Abidemi Sanusi

Abidemi Sanusi

Abidemi Sanusi is an author, photographer and founder of Ready Writer - www.thereadywriter.co.uk, a digital content agency and budding film-maker. Born in Nigeria, she moved to the UK in her teens. Abidemi has an MSc in Development Studies, an MA in Christianity & the Arts and in her past life, has ...

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Madison John Speaks to MOBO Nominee Afrikan Boy Ahead of This Weds’ Awards!

Madison John Speaks to MOBO Nominee Afrikan Boy Ahead of This Weds' Awards!

Olushola Ajose better known as Afrikan boy is a Grime MC artist from Woolwich, South East London who is best known for his popular song released on YouTube many years ago 'One Day I Went To Lidl'. Since then, Afrikan Boy took some time out from the music industry to study  for a ...

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Director, Destiny Ekaragha

The British Blacklist's @DescantDeb Goes Pretty Far with Director Destiny Ekaragha

Destiny Ekaragha has a soul full of passion. It's mainly taken up with a love of film, but there's a significant proportion devoted solely to Jollof rice.   Sometimes I'll just stop what I'm saying and start talking about food... Honestly, the amount of interviews where Jollof rice is mentioned... I swear, ...

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Playwright, Ade Solanke

Playwright, Ade Solanke Speaks to The British Blacklist About Her Play 'Pandora's Box'

"I like the British Blacklist! I'm a friend on facebook, actually. You do really interesting stuff. Things have changed completely from 2 or 3 years ago." How can you not immediately take to someone who uses that as an opening greeting? This was my introduction to the multi-talented Ade Solanke, currently ...

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The British Blacklist Looks At The 1990s A Pioneering Decade of Black Film. Part One: Choices From the Past…

The British Blacklist Looks At The 1990s A Pioneering Decade of Black Film. Part One: Choices From the Past...

Part One: Choices from the Past It's never too early to start thinking about your legacy; to help you along August is the month which has been earmarked to remind you. Designated, 'What Will Be Your Legacy?' month in 2011, the intent is to spend August's 31 days taking stock, looking ...

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Sarah Jane-Crawford & Idris Elba

2014 MOBO Awards Nominations Announced!!! Idris Elba is A Surprise Winner. Voting For Nominees Now Live...

After a five year hiatus, the MOBO Awards are back in London by popular demand. Marking its 19th anniversary, the internationally established brand is celebrating nearly two decades of its growing success. This year’s emerging talents will champion the stage at The SSE Arena, Wembley on 22nd October, with the ...

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Bolaji Alakija

Bolaji Alakija

Bolaji Alakija is an emerging actor in the U.K. He developed a huge passion for theatre after creating and performing in a friend’s play in 2011. Bolaji then went on to study Performing Arts at West Thames College completing his HND (Higher National Diploma) whilst taking up extra drama school classes ...

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Kunga Dred Speaks to Director Mark One about Short Film ‘I Am Who’ Premiering at BUFF 2014

Kunga Dred Speaks to Director Mark One about Short Film 'I Am Who' Premiering at BUFF 2014

ON YOUR MARKS! In this fast paced, visually mediated world you could be forgiven for not knowing the name of Mark One Group creative agency. But you would have almost certainly seen some of the images created by this London based global reaching film and branding company. Founded by Mark One ...

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BBC Wales’ Launchpad Fund to Help Further Music Careers. Deadline to Apply 3rd November 2014

BBC Wales' Launchpad Fund to Help Further Music Careers. Deadline to Apply 3rd November 2014

The Launchpad Fund, part of the Horizons scheme to develop new contemporary music in Wales, is for those starting on their musical journey and at a crucial point in their development. Launchpad applications will be open from today to Wales-based artists and bands writing, producing and performing original contemporary popular music ...

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Labrinth

Labrinth

Timothy McKenzie  better known by his stage name Labrinth, is an English singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer. Initially, he was tipped to work as a producer, but Simon Cowell signed him to his record label Syco Music as a solo act. In the process, Labrinth became Cowell's first non-talent show ...

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Kwabs

Kwabs

Hailing from the United Kingdom, Kwabs follows in the footsteps of other electronically-tinged soul artists such as Sampha and James Blake, bringing his warm baritone to soul pieces informed by modern electronic music trends.   Facebook / Soundcloud / Twitter / Spotify     If any information on this page is missing or incorrect please ...

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Ella Eyre

Ella Eyre

Ella McMahon, better known by her stage name Ella Eyre, is a British singer and songwriter signed to Virgin EMI Records. She's known for her collaborations with Rudimental on their UK number one single "Waiting All Night" and Naughty Boy and Wiz Khalifa on his single "Think About It". Her debut ...

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Madison John Speaks to MOBO Nominee Afrikan Boy Ahead of This Weds’ Awards!

afrikan_boy_abcd

Olushola Ajose better known as Afrikan boy is a Grime MC artist from Woolwich, South East London who is best known for his popular song released on YouTube many years ago ’One Day I Went To Lidl’.

Since then, Afrikan Boy took some time out from the music industry to study  for a Psychology degree at Brunel University, got married, became a father and now he’s back!

Promotion is going strong for Afrikan Boy with  his album ‘The ABCD’ which features upcoming single ‘Y.A.M’ & previous cuts ‘Hit Em Up’ & ‘Dear Mama’.

