, gun violence, gunplay—with a symbolic casualty: a young Black girl playing in the street is hit and killed in the crossfire. The dominant theme is the dire relationship between Teyonah Parris as Lysistrata (the Afro headshot in the publicity ad), who seeks a solution to this murderous environ even though a major perpetrator happens to be the man she loves, Chi-Raq personified (played by Nick Allen). This reference to the ancient Greek play Lysistrata is probably a bit of a stretch, even as homage to the tragic reality of worldwide violence that is particularly evinced in present-day Chicago—to wit, the list of Blacks killed in that major midwestern metropolis. Chi-Raq, merging an American minority-majority city with the tragedy brought to the nation of Iraq, offers a comparison that is never stated verbally or cinematically, except perhaps for the involvement of the National Guard at the conclusion. In an interview Spike Lee said, “It comes back to guns. The takeaway, if anybody sees this film, is what are we going to do as a supposed democratic country? I guess we have the right to kill ourselves. That’s what it seems like. Kill ourselves and kill each other.”

This film could actually function as reinforcement for President Obama’s campaign against gun violence. Yet it seems that other than the verbal protestations, the demonstration against the ultimate senselessness of the situation, and the well-meaning but banal sermon by the sympathetic white preacher played by John Cusack—who seems out of place as a leader of a large church in a Black Chicago ghetto—the protest is basically rhetorical in effect.

The Academy membership could be said to have struck back with their January 14, 2016, announcement of the nominations for the official eighty-eighth annual Academy Awards. The omission, for the second year in a row, of any Black actor, producer, or director by the voting members of the Academy seemed to many to reflect that monolith of institutional racism that had been a mainstay in the history of Hollywood. The blatant obviousness of the snub revealed a deep, long-lasting policy. A few people in the business responded. Expressing feelings from dismay to anger, some well-known film-biz figures spoke out. Lee was one of the first to say he was not attending the ceremony and why. Jada Pinkett Smith declared her boycott. Her husband, Will Smith, also said he would not attend. Michael Moore and Al Sharpton declared their support of what was being called the boycott, while elderly white Hollywood veterans Charlotte Rampling and Clint Eastwood made statements in support of the status quo.

Perhaps the most prominent Black entertainment figure, Jada Pinkett Smith, referred to by one commentator as an “A-lister,” declared that not only not would she not attend the ceremony, she would not watch it on television either. Her husband stars in Concussion, a movie about football injury devastation. Neityher he nor the film was selected to vie for a statue. Maintaining a low profile, Will Smith made a public statement on the issue, saying that he too would not attend. Pinkett Smith was clear in her extended remarks on the subject:

“Begging for acknowledgment, or even asking, diminishes dignity . . . Maybe it is time that we pulled back our resources and put them back into our communities, into our programs, and we make programs for ourselves that acknowledge us in ways that we see fit that are just as good as the so-called mainstream.”

Then she gazed into the camera and spoke directly to Lee. “But I cannot think of a better man to do the job at hand this year than you, my friend.”

Another Black man dealing with the job at hand is Chris Rock, who, as host of the awards ceremony this year, stated that he would rewrite his remarks in light of the furor. Meanwhile, Black TV and film producer Reginald Hudlin was hired as a top-level executive by the Academy.

Receiving the honorary Oscar seems to have enabled Spike Lee to speak out. Now he has been recognized for his awesome body of work—films more in the art category and certainly away from the standard B movies that had been the staple of many Black filmmakers.

When Lee relied on a story from a novel by James McBride, The Miracle at St. Anna, his power was at its strongest. The segmented elements of Chi-Raq lose their impact on the story level, where the heart and the emotions are most often affected. The love affair between the two stars, indeed sensual and sexual, has no purchase beyond that realm. For instance, the recurring theme of the violent murders of Black youths loses it potential for tragedy when John Cusack tries to make us believe he is a religious leader who delivers righteous relief to the tearstrained mothers of the victims. That comes at a place in the film where a powerful sermon could have/should have, taken down the house.

The denouement and finale are crowd-dominated spectacles that, at the end, tie things up by asking us to believe that these two embattled lovers would compete in a sex contest of sorts, with their bed set in a parade ground before an audience of military, press, TV broadcasters, community people, and heartbroken mothers. That the inadvertent killer of the young girl in this “satire” suddenly confesses rather than completing coitus with the gorgeous female lead after all that deprivation seems patently ridiculous.

But Chi-Raq is not about story and is many ways the advent of a new kind of film that can be watched in segments—or for scenes or shots or sound track and poetry. Yet it might not be necessary, in its representation of an ongoing tragedy, to make a substantive ending that has true meaning. Aristophanes’s comedic tale of women withholding sex from their men in protest against an ongoing war is far from parallel with the current situation in Chicago, where Black-on-Black gun violence is challenged only by police gun violence on Black.

