Friday, May 7, 2010

All We Do is Eat, Fight, F*ck, Dance and Pray

by today's Urban Chameleon contributor Activist formerly Known as Undungu Goldstein

“Ay-yay-yay! Another damn movie about two black people falling in love over a game of basketball!“

I’m driving through Atlanta’s Westside when the billboard catches my eye. I can’t tell you how over “black movies” I am. You would think there are no other stories to tell when it comes to African American movies. I imagine some film exec has in his office a spinning wheel with very few themes listed on it. Let’s see, there’s; drug family, barber or beauty shop, thug with heart of gold, basketball player, baby mama drama, dance crew, comically-tragic criminal, love interest.

He spins the wheel. The needle lands on “dance crew”.

He spins again. This time the needle lands on “thug with a heart of gold”.

His third and final spin is the heart of the plot “baby mama drama”

He smiles. Another box office hit he thinks to himself. The story almost writes itself; a hip-hop dancing thug is torn between his love of dancing and the responsibility and pressures of being a young father. Ultimately he has to decide between selling drugs or going legit as a backup- dancer for a rap superstar. However in a last ditch effort to get out of the “game”, he gets caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time and is shot in his ankle pretty much ending his career as a dancer. In a Rocky-like, triumphant call of courage, he rebounds partially and becomes a choreographer at a local dance studio and reunites with his estranged baby-mama to raise his child.

Immediately the executive’s mind races, wondering which of rap’s current pop icons he can cast in the lead. The film’s soundtrack will be star-studded. The lead actor/rapper will surely record a Top 40 hit that will sell more tickets to the movie than anyone can imagine. Brands and products will flock to throw money at this project, which in many ways will resemble a 1.5-hour commercial.

It shouldn’t be this easy he thinks to himself. But hey, the system works- why f*ck with it.

What ever happened to the griots? I find it hard to believe that they do not exist any longer. These versions of “our stories” are much too generic to be authentic. These same recycled stories of black life are like hearing your uncle Junior tell that same story over and over again every year at the family reunion. You can tell the whole story without even thinking about it. You know the plot from the title. Where are the original stories or at least creative telling of stories about the African American experience? I think of the wonderful novels and writings from African American authors and black writers from through out the Diaspora like Octavia Butler, Edwidge Danticatt, Walter Moseley, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, August Wilson and countless others and wonder what happened to our stories. Is it the fault of the film industry or the ticket buying audience? After all, if we didn’t buy it- they couldn’t sell it. At what point does the demand redefine the supply. Things that make you go hmmmm.

The film exec leans back in his Herman Miller Aeron chair, puts his Ferragamo shoes on his glass desk. He lights his cigar and smiles. ‘Money in the bank ‘ he thinks to himself, ‘Money in the bank’.

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  1. You have been an integral part of my thought process/expansion since my days at CAU..keep expanding the minds bro:)

  2. I think this is a little harsh. For all of the horrible unrelatable black movies out, finally there is one about two professional non ghetto black folks falling in love. Yes, he plays basketball but I don't think that is enough to throw this movie into the pile of crap that continues to come out. Granted, I haven't seen it yet but I'm giving Just Wright a chance. Im just glad someone other then Tyler Perry has a chance to show their perspective of African American Life.

  3. I disagree with Aireka... We already see this story unfold in Love & Basketball. I kind of agree with the writer. Why are successful blacks in movies typically only athletes or nefarious characters like drug dealers? I mean could they not have been two teachers who fell in love? Maybe a waitress and a busineman, or an artist and an art dealer. Basically, there are a wealth of experiences that African Americans have and experience daily but its not reflected in film. I'll wait for this to hit TBS

  4. I am with you on this one. I am wodering why someone can't write a movie for black folks with a storyline outside, thug love, basketball, drug or just stupidity. Hmmm screenwriters we need to get on point.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate

  5. I think we need to police our own self's. they make money off the way we live our life's today. we love basketball..our thug's and drug dealer are in the new's almost everyday. the writer only write's what sale and what's happening in today's life and lets face it thats all we do. and I bet everyone that has made a comment has gone to see those movies. If you want a better movie....start (write) now

  6. There are many slapstick white romantic comedies out there with the same formula as well. I feel that our movies should cover all aspects of the black experience. Tyler Perry movies speak to a certain black population, Spike Lee speaks to another demographic and Queen Latifah speaks to another. I saw Just Wright, just as I saw Precious; I sat through For Colored Girls, and also saw The Secret Life of Bees. Being an Urban Chameleon means you can criticize John Singleton films but also identify where he is coming from when you watch Boyz or Higer Learning. Honestly, just the fact that we are now arguing the quality of the movies coming out and not the quantity is saying go support Redtails! LOL.