Garnering a lot of support from radio including recent plays from DJ Edu (1Xtra), Huw Stephens (BBC Radio 1) & Lauren  Laverne (6Music). He  recently shared the stage with American artist, M.I.A. at Glastonbury, performed at Lovebox &  played his own set at Womad. He’s now a mobo nominee and The British Blacklist has had the pleasure of talking to and discussing his previous and upcoming events and thoughts towards the industry…

Your album “The ABCD” was recently released, what’s the feedback been like?

The feedback has been great on my album. It’s been really encouraging; it’s been inspiring. Clash magazine gave it four out of five stars and the Daily Mirror gave it four out of five stars. I think we’ve got over fifteen reviews already and they’ve all been above half so it’s good to read them and to see what tracks people take to. I’m so happy that people are really getting the concept of the album; which is to bring diversity and to break the mould from what people might assume my music should sound like.

Which song of your career thus far are you most proud of?

There’s quite a few on the album. I could say it was my first song One Day I went to Lidl, because it’s been ten years now and that song is still living in the hearts and minds of the people who love it, and it’s still keeping me breathing, it’s still feeding my family so I could say that song definitely.  Any time I perform it on stage, I just give thanks knowing that I left college after school to record this song. Speaking from my album, I would say Y.A.M is the song I’m most proud of and also Made in Africa, which is titled MIA. These two tracks I’m most proud of because firstly Y.A.M talks about motivating and really aspiring to your goals and I listen to that track literally everyday to motivate myself. M.I.A is a more spiritual track on the album where I’m discussing my inner thoughts with regards to my cultural identity and where I belong in this world.

You shared the stage with M.I.A at Lovebox this year and played your own set at “Womad”. What was the experience like for you?

Shouts out to Mia, she invited me to come play Glastonbury with her whilst I was in Nigeria and then shortly after that we done Lovebox together…that was amazing. You know on the stage as always it’s always mad love it’s always hype it’s a MIA Show. There’s chaos; unpredictability, but off stage…I got a chance to meet Nas so for me that was definitely one of my highlights of the year so far. But playing my own set at Womad is undoubtedly the best show I’ve done all year, and the feedback from the fans puts proof to the pudding. My experience at Womad was unreal, it reminded me of when I played Reading festival in 2010 and I packed out the big red tent and everyone was moshing up and down. You know someone threw a Lidl carry bag onto the stage and we really just got rowdy.

Did you expect ‘One Day I Went To Lidl’ would have led to the success that it did and what was the inspiration behind it?

Firstly there is no music video to “One Day I Went To Lidl” everything that is online has been put up by supporters fans and friends, I have never put up a visual, just to clarify. The inspiration behind it was a true story, I actually did go to Lidl in Woolwich which is the town I grow up, I went to Asda which is in Charlton. The third verse about immigration was taken from family conversations that I overheard, and the success is still growing. The testimony that I’m being asked about this song right now 10 years on is a success in itself.

At what point in your life did you realise people were responding positively to your music?

I don’t think it really hit home until a few years later. I mean one of the early indicators of people responding positively to me back then was M.IA. reaching out to me and you know opening massive doors to me that I really wouldn’t have opened on my own but the success is still continuing to grow with Lidl and I think when people respond positively it just encourages you to and just motivates you to do better and get better.

How do you think you’ve changed over time?

That’s a good question. Over time I’ve definitely developed my craft in terms of my musicianship. in terms of production and youth work, I’ve grown and I’ve learnt how to utilise my god given talents to help other people start businesses and to maximise revenue. I’ve became a husband, I’ve become a father overtime so really a lot has changed so I give thanks.

Your heritage is Nigerian. Do you include your background into your work?

“Hello Afrikan Boy” [laughs] of course I do, I don’t even need to answer this question too much because its plain and simple. From my very first track to my last track on my album my heritage is always something that’s strong; you can’t take that away from me like Kunta Kinte man.

You took some time out to complete your studies at university, what did you study and how did you keep focused on education?

I studied at Brunel university, I studied psychology and sociology graduated with a BA honours. I stayed focused because I knew I had to, because I knew that I’m getting into nearly £35,000 of debt so the least I could do was to get some grades. I did tour a lot during university and travel a lot in order to keep my music career buzzing. I don’t regret none of that because I still managed to achieve a great grade.

When did you realize that this would be the leading career path for you?

I’ve always known, I could say deep down that this was going to be my leading career path solely because when an opportunity for a day job comes up i.e I work a lot in secondary schools so when them opportunities come up I always have this battle between my heart and head in regards to, you know, if I should commit myself to a permanent position or weather I should just do it temporarily so that I could be able to free myself up to go on tour. Music definitely is my leading career, I’ve worked on it the most and it’s not going to leave me.

Do you find it difficult balancing you social life and work life?

100% I work. I’m a workaholic and I’ve just started to learn this about myself. I work when I wake up, I work when I go to sleep, I work in my dreams, I’m just constantly working and it’s important for all people who are really workaholics to take some time out. Go see some friends you haven’t seen, especially becoming a new dad as well which definitely takes you away from the social life. I have to remember to definitely go out just mingle and just chill not even for music or work purposes just for social living so I am finding it difficult, but I’m working at it.

What do you do in your spare time?

I try to go to the gym [laughs]. I try to pray.  Most importantly spend time with my family, read, listen to music just anything that relaxes me and anything that is away from work and if I actually do have spare time then I write as well which is something I do in my spare time but now it’s become work time.

If you could go back in time, is there anything you would you do differently?