In the first century of the movie business in the United States, Hollywood films have always reflected the miscegenationist Jim Crow racial division prevalent in the social order until the Civil Rights Movement began to change things, resulting in the so-called diversity existing now. But real movement in Black depiction and subject matter is a recent phenomenon in the film world, which has now expanded beyond Hollywood, owing in large part to the changes in technology that have created advancement in the use of videotape, cable programming, and the vast possibilities of Internet streaming. Also, Netflix activity, and especially Amazon's entry into the film business as the bankroller for Chi-Raq, could indicate a game change in the industry after almost one hundred years.

Now a film is emerging that could supplant that deadly legacy. Coming soon to American screens is a correction of a century-old film industry evil. Two weeks after the Academy nominations of exclusion, a new feature film about Nat Turner’s rebellion, directed by Nate Parker, swept the top awards at the recent Sundance Film Festival.

At this very festival, new players in the business, including Netflix and more so Amazon, which bid $20 million for the rights to distribute this film —ironically titled The Birth of a Nation — perhaps the most radical Black film ever produced. This was the highest bid made in the history of Sundance. The film was purchased by Fox’s Searchlight for a slightly lower figure, owing to Parker’s desire to qualify for an Academy Award. Something apparently not possible with Amazon.

The Birth of a Nation, directed by and starring Nate Parker, is the story of the 1831 Nat Turner slave rebellion that resulted in more than sixty deaths of white slavers in Southhampton County, Virginia. What Parker achieved was also set in place by his appropriation of the title of the 1915 D. W. Griffith film based on the novel The Clansman by Thomas Dixon (about the rise of the Ku Klux Klan), which was highly hailed as the first major hit of the early film business and set Hollywood on its grand path. The film was screened at President Wilson’s White House in 1919. By then most of the Black soldiers had returned from fighting in the First World War in Europe. The original Birth of a Nation poisoned the waters of the film industry for decades, reflecting a code of exclusion—or exploiting comic relief and ridicule—from 1915 until the beginning of 2016, exactly a century plus one year. Today, when one googles The Birth of a Nation, it is Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation at the head of the listings.

It could well be that a new era in the “entertainment” business is at hand in these “United States.”

© David Henderson 2016 All Rights Reserved.

Tell it Like it is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986 Feb 6-19

FSLC Logo


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

THE FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER PRESENTS
Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986
February 6-19
 
Includes work from filmmakers Pearl Bowser, Kathleen Collins,
William Greaves, Bill Gunn, Jessie Maple and Spike Lee
 
Collins’s Losing Ground (1982) will have its long overdue theatrical
premiere with a one-week theatrical run starting onFebruary 6
 
Cast and crew reunion screening of Personal Problems, with guests
including Ishmael Reed, Dr. Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor and Sam Waymon


 
New York, NY (December 19, 2014) – The Film Society of Lincoln Center will present Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968–1986, a series of key films, starting with William Greaves’s seminal Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One and culminating with Spike Lee’s first feature, the independently produced She’s Gotta Have It which launched a new era of studio filmmaking by black directors. This program includes major works by some of the great filmmakers of this (or any) era in cinema. During this time, activist New York–based black independent filmmakers created an exciting body of work despite lack of support and frequent suppression of minority film production. Programmed by Michelle Materre and Film Society of Lincoln Center Programmer at Large Jake Perlin, co-presented by Creatively Speaking. Tickets will go on sale Thursday, January 15, 2015.
 
Dennis Lim, the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Director of Programming said, “This is a landmark program that sheds overdue light on an incredibly rich, varied, and undertold chapter of American film history. There are many groundbreaking works here by many singular figures, and we’re proud to present this essential series here at the Film Society.”  
 
In early 1968, William Greaves began shooting in Central Park, and the resulting film, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One, came to be considered one of the major works of American independent cinema. Later that year, following a staff strike, WNET’s newly created program, Black Journal (with Greaves as Executive Producer) was established “under black editorial control” and as home base for a new generation of filmmakers redefining documentary. (1968 also marked the production of the first Hollywood studio film directed by an African American, Gordon Park’s The Learning Tree.) Shortly thereafter, actor/playwright/screenwriter/novelist Bill Gunn directed the studio-backed Stop, which remains unreleased by Warner Bros. to this day. Gunn, rejected by the industry that had courted him, then directed the independent classic Ganja and Hess (which has been remade by Spike Lee as Da Sweet Blood of Jesus and will open in February),ushering in a new type of horror film, which Ishmael Reed called “what might be the country’s most intellectual and sophisticated horror film.”
 
