Otta Benga, Formerly Enslaved
The Epitome of a Nubian Knight

Otta Benga, Formerly Enslaved<br>The Epitome of a Nubian Knight

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"Whenever I use BLACK it relates to some history of Africans in that particular place. It’s the idea of the color BLACK as a metaphor, or as a representation of African-Americans. It’s the notion of BLACK- BLACKNESS - and all its other meanings in relation to the history of race..."

- Fred Wilson

"Most of my fortitude to continue doing the work comes from the moral outrage I feel about the injustices that Black people endure disproportionately daily."

- N. Abdul-Wakil

"In the end, what matters is not skin shade but pan-African consciousness. Loving your complexion, your nose, lips, hair length and texture, no matter what the politics or trends decide, and simply be. That's the problem with us (African folks). We're still learning how to love ourselves. So used to glorifying others and putting others first..."

- Dredlocks Tree

The REEL Black Same Gender Loving Filmography Resource (A 24/7 ONLINE FILM DATABASE)

The REEL Black Same Gender Loving Filmography Resource (A 24/7 ONLINE FILM DATABASE)
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LAST UPDATE: Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

MISSISSIPPI DAMNED: "Relentless" Drama;
RIVERS WASH OVER ME: "Total Tragedy";
A Post-Reflection

Mississippi Damned (2009) Directed by Tina Mabry
Official Website: MississippiDamned.com

It took me a while to really decide to come back and report back on Mississippi Damned (2009) and Rivers Wash Over Me (2009). The reason is that I saw both films on the same day at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) and I left both movies absolutely and categorically EMOTIONALLY DRAINED!! - and that is an understatement!! When you see these two very good movies you'll know what I mean.

The one word to describe Mississippi Damned (which I saw first in the late afternoon) is RELENTLESS! I mean, once the plot gets rolling in this movie, it just continues to weave, intertwine and hammer (thought never over the head) a number of drama issues that happens to families and close friends. I won't elaborate because folks should just experience the film for themselves, however, film director Tina Mabry was quoted as saying "Mississippi Damned is a family drama of three Black kids struggling to escape a cycle of abuse, addiction and violence within their family as they grow up in poor, rural Mississippi."

The Two SGL Characters In Mississippi Damned

Some Of The Characters In The Film

Actor Malcolm David Kelley

The film intelligently wears on you and you care so much for the multitude of characters. And that is the mark of a good film: to get the audience to be truly wrapped up in the lives of characters (who may or may not be real people some of us know). I highly recommend this film however, again, be forewarned of the RELENTLESS drama and plot points that continue one after the other successively. The only thing I don't like about this film is that with the exception of one Black male (there are MANY, MANY characters in this film and I can't think of the character's name, but he was a father figure), you couldn't find a Black male worth a damn in this film. Granted a lot of the characters were flawed which is realistic, but I noticed it was hard to like any of the Black men. Overall, this films earns 5 stars out of 5 from me. Great independent filmmaking and it forced me to think and look at elevating my game even more around writing good screenplays.


After seeing Mississippi Damned with 3 other friends, we met up with some other some of friends at BAM and then some of us split up (I went to dinner with 2 friends at my favorite Black owned soul food spot, Brooklyn Moon in Fort Green, Brooklyn) and some of us would hook back up at BAM a 3 hours later to see Rivers Wash Over me.

Rivers Wash Over Me (2009) by Director John G. Young

Well, Rivers Wash Over Me (2009) can only be described as tragedy from the outset and continues to the very end of this film. And NO, this should not scare you away from seeing this film as dire as I make it out to be. There are definite bright spots here and there in the film, but at the same time the film flushes out the issues that young kids go through everyday such as the death of a loved one, being relocated to a new home with family you are unfamiliar and/or not close to, fitting in in school, and facing homophobia along with rape.