I would probably release a video for “One Day I Went To Lidl” just because everyone asks me why I haven’t but now I like the fact that I haven’t because when I tell people that’s my song, mostly younger people deny, they don’t believe it there like, “nah prove it prove it”… I like the mystery and ambiguity and the kind of unknowingness about it. I like that.

If you could record with any musician around the world who would it be & why?

You should have specified if they were dead or alive. If they were dead then 2Pac, anyone alive right now I would record with would be… [pause] I don’t know Dr.Dre. I really don’t know. Seun Kuti, we are going to do something soon!

Who are your top three artists that inspire you and your work the most?

Top three artists okay number one 2Pac because he was a complex character, he knew what he stood for, he was brave, he was bold, he was a poet, he was a leader and he was a dope black man so that’s number one. Number two I would say Fela Kuti, because of his huge catalogue of work, what he’d been through and the legacy that his children are carrying on and obviously he’s the pioneer of African beats. Number three would probably be Lauren Hill because when she first came out with The Fugees the sound that they had and the conscious messages behind the lyrics and they just kept it real. So definitely Lauren Hill, that’s my top three 2Pac, Fela Kuti and Lauren Hill.

Black History Month is around the corner, do you have a black icon who inspired you?

I just named them definitely, 2Pac Shakur definitely Fela Kuti, Bob Marley who I named my son after – they inspire me because they stood up for what is right, they stayed true to their craft, they were great examples and great role models.

Thank you for the interview, I appreciate it The British Blacklist and enjoy the rest of your week.

 

interview with Afrikan Boy by Madison John / @MaddieVado  for the british blacklist

The Pan African Film Festival Announces Call for Submissions. Various Deadlines. Fees Apply

panafricanfilmfestival

The call for submissions is open for the 23nd Annual Pan African Film Festival (PAFF), February 12 – 22, 2015, the largest and most prestigious Black film festival in the U.S. PAFF spans 11 days, and attracts 40,000+ industry and public attendees, and schedules screenings of more than 150 films from around the globe and even award recognition for international films. The diversity of PAFF is represented by its core value of Pan-Africanism in every feature selected and its community programming including an extensive fine art show ArtFest and surrounding schools Black History Month curriculum.

“Through the years, our guiding principle of ‘Pan-Africanism’ as a movement remains to unify and provide a platform for the meaningful stories of all people of African descent worldwide – African American, Caribbean, European, Latin American, South Pacific, and Aboriginal” said Asantewa Olatunji, the director of programming for PAFF.

ELIGIBILITY:

  • PAFF accepts submissions for films and videos made by and/or about people of African descent. Filmmaker(s) need not be of African or African American descent.
  • Films should preferably depict positive and realistic images and can be of any genre — drama, comedy, horror, adventure, animation, romance, science fiction, experimental, etc.
  • Features and shorts both narrative and documentary may be submitted.
  • The film festival will accept a single submission of a work in progress; however, the final version of the film must be completed no later than December 1, 2014.

SUBMISSION DEADLINES AND FEES:

  • Regular Submission: Aug. 19 – Oct. 19 – Features $45 | Shorts $30
  • Late Submission: Oct. 20 – Nov. 19 – Features $75 | Shorts $55

Official selections begin December 3, 2014 with “roll-out” notification; final announcement will be posted to the website no later than January 5, 2015.

The PAFF competition categories are:

  • Best Narrative Feature
  • Best Narrative Short
  • Best Documentary
  • Best Director
  • First Feature
  • Audience Favorite Awards for Narrative Feature
  • Audience Favorite Awards for Favorite Documentary

Submission Guidelines:

  • Films in competition must be copyrighted no earlier than 2014.
  • With the exception of Audience Favorite Awards, all films are judged by industry professionals, selected by PAFF.
  • In addition to competition awards, other programming and festival special prizes will be awarded.

The Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) is America’s largest, and most prestigious Black film and arts festival. Each year, it screens more than 150 films made by and/or about people of African descent from the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, South America, the South Pacific, Latin America, Europe and Canada. PAFF holds the distinction of being the largest Black History Month event in the United States.

PAFF was founded in 1992 by award-winning actor Danny Glover (“The Color Purple,” “Lethal Weapon” movie franchise), Emmy Award-winning actress Ja’Net DuBois (best known for her role as Willona in the TV series “Good Times”) and executive director, Ayuko Babu, an international legal, cultural and political consultant who specializes in African Affairs. PAFF is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the promotion of ethnic and racial respect and tolerance through the exhibit of films, art and creative expression.

The goal of PAFF is to present and showcase the broad spectrum of Black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images, help to destroy negative stereotypes and depict an expanded vision of the Black experience. PAFF believes film and art can lead to better understanding and foster communication between peoples of diverse cultures, races, and lifestyles, while at the same time, serve as a vehicle to initiate dialogue on the important issues of our times.

For further information / to submit your film: http://www.paff.org/

The British Blacklist Looks At The 1990s A Pioneering Decade of Black Film. Part Two: Changing the Face of Black in 23 Movies

1990s_legacy_2 copy

In Part 1, having decreed the 1990s a golden age of black film making, TBB acknowledged the quality, but lamented the themes in many of the general release movies.

Many are now dubbed ‘crime thrillers’, but had the tendency to show black characters as criminals, corrupt cops or individuals faced with poor choices. We applauded the creative approaches a handful of directors took and decided that political, educational or gritty dramas were much fewer in number. Love seemed usually to number amongst those poor choices or added dilemmas. So, we made you wait for Part 2 which, 20 years after Claudine (1972) and Sounder (1974) and warm on the heels of She’s Gotta Have It (1986), the 1990s took aspirations in love, family and career and gave us a goldmine of beautifully shot movies – 23 of which are discussed here.

