Film: 2012 LA Film Festival: Black Filmmakers

by H. Clent Bowers

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Written by H. Clent Bowers for THE ARTISTS FORUM MAGAZINE
Edited by
: Courtesy of the films – Question Bridge: Black Males, Big Man, Middle of Nowhere, Luv, Oversimplification of Her Beauty, Four, Call Me Kuchu, Record and Play

4.5 out of 5 stars


LOS ANGELES, CA (June 25, 2012) Young Black filmmakers continue to make their mark in the industry. With so many untold stories to capture, film seems to be the perfect medium to express them. This year, the first African American female won at Sundance. Wonderful news, but can you imagine it’s 2012 and she is the first? Thanks to organizations like Project Involve, a part of the Film Independent – 2012 LA Film Festival, we can finally hear the stories and let the catharsis continue. This years short, feature, and documentary film offerings are rich with creative artistic expressions.

Director: Chris Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas

This documentary is a wonderful introspective of the Black American Male and is brilliantly executed. The directors questioned one thousand black males from all different walks of life from around the country. Edited so that we can focus on one individual at a time, the images speak volumes as do the answers they give.  The sighs, gasp, and yes sometimes tears from the audience, myself included, proves how important  it is to share our experiences with each other as human beings.

Talk about cathartic. We learn why some young men study and why others don’t. Why some men fear the doctor and others will go. We learn what the past generation thinks of what is happening today and how the young man in prison has learned and accepted the consequences of his actions — no matter how justified his crime was. We learn of the fears of young boys and the encouragement of their elders. We even learn about dress codes and styles.

Of the thousand interviewed, this film was edited with about 30 or 40 subjects. Question Bridge: Black Males is currently showing at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The creators are trying to find audiences in other museums around the country. You can learn more about this movement by going to Please don’t miss this one.

Director: Julius Onah
Cast: Michael Asuelime, Adekunle Adeleke, Kaptaintony Ofili-Akpom, Tubi Aiyedehin, Wale Ojo

This short is a coming of age story about two brothers and their parents. The older brother is always telling the younger brother to try new and dangerous pranks, although his parents tell him not to. He continues until he causes a tragedy and learns.

Director: Ava DuVernay
Cast: Emayatzy Corinealdi, Omari Hardwick, David Oyelowo, Lorraine Toussaint, Sharon Lawrence, Edwina Findley

Our Sundance winner is a beautiful young African American director I met at a film screening at Universal a few years back. She was in the audience and asked a question about getting a film completed. Afterwards, we met and said good luck to me and I to her as we both were working on projects. I am proud to say that this is what perseverance is all about and why I love independent film.

This film is a story we know all to well – a lower middle class couple fallen on hard times. However, Ava DuVernay takes us to a different place and brings it home like no one would expect.

The main male character got stung in a faulty business deal at work and went to prison.  The wife keeps the love and home for him while her best friend, sister, and her mother try to get her to move on with her life.  

All the actors are wonderful and the confrontation of mother and daughter deeply moving. There are twist and turns as the husband causes delays in his own release and gives the young wife cause to consider an alternative. I wont spoil it for you but I found the ending and her choices refreshing,  Congratulations Ava! What’s Next?

LUV (USA, 2012)
Director: Sheldon Candis
Cast: Common, Michael Rainey Jr., Dennis Haysbert, Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Michael Kenneth Williams, Meagan Good

First-time director Sheldon Candis has created a masterpiece. This work is also a labor of love, especially as he hinted in the conversation after the film that it may be more of a true story than not. This all-star cast of veterans and promising new comers tell a story that we know all too well.

A young boy is living with his grandmother because his mothers in rehab, fathers gone or dead, and uncle just out of prison.  His uncle gets released only to find out the grandmother (his mother) is about to be homeless. He has a business plan that will save them all if he can make it happen before the gangster hood-rats find out he is back.

The gangsters think he ratted on them and are out for blood. The uncle takes the young boy everywhere with him to school him on how to survive. Does he learn? I want you to see the film so I will stop here.  There are some terrific classic scenes in this piece, complete with first class performances and white knuckle moments not unlike some of the great historic Italian gangster movies. John Singleton, move over buddy and make some room — there’s a new guy in the hood!

Director: Terence Nance
Cast: Terence Nance, Namik Minter, Chanelle Pearson

Here we have another promising young black male director named Terence Nance. The buzz for the movie came to me days before I saw it. Everyone’s telling me how brilliant this young man is.  I have to say that they were right. I would have loved to have heard him speak about his film but had to rush to another screening.  This film started out as a short about a young man in love with a young woman in New York City. She is a beauty. He uses poetry and many film styles, such as special effects and animation, to show us her beauty and his thoughts in action. 