Women filmmakers play a prominent role throughout the series, starting with the exclusive one-week theatrical premiere of Losing Ground, directed by the late Kathleen Collins, one of the first feature films written and directed by a black woman. Collins’s first film, The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy, also never released theatrically, will screen in newly remastered version created by the filmmaker’s daughter, Nina, along with a video interview with the filmmaker. Nina Collins will be on hand to present her mother’s films on opening night,February 6, along with co-producer/cinematographer Ronald Gray andLosing Ground star Seret Scott.
 
February 11, Madeline Anderson will present her films, including the classic I Am Somebody, her first documentary, as well as work fromBlack Journal. On February 13 filmmakers Christine Choy, Susan Robeson, and Camille Billops will discuss their work screened in the Women’s Work Program, a selection of films bringing to light the remarkable contributions of female storytellers and their image-making prowess. Trailblazer Jessie Maple, will be in attendance onFebruary 16 to present her films Will and Twice As Nice.
 

For their support and expertise, the programmers gratefully thank Pearl Bowser, Louise Greaves, Jane Fuentes, Marsha Schwam, Elena Rossi-Snook, Amy Heller, Dennis Doros and Ishmael Reed, and the filmmakers Jessie Maple, Charles Hobson, Madeline Anderson, Pat Hartley, Kent Garrett, Woodie King Jr., and Al Santana.
 
Thank you to Elena Rossi-Snook & Johnny Gore (New York Public Library for the Performing Arts), Nina Collins, Ronald Gray, Chiz Schultz, Anne Morra & Mary Keene (MoMA), Lisa Collins, Mark Schwartzburt, Amy Heller & Dennis Doros (Milestone Films), Shola Lynch (Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture), Kate Manion, Devorah Heitner, Brian Graney (The Black Film Center/Archive, Indiana University), Seret Scott, Nellie Killian, Marilyn Nance, Judy Bourne, Livia Bloom (Icarus Films), Roselly A. Torres Rojas (Third World Newsreel), Kazembe Balagun (Rosa Luxemburg Shiftung NYC), Chris Hill, Rebecca Cleman, Kristen Fitzpatrick (Women Make Movies), Jane Gutteridge (National Film Board of Canada), Liz Coffey & Haden Guest (Harvard Film Archive).
 
For sale at the Film Society, beginning February 6, in conjunction with this series: Bill Gunn’s Rhinestone Sharecropping (a novel) and Black Picture Show (a play), published by I Reed Press, and How to Become a Union Camerawoman by Jessie Maple, published by LJ Film Productions.
 

FILMS, DESCRIPTIONS & SCHEDULE
Screenings will take place at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street)
and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center (144 West 65th Street)


Black Journal Program
USA, 1968, digital projection, approx. 70m
The first nationally broadcast black newsmagazine, produced by William Greaves and hosted by Wali Saddiq and Greaves, was home to a who’s who of producers, directors, editors and cinematographers—Madeline Anderson, Kent Garrett, St. Clair Bourne, Charles Hobson, to name only a few—working in a diversity of styles: interviews, skits, commentary, investigative reporting, all with a degree of creativity and experimentation still unrivaled for TV.
*Wednesday, February 116:00pm (Q&A with Charles Hobson, Louise Greaves, Kent Garrett, and Madeline Anderson)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy
Kathleen Collins, USA, 1980, DCP, 50m
Kathleen Collins’s first film is an adaptation of a series of short stories by Henry H. Roth about three young Puerto Rican men whose lives are watched over by their father’s ghost. New York’s Rockland County serves as the setting for the magic that the urban-born trio encounters when they meet Miss Malloy, an elderly widow who owns a house in need of some tender loving care. Never released theatrically, airing only once on cable TV, and then disappearing from view, the film has been rescued and re-mastered by the filmmaker’s daughter, Nina and Milestone Films. Screening with a video interview with Kathleen Collins. A Milestone Films Release.
Friday, February 6, 6:30pm (Introduction by Nina Collins and Ronald K. Gray)
*Wednesday, February 11, 3:00pm
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
A Dream is What You Wake Up From
Larry Bullard & Carolyn Johnson, USA, 1978, 16mm, 50m
Three black families, observed in their daily lives, their thoughts, values, and aspirations expressed on the soundtrack, and their different approaches to the struggle for survival in contemporary society and their methods of coping with the contradictory stresses placed on the individual in the family environment.
 
Screening with:
Black Faces
Young Filmmakers Foundation, USA, 1970, 16mm, 1m
A montage of faces from the Harlem community. Black Faces is courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, preserved with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
*Thursday, February 19, 5:30pm (Q&A with JT Takagi of Third World Newsreel and Elena Rossi-Snook of New York Public Library for the Performing Arts)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
 
An Evening with Jessie Maple
A trailblazer and pioneer, Jessie Maple was the first African-American woman to gain entry in New York’s camera operators union, taking the case to court to fight discrimination after she was a member, and writing an invaluable book about her life and experience, How to Become a Union Camerawoman. After directing the film Will, and in need of a venue to premiere it, she and her husband Leroy Patton (also a cinematographer) built and founded the independent cinema 20 West in Harlem.
 