Reginald Hudlin gave us high school comedy House Party in 1990 – unchaperoned, a grounded high schooler sneaking out to an illicit party to explore fledgling romances and illegal beer. Familiar? This film announced to America and the world that the mice will play when the cat’s away in black communities too – Kid’n'Play, to be exact. Whilst there was some brief gunplay, Hudlin presented us with an Homeric Odyssey-type adventure. A Chicago Sun-Times critic declared it, “a canvas… to show us black teenagers with a freshness and originality that’s rare in modern movies…” It earned four sequels – two in the 90s: House Party 2 (college pajama party – George Jackson and Doug McHenry, 1991) and House Party 3 (bachelor party – Eric Meza, 1994). House Party débuted at no.3 at the box office and earned almost 10½ times its $2.5m budget. HP2 débuted at no.5, almost quadrupling its $5m budget and HP3 débuted at no.3, making $19.2m (budget figures not available).

The 1991 Cannes Film Festival was actually dubbed the Black Croisette, bringing four African and four African Diaspora movies to worldwide attention. Three dealt with issues of love in refreshing ways.

jungle_fever

Jungle Fever, directed by Spike Lee (yes, Aftab’s book project) intriguingly tackled interracial love with a difference – Wesley Snipes’ architect embarks on an affair with his Italian-American temp and takes on all of the consequences. It earned a Palme d’Or nomination, but won the Ecumenical Jury Special Mention Prize and a specially created Best Supporting Actor Award for Samuel L. Jackson’s crackhead character, Gator Purify. It débuted at no. 3 and tripled its $14m budget.

Bill Duke’s period romantic comedy-drama A Rage in Harlem had Robin Givens’ gangster’s moll Imabelle fleeing to Harlem with a trunk full of gold and finding love with Forest Whitaker’s unlikely hero Jackson. Whilst US critics disparaged it, it screened In Competition and received a 5-minute standing ovation at closing credits. Harlem’s celebration party (and Ice Cube’s post-Boyz premiere party set) were the Festival’s hot-ticket events. It débuted at no. 7 and broke even with its $8m budget.

The Critic’s Prize was awarded to Young Soul Rebels, in which the black British director Isaac Julien explored the roiling tensions between the 1977 Silver Jubilee youth identities of punks, skinheads and soul boys. It was set in London’s inner city and dealt with violence and unrest. It also dealt with a homosexual relationship attempting to transcend the social, political and cultural differences, but not quite managing it. [1]. This film opened only in eight theatres but still made $¼m, a loss on its £1.2m (~$2m) budget.

I class Boomerang, 1992, as another landmark movie by Eddie Murphy, because he had already brought us a razor-sharp, loyal detective in Beverly Hills Cop (1984, 87); a near divine investigator dedicated to finding lost children in The Golden Child (1988); A dignified, elegant African aristocracy in Coming To America (1988) and a reserved 1930s nightclub owner in Harlem Nights (1989). It was no surprise, then, when Reginald Hudlin directed Murphy’s Boomerang. It was the first feature film to fully embrace and commit to celluloid a black version of the modern American Dream of affluence – a black-owned New York advertising Agency, Chantress, run by black urban professionals whose dating scene, whilst predatory and chauvinistic (it was the 90s), revolved around home-cooked candlelit meals, dog-walking and live sports games. However flawed, this narrative was of black city professionals dating. These aspirational themes had been incorporated into mainstream cinema and television since the 1950s, yet here they were for the first time in a modern black romantic comedy. This movie also continued Spike Lee’s themes of female sexual empowerment in Robin Givens’ Jacqueline. Boomerang débuted at no. 3, eventually tripling its $42m budget at the box office.

Produced by Disney, you would be forgiven for thinking Cool Runnings, 1993 (Jon Turtletaub*) was a fairytale brought to the big screen. It followed a Caribbean bob-sled team competing in the winter Olympics. You’d be wrong. When one’s dream of qualifying for the main Olympics was unfortunately derailed, this quartet of Jamaican sportsmen, who had never experienced snow, chose to train in bob-sledding and made it all the way to the 1988 Winter Olympics in Alberta, Canada. Here was entertainment taken from reality – self-determining black men besting every obstacle! Made as a comedy drama, it débuted at number 3 and more than doubled its $68m budget. Great stuff!

poetic_justice

In Poetic Justice (1993), John Singleton presented many things here: a female main protagonist without the film being labelled a ‘chick flick’; Justice, a hairstylist who has inherited family property and owns a cat; Justice’s burgeoning poetic talent (actually the work of Maya Angelou, RIP, narrated and read throughout the movie); a dedicated single father and a road movie. Issues which urban communities experience were represented as undertones – musical talent, violence, substance abuse and neglect, but Singleton concentrated on love and friendship and was rewarded with his romantic drama opening at no.1 and doubling its $14m budget.

Doug McHenry’s Jason’s Lyric (1994) appears to be more drama than romantic, but it did show us that amongst the working class and despite disadvantage and violence, young black adults experience a coming-of-age, as they learn how to deal with love, maturity and the meaning of commitment. It also showcased lesser known acting talent, débuted at no. 3 and almost tripled its $7m budget.

