Sunday, August 18, 2013

Do you suppose ... ?

Took the evening off on Friday to see the Lee Daniels' new film, The Butler, starring the brilliant Forest Whitaker, and found myself catapulted back into the Sixties and before -- during a time of re-identification of racial ties; of life as a middleclass black at a time when to be such was to be suspect by the Black Nationalists among my acquaintances; of such schisms twixt generations and races and genders.  Of trying to live a black life in the white suburbs with mixed successes and failures.

From the opening brutal scenes of rape and senseless murder it was clear that this was going to be traumatic, and a trip back in time to the period of enslavement that features so prominently in my presentations of my personal history in the afternoon commentaries.  I probably don't need the additional pain to fix on at this point in life.

Turned out to be an important film -- but one with uneven performances by a cast that probably donated their talents for the sake of the story -- and it was evident.  Forest Whitaker's performance was remarkable but anticipated as simply another in a long line of great roles he's brought to the screen by his particular form of magic.  

I've written a couple of Facebook reviews of the movie, and in so doing unearthed painful feelings long forgotten, or, plowed under in the search for new places to stand, and unexpected re-setting of standards learned through years of struggle in a too rapidly-changing world.

It may be no more than this ...

We've finally produced enough black actors, screenwriters, directors, artists at every level of filmmaking, to now have produced enough films, documentaries, filmed essays, that give us a composite portrait of African American life.   The bench is deep, and deepening with each day. No one of their films -- from "Color Purple" to "The Help,"and "Fruitvale Station," can tell the whole story, but they're beginning to present to the world the complexity of black life in the full spectrum of the Black Experience up through time.  Each of these films contributes -- by providing the bits and pieces of the whole -- windows through which we can catch glimpses of ourselves as we move into an unknown future. 

I hope we, as a people, are beginning to understand that most of these films were created by black's for blacks, and that we needn't use the monetary measuring stick that defines success at the box office used for general film screenings.  I do believe we've found a new voice through which to process what is happening in our world -- both to ourselves and our children -- and that we must leave ourselves open to having them inform our continuing struggle for freedom and equality with open minds and hearts.

... but having said all that, I think I'd like to take leave of the re-living, and allow myself to pass the baton along to the young.  Not sure how much longer I want to carry the weight of social change, or, feel the urgency of times that are now moving too swiftly to find a proper footing.


But now I'm needing to get out of my pajamas and into my weekend garb to pick up Dorian at the BART station in El Cerrito.

And, yes, she called a moment ago and can be crossed off my worry list.

More on this later.

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