Will
Jessie Maple, USA, 1981, 16mm, 70m
“I wanted to show the neighborhood—that everything was there, right in the neighborhood,” so says Jessie Maple in describing her feature debut. This is the story of Will, a basketball coach fighting demons, a full picture of dealing with modern urban life—uptown—is revealed. “No matter how low you are you can come back up. That’s what Willis. People can’t count themselves out that quick.” Preserved by New York Women in Film and Television’s Women’s Film Preservation Fund. Print courtesy of Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University.
*Monday, February 16, 6:30pm (Q&A with Jessie Maple)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
Twice as Nice
Jessie Maple, USA, 1989, 70m
Maple’s second narrative feature uses an intimate story—the relationship of twin college basketball players—to examine the nature of sisterhood, competition, and friendship. As with her documentary work, Maple looks at everyday events and ponders the visible but especially the invisible.
*Monday, February 16, 8:45pm (Introduction by Jessie Maple)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
Ganja and Hess
Bill Gunn, USA, 1973, 35mm, 113m
Screened at Cannes in 1973 before being recut against the filmmaker's wishes for its U.S. release, Ganja and Hess was first made available years later in its intended version by independent distributor Pearl Bowser, and, now restored, is considered a classic. Conceived as a vampire tale, Gunn’s film is a formally radical and deeply philosophical inquiry into passion and history. “A film that was ahead of its time in 1973, and quite frankly, is still very much so today… maybe the rest of world will eventually catch up.” – Tambay A. Obenson. With Marlene Clarke, Duane Jones, and music by Sam Waymon. Preserved by the Museum of Modern Art with support from the Film Foundation.
Saturday, February 75:00pm (Post-screening discussion with film scholar Pearl Bowser and Sam Waymon)
Sunday, February 8, 8:00pm
 
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Dick Fontaine & Pat Hartley, USA,1982, 16mm, 95m
James Baldwin retraces his time in the South during the Civil Rights Movement, reflecting with his trademark brilliance and insight on the passage of 20 years. From Selma and Birmingham, to the battleground beaches of St. Augustine, Florida, with Chinua Achebe, and back north for a visit to Newark with Amiri Baraka.
*Thursday, February 12, 4:00 & 9:00pm (Q&A with Pat Hartley and Rich Blint at the 4:00pm show)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
I Remember Harlem
William Miles, USA, 1981, 16mm, 240m
“What really made Harlem ‘Harlem’” is what renowned visual historian William Miles, set out to explore when he produced and directed this epic work. Harlem has since become an intersection of cultures, classes, and colors that still maintains a distinctive sense of identity, which Miles lovingly illustrates with his personal connection and commitment to this epicenter of African-American cultural life. We lost this great voice in May 2013 when Miles passed away at the age of 82. Courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, preserved with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
*Saturday, February 14, 4:00pm
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
In Motion: Amiri Baraka and The New-Ark
Amiri Baraka
St. Clair Bourne, USA, 1983, digital projection, 60m
This video portrait, filmed in the days leading up to Amiri Baraka’s appeal of his punitive 90-day sentence for resisting arrest following an argument in his car outside the 8th Street Playhouse movie theater, documents Baraka at his radio show, at home with his wife and children, and performing at readings. It is a delicate vision of a revolutionary who has grown quieter—though never at rest, and as sage as ever.
Screening with a performance by Leroi Jones’s Young Spirit House Movers, broadcast on Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant (USA, 1968, digital projection, 10m).
 
Screening with:
The New-Ark
Amiri Baraka, USA, 1968, digital projection, 25m
Produced by Harlem Audio-Visual and part of the collection of cameraman and producer James E. Hinton at the Harvard Film Archive, this film, previously believed to be lost, depicts the activism, educational programs, and art taking place at the Spirit House community center in Newark, NJ. Digital preservation by Anthology Film Archives. From the James Hinton Collection at the Harvard Film Archives.
*Tuesday, February 17, 9:00pm 
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant Program
USA, 1968-1971, digital projection, approx. 70m
Produced by Charles Hobson and aired on WNEW (better known as Channel 5), this weekly show was originally conceived by Robert F. Kennedy’s organization and community boosters to counter images of black neighborhoods as presented in the mainstream news. It is considered the first African American–produced television series in the USA. Hosted by Roxie Roker and Jim Lowry, the program reflected the home of 400,000 people as it transitioned into a new era, featuring open and unscripted dialogues with residents, guest celebrities, and, most notably, a powerful public forum with Harry Belafonte. This program will feature a selection of episodes, presented by Charles Hobson.
Sunday, February 8, 3:00pm (Q&A with Charles Hobson)
 
Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads
Spike Lee, USA, 1983, 16mm, 60m
Spike Lee’s NYU Masters program thesis (and the first student feature film ever selected for New Directors/New Films) is a precocious work from a major artist, irrefutable evidence that its maker would go on to become one of the greats.
 