Crooklyn (Spike Lee, 1994) went where Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin*) was able to follow in 2012. Lee presented a film about community, family, love and loss from Troy’s perspective – a 9 year old girl growing up in a big family with a schoolteacher mum, a frustrated musician dad and four brothers in 1970s Brooklyn. Again, urban issues are present but not foremost, and it dealt with cancer in the black community which may not have been addressed before and rarely since. It is, nevertheless, warm and nostalgic and showed Lee’s deft hand with the urban melting pot of borough. It débuted at no. 3, but did not break even with its $14m budget.

Waiting to Exhale was Forest Whitaker’s 1995 directorial début – a romantic drama, set in Arizona with four black, thirty-something, professional females as the main protagonists. First, it was set in Arizona! Next, it centred on the friendship and support system between them – three career women and one homemaker who was an ex-career woman – and their relationships with men. By all of the number-crunching Hollywood demographics, this movie should not have opened at number one and eventually more than quadruple its $16m budget. It featured a very well-known female cast which included Whitney Houston (not really considered a ‘great actress’) and a more than decent male cast (with an uncredited cameo from Mr Snipes)! The Los Angeles Times called it a “social phenomenon”, but really, the preceding 9 films really should have taken the ‘surprise’ out of it being a ‘surprise hit’. Relatively speaking, at least 7 had been ‘hits’.

Now, I include Vampire in Brooklyn (1995, Wes Craven*) because it is a very interesting case. Two major film stars (Eddie Murphy and Angela Bassett) and a popular TV star (Kadeem Hardison from A Different World) fronted this movie. Maximillian is the sole survivor of a race of Caribbean island vampires and is on a quest for survival. To ensure perpetuation of his species, he is on a limited timetable to find the half human Dhampir of vampire kin living somewhere in New York. On the surface, this is a film about good vs evil. In actuality, this movie presents an attempt at survival at all costs and the nature of romance, loyalty and love. It obliquely examines many issues relevant to any ethnic community, including mental illness and alienation. For example, the ‘mixed race’ Rita witnessed her mother’s insanity stemming from the death of her vampire husband by vampire hunters. She fears for her own sanity and risks remaining out of place and misunderstood by society should she remain in the human world. Of course, love fixes all of that, but the film does a reasonable job of presenting the crossed purposes of multiple points of view.

vampire_in_brooklynNow then, Maximillian is suave and mysterious – check. He has the traditional swept back shoulder length vampire hair and drinks blood to survive, resulting in occasional screaming and death – check. Vampires explode in sunlight, so most vampire action must take place at night or in the dark – check. There is comic relief, a creative choice which I enjoyed. The love story and good vs evil stories arc the way they’re supposed to for American audiences. Vampire even débuted at number 3, four days before Halloween, taking most receipts during the first weekend. Yet, it ended up breaking about even with its $14m budget, receipts dropping off sharply over the next 3 weekends, but only falling out of the top 10 on the fourth. Then again, one Chicago-Sun Times critic (the same of the almost patronising HP review above) wrote, “The movie is unpleasant to look at. It’s darker than ‘Se7en,’ but without sufficient purpose, and my overall memory of it is people screaming in the shadows. To call this a comedy is a sign of optimism;…”

The horror genre, and vampirism in particular, has long been used as a metaphor for society’s outcasts. Apparently, you can’t put the metaphors into the actual roles, because that might make it ‘unpleasant to look at’. That said, in 2008 not only did vampires become effortless daywalkers, but they veritably sparkled in the sunlight! Ultimately, Vampire is included here because it had given us something never seen before or since – a suave, mysterious black vampire adept in the art of wooing.

Devil in a Blue Dress, 1995, was adapted from an award-winning 1990 novel. Carl Franklin presented a WWII army veteran (yes, we were there, too!), unfairly laid off from his factory who chooses to become a private investigator. For me, this had undertones of Chinatown (1974) and presented Denzel Washington’s Easy Rawlins choosing a non-typical path to help people, including those of his own community. This film had an authentic noirish feel and was beautifully shot, but was also interesting for a couple of other reasons. In the 1990s Washington rarely did love scenes, and they were never with white women. The bi-racial Jennifer Beals was cast as white and some of the promotional shots suggest that Devil contained a love interest between the two. It didn’t. Devil débuted at no. 3 and generated less than ⅔ of its $27m budget.

The Tuskegee Airmen 1995 (Robert Markowitz*) is an HBO TV movie which I just had to include, as it announced to the world that, not only had there really been a black contribution to WWII, but that, against all odds, there had been hugely successful black combat pilot squadron, which was constituted on the 4th July 1942. This first, out of Tuskegee Army Airfield, Alabama, was the 332nd Fighter Group. Oh, it also debunked the ‘medical fact’ that “Negroes are incapable of handling complex machinery,” including, as it did, pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance staff, support staff and instructors. They earned a Distinguished Unit Citation in 1945, a Luftwaffe nickname of the Schwarze Vogelmenschen (Black Birdmen) and the Ally nickname of Redtails or Redtail Angels because of their impressive combat record. Anthony Hemingway used this title in the big screen re-make, Red Tails, in 2012. George Lucas, an uncredited co-director, is married to the black and beautiful Mellody Hobson, chairman of Dreamworks Animation and had to use his own money to make it, having been turned down by major film studios on the premise that it had an “all-black” cast with “no major white roles.”

girl_6

Spike Lee continued his long relationship with Cannes when Girl 6, his further exploration of alternative ideas of sex and romance, screened Out-Of-Competition in 1996. Here, he presented an aspiring actress in New York who attempts to take a stand against the treatment of women in the movie industry, but has to take a job as a phone-sex operator to make ends meet. She becomes increasingly immersed within the telecom world. Eventually, she can leave it all behind, take on the movie industry again and take the rejection with a renewed strength. It débuted at no.7 and only made back ⅓ of its $12m budget.