Remember the 60’s Beatles’ film Yellow Submarine ? Well, this is reminiscent of that artistry. It began its life as a short, and as such I can see the full fascination to extend it to a feature. Here’s why: The story is really about a man in pursuit of a woman who doesn’t love him back. She teases and toys with him for the whole two hours.  We watch and experience his mind’s eye showing carnal thoughts in response to her actions. As a feature, it seemed repetitive like a cat and mouse game.  Soon I thought quietly, “I got it” and I like it.  That was about 30 minutes into the film. But by the time 60 minutes rolled around, I was ready to scream, “Get over her all ready!” Finally, by the end, I really needed out.

I thought about how such a talented artist could not see that we needed more normal content or reasoning even a catchy plot thrown in with the heady stuff.  But, after a day or two I think I got it. His Intent. In hindsight, that is exactly how I should have felt if he did his work well. If you have ever been head over heals in love with someone who isn’t but almost is in love with you this is exactly how you feel beautifully painfully, crazy. Sometimes depressed waiting for a crust of affection to drop your way rescuing you. Yes, he did his job. I love his imagination and technique and yes sometimes being in love hurts. However, one has to be in the mood to experience that as a choice… ouch! Good work.

FOUR (USA, 2012)
Director: Joshua Sanchez
Cast: Windell Pierce, Emory Cohen, Aja Naomi King, EJ Bonilla

Imagine your father spends lots of time away on business and when he is at home he is also online tending to “business,” then imagine your mother is manic depressed and spends most of her time in bed. Imagine you’re the only daughter of these two and you’re about 17 years old. Add to these three, to another 17 year old jock in high school, lonely, misunderstood, afraid, and full of self hate, who finds friendship and understanding through an anonymous connection online.

Lastly, a fourth young 17 year old mixed race drug runner in love with an African American girl who uses him for sex but will not connect emotionally except to put him down.  Put all these together on a hot steamy 4th of July night, coupled with an intense trance like score and Four keeps you so uneasy you can almost feel the pain and inner screams of these characters. They long to be understood, accepted, and free. Instead, so true to life, each one fights to hold fast to their self imposed restraints, which results in rigid loneliness.

The Four in this group of five begin with the father, played masterfully by Windell Pierce, who is supposed to be away on business but instead is only a few blocks away in a motel with his sex partner, the 17 year old confused and angry jock.  And, the daughter who is supposed to be watching mom is off getting serviced by the boyfriend. He is dying to be black enough for her. She can not stand him after sex. In the end, a troubling and wonderfully well acted study of self-denial.

Director: Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall

This documentary is beautiful and tragic. The natives of Uganda have learned that gays are to be put to death and people who know about them and don’t turn them in must go to prison. This was the mandate in earlier times and the courts there recently voted it out. Then, with the help of an evangelist from America, the fire has been re-fueled to bring the law back. Wright shows a story of triumph (at least that is her initial intention) about a young Ugandan male homosexual who lived, studied, and traveled to other countries who decided to come home and help liberate the gay society of his homeland. We see a colorful gay community complete with all the trappings of any gay society. One wonders, if one has traveled to other places, how anyone can not see that this is a culture of like spirits. Not drug addicts or acquired affected converts. These individuals are real people.

Then you have to wonder how homosexuals were treated amongst their native people before they were enlightened by Western religion. So, I asked the bishop  in the lobby before seeing the film, and he said, “Homosexuals have always been. They were apart of us — they were there. We did not hate them.” I asked him when did it change? “It changed,” he said, “with the misunderstanding and teachings of Sodom and Gamorah. The primary sin the bible wants us to understand is the treatment of the haves and of the have nots. It had to do with mistreating one another primarily.” During the filming, you may have heard in the news that our young man was found murdered in his bed after winning some privacy rights for homosexuals in Uganda. The film ends with the bishop telling us of the church he has built for the homosexuals to come to worship. On the walls he has written “God made every one and everyone is welcome” or something to that effect. God Bless you bishop.

In recent news, the American evangelist has helped the Ugandans put the law back on their books to vote for imprisonment of homosexuals and their friends but not the death penalty. He says, “We love them but hate the sin.” Hillary Clinton flew over to help the Ugandan government understand the consequences of passing this law.  My question simply is this: How can a culture from the oldest land of the world allow anyone to come in and tell them to murder or punish one another under a belief system not organically their own?

Director: Jesse Atlas

A clever sci-fi short about a tape recorder able to change time and place by what it records, thus allowing a man to save his wife by changing places with her via this recording machine.

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