Screening with:
A Place in Time
Charles Lane, USA, 1977, 16mm, 34m
Courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, preserved with funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
*Thursday, February 19, 7:15pm
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
 
Kent Garrett Program
Two docs made for Black Journal, examining the perennial outsider status accorded to those ostensibly on the inside. In Central Harlem, at the height of the Black Power movement, a policeman discusses his role in and out of the uniform, contrasted with the experiences of a colleague in the LAPD. For African-American soldiers in Vietnam, the contradiction of being expected to defend liberties not granted at home is evident. Courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
 
The Black GI
Kent Garrett, USA, 1971, 16mm, 54m
 
The Black Cop
Kent Garrett, USA, 1969, 16mm, 15m
*Friday, February 13, 8:30pm (Q&A with Kent Garrett andKazembe Balagun)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
The Long Night
Woodie King, Jr., USA, 1976, 35mm, 85m
One night in the life of a young boy on the street, encountering the denizens of mid-1970s Harlem, while commenting on Vietnam, marital discord, paternal relationships, substance abuse, schooling, and unemployment—in short, the life of an American family.
*Thursday, February 12, 6:30pm (Q&A with Woodie King, Jr.)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
Losing Ground
Kathleen Collins, USA, 1982, DCP, 86m
Finally receiving a long-overdue theatrical run, Losing Ground, one of the first feature films written and directed by a black woman, is a groundbreaking romance exploring women’s sexuality, modern marriage, and the life of artists and scholars. But most of all, it is a great film, one that firmly belongs in the canon of American independent cinema in the 1980s. Sara (Seret Scott) is a philosophy professor and her husband Victor (Bill Gunn) is a painter. With their personal and professional lives at a crossroads, they leave the city for the country, experiencing a reawakening, both together and separately. Also featuring Duane Jones (Night of the Living Dead), the film is honest, funny, and wise. Losing Ground is a testament to the remarkable playwright, professor, and filmmaker Kathleen Collins, and a reminder of the immense talent that was lost when she passed away in 1988 at age 46. A Milestone Films release.
Friday, February 6, 1:00pm, 2:45pm, 4:30pm & 8:30pm (Q&A with Nina Collins, Ronald K. Gray, and Seret Scott at 8:30pm show)
Saturday, February 7, 3:15pm
Sunday, February 8, 1:00pm
*Monday, February 9, 1:00pm 
*Tuesday, February 10, 3:30pm
*Wednesday, February 11, 1:00pm
*Thursday, February 12, 2:00pm 
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
 
Madeline Anderson Program
Madeline Anderson’s classic documentary I Am Somebody depicts the strength of, and the hardships endured by, a striking group of African-American women in Charleston, South Carolina. The program also features Anderson’s first documentary, as well as work fromBlack Journal. “I was determined to do what I was going to do at any cost. I kept plugging away. Whatever I had to do, I did it,” she said of her career. I Am Somebody is screening courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of the New York Public Library for Performing Arts, preserved with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
 
I Am Somebody
Madeline Anderson, USA, 1970, 16mm, 30m
 
Integration Report #1
Madeline Anderson, USA, 1960, digital projection, 20m
 
A Tribute to Malcolm X
Madeline Anderson, USA, 1967, digital projection, 14m
*Wednesday, February 11, 8:30pm (Q&A with Madeline Anderson)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
Namibia: Independence Now!
Pearl Bowser & Christine Choy, USA, 1985, 16mm, 55m
A revolutionary political moment is captured firsthand by two independent women filmmakers shooting inside refugee settlements in Zambia and Angola in 1985. Depicting the significant role of women in this struggle for independence, this film explores the lives of exiled women workers attempting to free their country from illegal exploitation.
*Tuesday, February 17, 5:00pm (Q&A with Pearl Bowser, Christine Choy, Al Santana, and JT Takagi)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
One Last Look
Charles Hobson, USA, 1969, digital projection, 60m
This rare film of Steve Carter’s play features many of the leading actors of the era before they went on to achieve international fame, was shown on WABC in New York, and has not been seen since. An emotionally charged drama of family, friends, and former lovers confronting the ghost of the family patriarch at his funeral.
Tuesday, February 17, 7:00pm (Q&A with Charles Hobson)
 