I include Bad Boys, 1995 (Michael Bay*) because it gave us a detective duo not in a Yankee inner city, but in beautiful Miami, so, Tubbs and Trudie (Miami Vice) weren’t the only black people down there! We’d seen Martin Lawrence’s family man, Marcus Burnett, before – he lived in a family home in suburbia, which was basically Danny Glover’s Murtaugh all over again (Lethal Weapon series, 1987, 89, 92, 98). But Will Smith’s Mike Lowry was new to the big screen. Lowry was a rich kid who had inherited money and lived in a penthouse apartment with a concierge, but who chose to become a police officer. Of course, the concessions were that Lowry was a ‘player’ who had a thing for exotic dancers and Burnett was obsessed with having ‘quality time’ with this wife. Bad Boys débuted at no.1 and made back nearly 3.5 times its $19m budget in the US plus nearly 4 times its budget abroad (~$141.4m worldwide).

Soul Food, 1997, was the big family film of the 90s. As with Spike Lee’s predecessor, Crooklyn, George Tillman Jr chose the eyes of a child (11 year old Ahmad) through which to show us the Joseph family of Chicago. Longstanding traditions revolving around the large Sunday mealtime begin to suffer, with the death of the Matriarch, Big Mama Jo. Coping with this major life event heralds major changes in the lives of the close-knit and supportive family (and extended family) members. Despite featuring a lawyer quitting his job to pursue a career in music and an ex-con, Soul Food was thought to have presented ‘a more positive image of African-Americans in a Hollywood film’. It débuted at no.3 and made nearly 6 times its $7.5m budget.

Theodore Witcher’s Love Jones, 1997, was a small indie film about a poet and an unemployed photographer, who meet in a bohemian nightclub and, being immediately attracted to each other, become lovers. Their emotions take a while to catch up and their social group debate love and relationships, as Larenz Tate’s Darius Lovehall and Nia Long’s Nina Mosely try to overcome fears, self-interest and their friends’ opinions to just be together. It showed a cool, jazz-tinged side of 90s culture made up of poetry slams and finger snap appreciation amongst twenty-something black intellectuals and débuted at no.6. It just exceeded its $10m budget at the box office, but remains a cult classic today!

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Eve’s Bayou, 1997, was a landmark film for several reasons: director Karen ‘Kasi’ Lemmons is a black woman from the American South (St. Louis) and this was possibly the first time a general release black movie featured fantasy in the form of the supernatural, curses and voodoo. Lemmons presented Eve Batiste, a 10 year old from a middle class family in a prosperous St. Louis town, one hot summer, whose idyllic family life begins to crumble around her father, Dr Batiste’s, infidelity. Voodoo has been repeatedly depicted in mainstream movies, so mainstream audiences were not thrown by the prosperity of the majority black cast or even the black, female director, maybe because there was the comfort of the familiar. It was overwhelmingly positively received, débuting at no. 8, and more than doubled its $6m budget.

Beloved, 1998, (Jonathan Demme*) was a fantasy horror film starring heavyweights Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover and Thandie Newton. It was set in the outskirts of post-civil war Cincinnati and follows a woman and her family as she is haunted by a poltergeist, which leads to the revelation of the sort of Sophie’s Choice love can drive a slave to. Beloved débuted at no. 5 but made back only ¼ of its $80m budget. Still, it was nominated for an Academy Award for costume design.

I’m sure that even director Kevin Rodney Sullivan would agree that 1998’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back could not have been the ’start’ of the changing face of black cinema. It certainly gave us a Cougar decades after The Graduate dared to, and before they became popular in mainstream television. Angela Bassett’s Stella – a forty something stockbroker and single mother – embarks on a Caribbean holiday romance with Taye Diggs’ younger man, also an affluent professional. Stella débuted at no.2 and more than doubled its $20m budget.

Rick Famuyiwa’s romantic comedy, The Wood, 1999, was so much more than cold feet on the eve of a wedding. Personally, I think this film exceeded 1994’s Crooklyn in childhood nostalgia. The Wood’s flashback scenes to the coming-of-age misadventures of a trio of friends is so well-observed – hair, crushes, first kisses, Prom and disastrous dancing – it’s all there. Emotionally, it reached me all the way in North-East London, and so transcended the Inglewood neighbourhood in which it was set, presenting a brighter city childhood. This utter delight débuted at no.6 and more than quadrupled its $6m budget.

Malcolm D Lee presented an impressive ensemble cast of aspiring professionals in The Best Man, 1999. The main protagonist, Taye Diggs’ writer, Harper, is on the brink of career success and a serious relationship. He attends his best friend’s wedding, over which a succession of revelations, both verbal and those included in Harper’s début novel, threaten to derail the union. This was a production from Lee’s cousin Spike’s company and it débuted at no.1, then more than tripled its $9m budget.

