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Notes On Working Towards A Fanboy/Girl Culture In Black Indie Cinema Part 2: Media Coverage

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act June 29, 2012 at 1:22PM

I was going to call this something else entirely, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it fit nicely into the "Notes On Working Towards A Fanboy/Girl Culture In Black Indie Cinema" series that myself and Charles Judson have both addressed in separate posts. 
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Eric Deggans

I was going to call this something else entirely, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it fit nicely into the "Notes On Working Towards A Fanboy/Girl Culture In Black Indie Cinema" series that myself and Charles Judson have both addressed in separate posts. 

It's all part of the ongoing discussion; this time however, lots of questions for both filmmakers and audiences: 

To get right into it... many of *us* (black people) routinely lament the perceived lack of interest in, and thus coverage of black films and filmmakers (especially indie black films and filmmakers) in what we could call the "mainstream" media (this site's thriving existence is proof of that); although the more *militant* among us have said explicitly that what it comes right down to is wanting validation from white people, essentially a nod to Frantz Fanon's theories on feelings of "dependency and inadequacy" black people experience in a "white world;" an inferiority complex, if you will, whether you agree with that or not.

So, the first question is for the filmmakers: how much importance do you filmmakers put in coverage of black cinema by non-black media outlets? In talking to black filmmakers over the years, I've discovered that many feel they need that kind of press because black audiences (generally speaking of course) are more likely to take the work seriously, or pay closer attention to it, if it's covered in Variety, for example, or The Hollywood Reporter, the New York Times, Deadline, or even the parent site of the network this blog belongs to, indieWIRE.

Black filmmakers feel that black audiences (again, generally speaking)  hold those outlets in higher regard than specifically black media sites, with the feeling being that, getting a write up in Variety, for example, can be of immense value to their film, not only because it might raise the overall awareness of the film, potentially broadening its reach, but also because it gives the work an *importance* or *validation* in the eyes of black audiences.

To be clear, I'm not saying this is the thinking of every black filmmaker, or every member of the audience; but I've talked to enough folks on both sides over the years to recognize that these feelings (whether imagined or real) do exist enough that this is worth discussing.

Another question I'd ask filmmakers is, for those whose films have received attention from any of these major industry sites, just how much difference has that made in the reception of your film by audiences (of all colors)? Can you say that you've seen a definite, quantifiable impact on the success (or failure) of your film, especially since there is a general perception that "black films" rarely cross-over?

There's the added question of whether "black films" directed by non-black filmmakers (read: white filmmakers) are more likely to be acknowledged within the mainstream (read: white) press than "black films" directed by black filmmakers; but that's another post on its own entirely. However, I wanted to at least mention it to say that I'm aware of that conversation and how it fits into this particular discussion.

Now I look to black audiences with the same first question: how much importance do you put in coverage of black cinema by NON-black media (mainstream) outlets? How much value do you put into seeing a "black film" written about (whether it's an announcement or a review) in The Hollywood Reporter for example, over any comparable black media site? As black filmmakers suggest, or seem to believe, do you feel that a write-up in a major trade validates the film's existence in any way, over a write-up of the film on, let's say, Shadow And Act for example? And if a black media outlet covers a film, but it doesn't get any coverage by any of the few industry standards/stallwarts, does that in any way lessen your interest in it, or do you see less value in it?

Are these thoughts even conscious, intentional ones, or is it a matter of years of programming, or the inferiority complex Fanon theorizes? 

Or do you feel that none of what I've presented here are issues at all, as far as you're concerned, and thus a conversation isn't even warranted?

The point here is to stimulate conversation on things that I don't know if we really talk about; things that are said, but within groups of like people, and hardly ever to those we really should be talking to, leading to assumptions about the other, which only worsens matters.

As the title of the series states, "Notes On Working Towards A Fanboy/Girl Culture In Black Indie Cinema;" and I feel that the success of that journey partly depends on a trusted "value system" between filmmakers, audiences and the black media. Or as Melvin Van Peebles suggested to me when I interviewed a few weeks ago - working towards being an entirely self-reliant, self-sustaining unit. 

Probably not the kind of post you were expecting on a Friday, but you have time to think about it, and share your thoughts. But please keep it civil, and stick to the topic. You can answer the questions posed directly, whether you're filmmaker or audience member, or you can give general thoughts.


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