Personal Problems
Bill Gunn, USA, 1980, digital projection, approx. 110m
“What happens when a group of unbankable individuals tell their own stories? Actors who have final say over their speaking parts? A director found ‘too difficult’ for Hollywood? Two producers, who, having no experience, had the audacity to organize a production with the amount of money Hollywood spends on catering. Maybe less.” These questions by writer Ishmael Reed lead to the conception of this “meta soap opera,” the story of a Harlem couple, and their friends, made without “the middleman.”
Saturday, February 7, 8:00pm (Q&A with Ishmael Reed, Dr. Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, and Sam Waymon)
*Tuesday, February 10, 1:00pm
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
Let the Church Say Amen!
St. Clair Bourne, USA, 1973, 16mm, 67m
 
Voices of the Gods
Al Santana, USA, 1985, 16mm, 60m
A program on religion and ritual, highlighting two opposite ends of the spectrum in the role of religion in the black community. These modern classics represent two examples of the influential function and position that religious observation occupies as an essential part of African-American culture.
*Sunday, February 15, 7:00pm (Q&A with Al Santana)
*Tuesday, February 17, 2:00pm
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
She’s Gotta Have It
Spike Lee, USA, 1986, 35mm, 84m
The one that changed the entire landscape of independent film and announced a genuine director-as-superstar, and the defining film of a new generation of American directors. But most significantly, She’s Gotta Have It possesses a confidence, vision, and grandeur of style that is almost as absent from the current independent film scene as the New York City where it takes place, only existing on film, and in memory.
*Thursday, February 19, 9:30pm
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
 
St. Clair Bourne Program
Producing or directing more than 40 films in a 36-year career, St. Clair Bourne is inarguably the most prolific black documentarian of his time. Bourne authentically documented critical aspects of the black community—its culture, resistance, and activism—images of which would have been lost if not for his chronicling. If comparisons are necessary to understand the significance of Bourne’s work upon the broader landscape of independent film, think D.A. Pennebaker, the Maysles, and Jean Rouch. The films in this program find Bourne documenting black and Irish solidarity, representation in the Brooklyn Museum, and the options granted to high school students who want to attend college. St. Clair Bourne passed away at the age of 64; he would have been 73 this February. Something to Build On is screening courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
 
The Black and the Green
St. Clair Bourne, USA, 1983, digital projection, 45m
 
Something to Build On
St. Clair Bourne, USA, 1971, 16mm, 29m
 
Statues Hardly Ever Smile
Stan Lathan, USA, 1971, digital projection, 21m
Sunday, February 8, 5:15pm (Q&A with Pearl Bowser, Crystal Emery and Sam Pollard)
 
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One
William Greaves, USA, 1968, 35mm, 75m
A docufiction, a narrative experiment, a film about making a film, a crew without a director, a time capsule of New York, a barometer of the culture: process, form, and personality collide in Greaves’s classic, about which no superlatives can be overused and whose influence cannot be overstated.
Saturday, February 7, 1:00pm (Q&A with Louise Greaves and special guests)
 
 
Video Program – Free Amphitheater Event!
A program of video-based works that used television technology to bring public attention to Black American identity, through intervention, documentation, and parody, as in Anthony Ramos’s About Media, in which the artist uses his Portapak camera to turn a news crew’s visit to his home into media critique. Co-programmed by Rebecca Cleman and presented by Rebecca Cleman and Chris Hill.
 
Queen Mother Moore Speech at Greenhaven Prison
People’s Communications Network, USA, 1973, digital projection, 17m
 
About Media
Anthony Ramos, USA, 1977, digital projection, 25m
*Sunday, February 15, 4:30pm (Post-screening discussion with Rebecca Cleman and Chris Hill)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
 
William Greaves Program
One of Greaves’s greatest, From These Roots is a crash-course in Harlem history, told entirely through the use of still images—rarely has so much information been condensed so gracefully. Paired with two early, rare Greaves docs, showing the incredible range of his work. A tribute to the Harlem-born teacher, mentor, and filmmaker, who passed away in August 2014.
 
From These Roots
William Greaves, USA, 1974, 16mm, 28m
 
Emergency Ward
William Greaves, USA, 1959, 16mm, 30m
 
Wealth of a Nation
William Greaves, USA, 1964, digital projection, 25m
*Saturday, February 14, 8:30pm (Q&A with Louise Greaves)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
 
Women’s Work Program
A program from exemplary women filmmakers who were an integral part of the independent film industry during the period covered by this survey. The content of these women’s films are culturally and community-specific, and they tell stories of universal human interest, with social commentary at their core, effectively bringing to light the remarkable contributions of female storytellers and their image-making prowess.
 