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Just as the decade began with a British film (YSR), so it ended with another – The Secret Laughter of Women. Directed by Peter Schwabach* and written by Misan Sagay (her first feature), it was made in 1998 (UK-Canada), but received its UK release at the London International Film Festival on November 29th 1999. This romantic comedy centred on Nia Long’s unwed mother Nimi and Colin Firth’s married Matthew negotiating cross-cultural love. Matthew is a loner and a writer and Nimi is a landscape architect living amongst her extended family. The beauty in this film was that it was set amongst a wealthy Nigerian ex-pat community on the Côte d’Azur in the South of France. Nigerian culture is beautifully observed in dress, language, humour and the ‘Parable Battle’ Nimi’s mother engages in with Nimi’s aunts and the Reverend Fola – a potential suitor for Nimi in her family’s eyes. One reviewer for The Observer wrote “… this exotic emigré community on the Cote d’Azur is neither explained nor explored…” and other reviews generally show just how uncomfortable mainstream critics can be when reviewing any work with a different culture brought to the fore [Read TBB’s Critic’s Debate review]. The Total Film reviewer complained about “… a disappointingly predictable trajectory…” when most general release films follow the Monomyth formula of the Hero’s Journey (another article for another day). Box office stats were not available.

The Legacy

The dawn of serious film production by black talent which began in the 1980s was raised up and gained momentum in the 1990s. Amidst the stifling over-representation of crime thrillers of every squalid stripe, these 23 films showcased a lot of black film making talent displaying versatility across multiple genres. This was not just in acting, but in writing, directing and cinematography too.
You can say what you like about Eddie Murphy, but in creating his production company, he was able to attempt themes in his movies that would never have been green-lit otherwise, and which have not generally been attempted since. Along with all of these films, revisit some and view them with wiser eyes. Mainstream critics’ opinions are often influenced by their own rigid perceptions and completely miss not only the cultural references which make these films enjoyable, but also the cultural importance of seeing black represented in a different light!

The 90s prove that black film makers are good at navigating ensemble pieces dealing with relationships; at storytelling from a child’s perspective; at giving a film with a female cast (or lead) gender cross-over appeal; at believably representing the opposite sex on screen (Forest Whitaker and Kasi Lemmons in particular); at making films which do translate overseas; at producing movies which, on average, début in the top five during an opening weekend and, on average, generate at least double their budget costs in box office receipts. This means that black films make money for their investors!

Further, Soul Food inspired a spin off TV series which aired 74 episodes over 5 seasons (Showtime, 2000-2004) and is the longest-running series of its ‘kind’; Love Jones is still regarded as a cult classic; House Party, Bad Boys and The Best Man both scored multi-million dollar-generating sequels, with Bad Boys and Waiting to Exhale both currently in sequel talks; The Noughties continued the proliferation of general release black movies and gave us further classics like Love and Basketball (Gina Prince Bythewood, 2000), Brown Sugar (Rick Famuyiwa, 2002), Something New (Sanaa Hamri, 2006) and This Christmas (Preston A Whitmore II, 2007).

This year alone, Kevin Hart had two no.1 films Ride Along (Tim Story) which made over $153m and Think Like A Man Too (Tim Story, $65.2m). About Last Night (Steve Pink*) débuted at no.2 and made $48m. Each of these films generated box office receipts which were over 86% domestic (USA). Whilst Exhale and Stella generated mainly domestic revenue, this might be the first time a black male lead achieved it in a major grossing film.
Although many actors other than the quite brilliant Washington, Snipes, Jackson, Smith and Murphy were pushed very much to the fore, sadly, one legacy has been that many of the most prolific directors, writers and actors of that time have not sustained that decade of high-flying promise.

Legacy for the rest of the African Diaspora

On the other hand, many US States now host their own black film festivals, which are often international. The British romantic drama Hard Time Bus (Dean Charles, 2014) débuted in the Hollywood Black Film Festival in 2013, winning Best Feature Film, which was followed by selections for the American Black Film Festival (New York) and the BBIFF See below).
Worldwide, there are an increasing number of film festivals dedicated to the Diaspora-influenced point of view: several in Canada (Montreal and Toronto), Berlin, Africa (including The Pan-Africa International Film Festival, Cannes) and the Caribbean (Bahamas, Belize Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. And of course African film has had a solid track record at Cannes, where Jamaica’s strong 1970s film output has been gathering momentum.

The script of Chris Browne’s Ghetta Life won the Hartley Merrill International Screenplay Award at Cannes 2006, then became the first Jamaican film featuring an all-Jamaican cast to be fully funded by Jamaicans. It won the Best Pitch Award at the 2011 Marché du Film. Also presented that year was Pascale Obolo’s Calypso Rose: The Lioness of the Jungle (Trinidad & Tobago). This year, Mary Wells’ Kingston Paradise débuted at the Marché du Film and was the first Jamaican movie to be represented at this event by a reputable Hollywood commercial film distributor and agent (California Pictures, LA).

Here in the UK, there has been growth of afro-centric and urban film festivals and awards such as Screen Nation Film & TV Awards, the Movie Video & Screen Awards (MViSAs) at Birmingham Black International Film Festival (BBIFF), the Edinburgh African Film Festival, Welcome to Busseywood (Peckham & Nunhead Free Film Festival), and the British Urban Film Festival (BUFF). British Comedy Gone Too Far! (Destiny Ekaragha, 2013) won the 2013 London Comedy Film Festival Best New Comedy Award.
So, there are many, many more platforms for black film makers to showcase their brand and gain recognition in the feature film arena. As regards directors, Richard Ayoade, Steve McQueen and Amma Assante are regularly included on watch lists for up and coming British directors and McQueen has been trailblazing down the Awards route  [listen to his artistic journey].

October, Black History Month 2014

The inaugural Back 2 Black @ BAFTA Black History Month event to celebrate the achievements, culture and history of African-Caribbean people in the UK took place on October 5th in central London [read TBB's review].
Award-winning British comedy Gone Too Far! has been released this October. Catch it, support it and maybe the legacy of the 90s will push us all to do greater things.