All these things describe exactly what happens to Sequan Greene played very, very nicely by Derrick L. Middleton who my friends and I got to meet briefly after the film screening. after seeing Mississippi Damned in the late afternoon and having dinner, I tell you... I had no idea that I would be double-dipping into a second tragedy piece of fiction in the same day of my movie outing at BAM. Hence as a said, I was EMOTIONALLY DRAINED.

I'm not a movie critic, so putting together text of how I feel and felt is hard... even as I type this... Sequan is just one of those bruthaz that is just dealt a fucked up and bad hand since his Mom passed away and he has to relocate to his relatives' home. From here Sequan never really gets a break in his new life. Yes, there are the occasional bright spots I mentioned before and these manifest themselves as the two white characters in the film who accept Sequan for who he is. One is a white girl who has a clear predilection for Black guys (and black dick - yeah, I said it!!) who dates (if you wanna call it that) a Black male in the film who is just a dead-end bad ass with his Pittsburgh Steelers Jerome Bettis jersey on. The other white angel is the girl's brother where Sequan and him have a brief sensual, if not romantic episode, on a hill of a cemetery. Yeah, I know, go figure!

Sequan Greene (left) played actor Derrick L. Middleton

The film paces well with the other main plot being Sheriff Charles King (played by African-American actor Darien Sills-Evans who I liked a lot in the film The Reception (2005)) finding a Black kid who has gone missing in parallel with investigating some white "big wig" whose gun has gone missing after an alleged car jacking. The correlation between Mississippi Damned and this film is that I found the Black male characters (with the obvious exception of Sequan) totally unrewarding with nothing going for themselves in this film, and also somewhat objectified as a sexual play toy (by the white girl) and I felt perhaps to white audience members seeing this film. This is just my gut feeling, but as I stated in my other blog entry when first announcing these films playing at BAM that I am biased toward interracial films, but at the same time I do question any possible ulterior motives by white directors (in this case, John G. Young) when they are fleshing out Black characters sometimes. However, maybe there is something to be said for the fact that the screenplay was co-written by Darien Sills-Evans. Even still, there was no Black characters in this film who stepped up to the plate for Sequan with the very mild exception of Sheriff King, and I can't elaborate because of a major plot point. Sequan could only find escapism through James Baldwin's book Nobody Knows My Name.The two white characters being Sequan's only safe haven was fucking tired to me!

In any event the plot unweaves itself slowly, but I found myself emotionally sighing and holding my head with my hand and elbow pressed against the armrest as Sequan was subjected to acts of violence by his cousin Michael and the school kids. The ending was totally unsatisfying to me from a plot perspective of what the white male character did in a time of panic and Sheriff King's late actions with no resolution. And no, I wasn't looking for a happy ending, just unsatisfied with the way the film's plot ended and my friends who were with me felt the same way. Despite my criticisms Director John G. Young somehow manages to find a way for me to somewhat like his films (Parallel Sons, The Reception) including this one. Thought I give this film 3.5 stars out of 5, I don't always like the way he handles the Black characters in all his films collectively.

Overall, I want to emphasize that these two films are really worth seeing. I know my characterizations of the films as "relentless drama", "total tragedy", "emotionally drained" and so-on sound like a recipe for sadness and disaster and some folks simply won't go see films like that, but challenge yourself because the storytelling is really high, and frankly, better than these Hollywood blockbuster budget and so-called films. There's good in these films. The only thing I don't recommend is watching both in the same day! LOL!

Coincidentally, Watching these films and writing about them haven't been this emotional since seeing the most excellent film Hotel Rwanada (2004) / Sometimes In April (2005) and the brilliant same gender loving (SGL) film Blind Faith (1998) which is one of my top favorite SGL films of all-time. I can only watch Blind Faith every couple of years because it's that deep for me as it deals with homophobia, racism, classism, and domestic violence which is set in 1957. It's directed by African-American cinematographer and director Ernest Dickerson (Malcolm X). It's very unfortunate that Blind Faith is not on DVD. I still hold onto my priced VHS pre-cordeded version.

Be qool, y'all!