Teach Our Children
Christine Choy & Susan Robeson, USA, 1972, digital projection, 35m
 
Hairpiece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People
Ayoka Chenzira, USA, 1985, 16mm, 10m
 
Syvilla
Ayoka Chenzira, USA, 1979, 16mm, 15m
 
Suzanne Suzanne
Camille Billops & James Hatch, USA, 1982, 16mm, 30m
 
*Friday, February 13, 6:00pm (Q&A with Christine Choy, Susan Robeson, Camille Billops and Neema Barnette)
*Venue: Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street
 
 
FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER
Founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international cinema, the Film Society of Lincoln Center works to recognize established and emerging filmmakers, support important new work, and to enhance the awareness, accessibility, and understanding of the moving image. The Film Society produces the renowned New York Film Festival, a curated selection of the year’s most significant new film work, and presents or collaborates on other annual New York City festivals including Dance on Camera, Film Comment Selects, Human Rights Watch Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, NewFest, New York African Film Festival, New York Asian Film Festival, New York Jewish Film Festival, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema and Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. In addition to publishing the award-winning Film Comment magazine, the Film Society recognizes an artist's unique achievement in film with the prestigious Chaplin Award, whose 2015 recipient is Robert Redford. The Film Society’s state-of-the-art Walter Reade Theater and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, located at Lincoln Center, provide a home for year-round programs and the New York City film community.

The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Royal Bank of Canada, Jaeger-LeCoultre, American Airlines, The New York Times, HBO, Stella Artois, The Kobal Collection, Variety, Trump International Hotel and Tower, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts.
 
For more information, visit www.filmlinc.com, follow @filmlinc on Twitter, and download the FREE Film Society app, now available for iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android devices.


For Media specific inquiries, please contact:
 
Film Society of Lincoln Center:
John Wildman, (212) 875-5419
jwildman@filmlinc.com

David Ninh, (212) 875-5423
dninh@filmlinc.com

A Review of Spike Lee's Bamboozled"

"Bamboozled"

Directed by Spike Lee

 

Maison Blanche Means "White House" and Black Face

 

A Review of Spike Lee's Bamboozled"

 

by Melanie M. Goodreaux

 

 

bamboozled.gif

 

