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Harry Lennix: 'Black Filmmakers Give Us Terrible Images & Messages. I Reject Them Wholesale'

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act August 16, 2013 at 5:53PM

Harry Lennix isn't done yet apparently!
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Harry Lennix isn't done yet apparently! 

Recall Sergio's recent interview with him in which he referred to Lee Daniels' The Butler as "Niggerfied... historical porn" after reading pages of the script, for which he was apparently offered a part - a post that generated lots of debate, as you'd imagine, and still continues to do so. Read it HERE if you missed it.

This time around, Lennix has taken to penning an op-ed for The Wrap (next time Harry, come to us for that sort of thing), in which he voices his rejection of what he calls "terrible images and messages" created by black filmmakers today, adding that, "I reject them wholesale -- our creations must have beauty."

Titled Black Entertainment Depicts a Stream of Craven and Depraved Sociopaths - Let's Reclaim It, here's a snip from the piece:

With greater frequency black filmmakers are saying terrible things about the inhabitants of Black America. While viewing a black film of the recent past (choose your own), I saw black women weeping their eyes out, scene after scene, abused and victimized by black men in a relentless parade of misery. What joy, I wondered, is to be found in this? Even in pathos, of course there is release. But surely there is a difference between pathos and sadomasochism.

Ironically, very little of artistic merit or craft is to be found in the dramatically bereft constructions of the other variety of black movie. Many of these projects feature very talented and attractive casts, slick direction, and high production values. The subject matter is seldom of great ambition or depth. They are designed to please the broadest possible demographic of black ticket buyers. Most of this work is innocent and innocuous enough, and thank goodness for this alternative. That stipulated, it would be less than honest to point to but a small few of these as artistically satisfying.

There appears to be a formula at work. On one side, form follows function: entire histories are corrupted, twisted fantasies concocted, so that the filmmakers can elicit the baser instincts of an audience. Then there is the inverse where function follows form: gorgeous people in thinly dramatic situations, scarcely requiring craft and imagination to execute.

All that said, once you get past the first 3/4 of his invective, towards the end of the piece, you'll see that, ultimately, the piece's purpose is really to plug the release of his upcoming new film, Mr Sophistication - a project we've been tracking for about 2 years now. 

Lennix makes the case for his new film being an attempt to "reclaim the definition of 'black film,'" and showing what is possible, instead of merely lamenting the status quo.

Directed by Danny Green, with a cast that includes, in addition to Lennix, RichardBrooks, GinaTorres, Rick Fox, Bruce McGillTatum O’Neal, Robert Patrick, Paloma Guzman, and Niki Crawford, Mr Sophistication's synopsis reads:

Mr Sophistication is the story of Ron Waters, who was the hottest young comic in Hollywood in the 90′s, and a personal protege of Richard Pryor. His political humor and his general “realness” made him one of a kind. His behavior as he climbed up the ladder caused such controversy that he had to leave Hollywood. After a self-imposed exile, Ron is back, having a second chance at fame. He’s also having a second chance at love – his wife wants to keep her man; the girl wants a fresh start. He wants to change the world.

Lennix doesn't say when exactly audiences can expect to see the film in theaters, although a recent update on the film's Facebook page says that it's coming in September, but with no specific day given. 

Per Lennix's op-ed:

At the time of this writing my company, Exponent Media Group (EMG), is on the precipice of releasing our first film. It is called “Mr. Sophistication.” We are proud of the film and we definitely hope that you will see and enjoy it. It is something that we poured our best efforts into, and have aspired as much as we might to refine its form, beauty, and entirety.

So there you have it! An op-ed on a mainstream movie website, with a provocative title and first 3/4, but, ultimately, is likely meant to stir up conversation, and interest in his next film, ahead of its release in a month.

Ho-hum... If he truly does feel as he states, Mr Lennix really should see more indie black films, and maybe also consider expanding his definition of what a "black film" is beyond the USA.

Feel free to read the full piece HERE.

This article is related to: Harry Lennix, Things That Make You Go Hmm...


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