 

article for the british blacklist by  @DescantDeb

APPLY for National Youth Jazz Collective Fundraiser Role. Deadline 5pm 24th October 2014­

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NYJC is looking for an experienced fundraiser with a proven track record to support NYJC’s funding strategy during the transitional months of November 2014 to April 2015 – During which time NYJC will be undergoing an organizational review in preparation for NYJC’s elevated status to one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations (1st April 2015).

The fundraiser at National Youth Jazz Collective will be engaged on a freelance contract. NYJC is open to negotiation regarding the working arrangements. The successful candidates will be expected to be available to attend all internal and client/donor meetings.

National Youth Jazz Collective (NYJC) is a young and vibrant National Youth Music Organisation (founded in 2007) specialising in small group jazz improvisation. Its mission is to support the creative and educational needs of the nation’s young jazz musicians through a coherent and inspirational pathway of streamed study, from first access to young professionals, progressing from NYJC’s national network of regional jazz hubs through to the highly competitive annual National Youth Jazz Summer School and annual programme of post summer school performance opportunities (which include national level stages in festivals and world-class performance platforms such as London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Barbican and Symphony Hall, Birmingham) all supported by bespoke programmes of Continuing Professional Development designed to support the needs of the young jazz musicians’ teachers and music leaders.

Role Requirements:

  • To support and manage current relationships with funders
  • To oversee outcomes of recent applications for summer school funding
  • To research additional funders for specific project based work including summer school bursaries, online teaching resources, the ambassadors trainee teachers scheme and NYJC’s gender research project in partnership with IOE
  • Manage the progress of all applications by using NYJC’s Grant Application Log
  • Generate a substantial level of income to fund NYJC’s activities through a systematic 
programme of grant applications
  • Contribute to the further development of the organisation’s strategic plan
  • Support the key elements of NYJC’s business plan & development strategy

The successful candidate will demonstrate the following key competencies/qualities:

  • Experience of working in the arts with young people and/or a strong working awareness of the music education sector and will have the capacity to conceive and communicate innovative ideas intended to maximise the impact of the business development and fundraising plan, communicating those ideas clearly and effectively
  • Experience in generating revenue from trusts and foundations essential.
  • Experience in generating revenue from the private sector desirable
  • Strong project management skills
  • Strong administrative skills
  • Good level IT skills; managing budgets, problem-solving approach; risk management and ability to foresee and trouble shoot issues

For further information / to apply: http://nationalyouthjazz.co.uk

Eclipse Theatre Launches Largest Ever National Delivery of Black British Stories in Regional Theatre…

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Eclipse Theatre Company led by Artistic Director Dawn Walton will spearhead the largest ever national delivery of Black British stories in regional theatres from 2015 – 2018, with the aim of provoking major change, tackling inequality and creating a lasting legacy within the UK’s theatrical landscape both onstage and off.

The project will see Eclipse Theatre Company, who co-produced tour of Sizwe Banzi is Dead (2014) with the Young Vic, One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show (2013) national tour with Sheffield Theatres and The Hounding of David Oluwale (2011) with West Yorkshire Playhouse, partner with a number of regional venues and commission plays from ten black writers. Six will write a middle scale production with one writing a small scale
production, another will write a radio play and two will write short films. At least one of these pieces will be written with an all female cast in mind.

The work will be delivered as a series of tours and stand alone productions across the regions. This will be the biggest single delivery of black work ever seen in the UK – a year-long festival of diversity developed and delivered by regional artists with Eclipse Theatre Company working closely with all of the partner theatres.

Eclipse Theatre Company are now keen to hear from writers, in particular from the North and South West regions, who have at least two short run theatre productions, radio plays, short films or TV credits. Revolution Mix is supported with an Exceptional award from the Arts Council of £249,141. The Exceptional awards scheme enables the Arts Council to respond to new and ambitious ideas from the sector that will make
a significant additional contribution to delivering its strategic vision of Great art and culture for everyone.

Dawn Walton, Artistic Director of Eclipse Theatre Company, said: “Revolution Mix is about doing not talking. When the subject of Diversity comes up – people gather in rooms and talk. If you sit in that room you will hear more reasons why things can’t change than why they can. But there is no question that there is an appetite for change. Revolution Mix is what we are all going to DO.

“Eclipse Theatre Company is proud to be receiving an Exceptional Award from Arts Council England. It is encouraging to be heard understood and supported in this way…We hear it when an audience member comes up to thank us for bringing black work to their local venue. We hear it when a black writer in the regions contacts us because they don’t feel there is a place for them in their local venue. We hear it when a regional venue tells us they don’t know any local black writers. Revolution Mix is Eclipse Theatre Company’s response to all of them. We know where the black talent is because they contact our company and we know what the missing British stories are because they are our stories.”

Sajid Javid’s first major speech as Culture secretary in June talked of Black and Minority Ethnic communities as being ‘culturally disenfranchised’. He suggested the industry apply its creativity to “capturing new audiences and nurturing new talents”. The Arts Council is undertaking work with the sector – through the delivery of the Creative case for diversity – to ensure that the imbalance is redressed. This will enable the work of Eclipse Theatre Company to work alongside other delivery mechanisms and offer a more rounded and complete offer
relating to the black british experience across arts and culture in England – and Revolution Mix is an important step forward to increase engagement and encourage investment.

Keep up to date with Eclipse Theatre’s project: http://eclipsetheatre.org.uk/

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