Once I heard that Spike Lee's latest work was a film about black face and minstrel shows it brought me back to just 5 years ago in New Orleans when a white coworker of mine casually told me a racist story in the lunchroom. According to the story, when she was a young woman, her summer vacations to Florida afforded her tans that made it possible for her to play the "high yellow" characters in Maison Blanche's minstrel shows without applying any paste to her face. I was stunned at the slip up, and even more duped that Miss Trudy didn't see what she had said as revealing one of those "white folk secrets" we were all afraid existed and obviously do. I caught the slip up, choked on my cafeteria lasagna, shared the story with my coworkers and laughed at how dumb Miss Trudy was for being so grossly "politically incorrect." Sometimes ignorance and arrogance can be painted on so thick it seems senseless to try and wipe off the masquerade. Anyone who doesn't appreciate Spike's latest wake up call to the culture is as astute as Miss Trudy and not quick enough to catch an onslaught of heavy- handed, strategically- placed, Spike-styled images meant to disillusion the culture and poke fun at everyone. As writer and director of Bamboozled, Spike is nothing like his main character, Pierre Delacroix, a television executive and a "Negro" according to Spike's script, who only daydreams of punching out the egotistical, money hungry, white producer Dunwitty who uses the word "nigger" with Delacroix like he's telling him what he ate for breakfast. When Spike punches, he punches hard. And the bigger they are the harder they fall. The characters of Bamboozled are exaggerated themselves which, stylistically is much like historical black face performance. The characters are created to mock. And mock Spike does. Spike is a genius at manipulating these metaphorical layers. The Dunwitty character, a white man who believes he has the privilege of using the word nigger because he's married to a black woman and keeps his office decorated with African sculpture and blow ups of great black athletes, is a mockery of those whites who feel they empathize with the black struggle so much they feel black themselves. Mike Tyson, who is known for being the kind of violent and "crazy colored" white America is most afraid of, is the sports figure Spike focuses on in Dunwitty's office. Spike plays on this unspoken fear again when he gives the audience a scene with all white writers trying to get inspiration to begin writing the scripts for "ManTan: The New Millenium Minstrel Show." Delacroix, who creates the show's concept, urges them to remember how they felt when the O. J. Simpson verdict came out. Spike compounds on the "white- boy -wants -to -be -a- black -boy -syndrome" with Paul Mooney's comedian character, Delacroix's father. The comedian cracks on "how everybody wants to be black, but nobody wants to be black" and wonders if America started lynching blacks again how many of these "Timmy Hilnigger" wearing white young, rap free- stylists would want to be black then. "Hilnigger" is Spike's renaming of Tommy Hilfiger. No one can say they haven't met Spike's characters before. Spike loves to exaggerate reality in his films. It's just funny to watch Spike work his genius-- showing us ourselves in a mockery, by making a mockery of the mockery itself. Spike's opening shot is of a huge window shaped like a clock in Pierre Delacroix's office. Spike's clock image lets viewers know that the timing of a millennial turn over is ripe for a rush to "get revenge," teach a lesson, and expose everyone in the entertainment industry that has anything to do with misrepresenting the African American culture before we head into a new age. From Stevie Wonder's music for the movie that proclaims messages about not letting anyone "misrepresent you" and how "today its okay to play with the word "nigger," to close ups of the thick black paste applied to the present day minstrels "Sleep and Eat" and "Man Tan," Spike keeps the images going relentlessly. It is as if he had to make this film, strong and unapologetically controversial to prevent any further humiliation and misrepresentation of the race. It is as if Spike were afraid that if he didn't bring up the past one more time, we could still bend easily towards the sometimes misguided sensationalism presented by money making media hype. We, like the audiences within the film, would react at first to a "millenium minstrel show" with looks of distaste and gasps of surprise. We, like them, might shift uncomfortably in our seats at first. But we, like them, after being taken in and wooed by a great song and tap dance number, would forget what is humiliating and undercut by the images of blacks in black face, lips swollen with red paste. We could be swayed and taken under the eerie hypnosis of television and the images of the Internet. But Spike doesn't stop with poking fun at white folks. We all get kicked. The Maus Maus, a militant gang of rappers who talk of revolution and don't really have a solid clue at who or what they are revolting against end the movie with the same mode of operating as many of our black gangster rappers do in real life-an enemy is sighted, someone who differs ideologically, and then everyone ends up shot and bloodied. Ironically the gangster rappers stage their revolution on the Internet. Man Tan, exploited by both black and white, is murdered by the bloodied hands of the angry and misguided gangster rap mentality and dies tap-dancing. Tap-dancing-- that's how he "wins" a part in the minstrel show. Man Ray, turned "Man Tan" literally tap dances on the desk of Dunwitty to get the part in the minstrel show. The show grows in its popularity so much so that the audience starts to wear black face as well. Spike graduates the exaggeration in the film with a crescendo. At first Delacroix seems like a genius who is using his creation of the minstrel show to expose the ulterior racism that exists beneath the surface of the white run entertainment industry. By the end of the movie , Delacroix's genius vision is blurred by money and the "success" of his creation. Sloan, Delacroix's assistant, gives him a black faced caricature that happens to be a bank. When the Sambo-- looking bank opens his mouth you feed money into him. The image is fed by money and after Spike begins heightening the crescendo of exaggeration, the image starts to move by itself. Symbolic of Delacroix's creation going out of control. It has a mind of its own. Delacroix's office is overcrowded with black face memorabilia from the past that look like Rastus, Aunt Jemima, and Sambo.Get the hint? Spike continues to bombard the audience with television and film images of Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Al Jolson and others in black face. Spike gives Bill Clinton a cameo appearance where even he is taken under by the comedy of "Man Tan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show." Spike even throws a punch at Ving Rhames for giving up his academy award for Rosewood to Jack Lemmon by having the Delacroix character give away his award for the popular minstrel show to a white man in the film. And one would have to ask if Spike's biggest bamboozle is having Damon Wayans play Pierre Delacroix. Isn't Spike's message anti- In Living Color? I felt embarrassed for Damon Wayans who seems to be subliminally scolded by the James Baldwin quote at the end of the film which says we will all pay for what we do, and more for what we have done to ourselves and we pay by the life we live. The quote accompanies a full frame shot of the Pierre character played by Damon Wayans. The camera shot seems to corner Damon Wayans. If arriving at the east village cinema ready to see Bamboozle with my popcorn and Miss Trudy's Maison Blanche Minstrel Show story in my mind wasn't enough, I left the flick with an even more disturbing image from real life. The black couple behind me slept through most of the film and continued to snore well into the credits. How could they miss the full color cartoonish Alabama porch monkeys? How could they miss Pierre scrolling the web for images of middle passage slave ships before he totally sells out? Weren't they awake for the clock at the film's beginning reminding us of a time factor? Whereas Spike had written a movie about black face meant to expose, teach, and entertain-- middle black America had fallen asleep through it. I was waiting for Larry Fishburne or Wesley Snipes' characters to be resurrected like angry ghosts from Spike Lee joints of the past yelping painfully into the screen with one of Spike's renowned messages, "WAKE UP!" They continued to snore while those of us who were awake caught yet another glimpse of Spike's original style, historical importance and artistic genius.