Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Should Black Filmmakers Tackle Issues Regarding The Black Church More?

by Cynthia Reid
July 12, 2011 9:54 AM
  • |

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the scandal surrounding Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia. If you've been under a rock, basically, Bishop Long was accused of coercing young male church members into having sex with him and was being sued. In an effort to avoid a court case, Bishop Long settled with his accusers to the tune of $15 million, allegedly.

I was more than outraged after hearing this but, digging deeper, I pondered if filmmakers are missing the mark regarding issues of the church. Should there be more films dealing with church issues that are typically ignored in black films? Is this the best time to bring up "dirt" that is usually avoided at all cost?

More often than not, the majority of church related themes in film deal with a "Jesus saves all" moral. Atypical plot lines dealing with subjects such as molestation, adultery and homosexuality are shunned for the most part.

A recent Gallup Research poll indicated blacks are one of the most religious groups in America. For most of us, that's not really surprising news. However, when you consider our progression as a society, it is surprising that certain subjects have remained taboo.

So, do you think it's the right time to bring these issues to the forefront via film? Is it too much of a Pandora's box which is why filmmakers don't bother? Better yet, will movie goers be interested in exploring the issues?

  • |

More: Things That Make You Go Hmm...

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    


  • Cynthia | July 19, 2011 9:35 AMReply

    Thanks Nzingha for the info!

  • Nzingha | July 19, 2011 9:00 AMReply

    Documentary filmmaker Yoruba Richen is currently working on a film that deals with homosexuality and the black church. She just received ITVS funding for this doc:

  • JMac | July 14, 2011 1:48 AMReply

    I get sidetracked too easily but sometimes I can't just let people slide by with mess. I'm not a Holy Roller and I've got issues with religion like everyone else but don't condemn the good people along with the bad. Respect is a two way street.

    Back on topic: Your comment in chat about black women going to church to look for a man triggered a memory of Women of Brewster's Place. I can still see Jackee Harris working up that preacher LOL.

    Now I'm getting back to work :D

  • CareyCarey | July 13, 2011 7:36 AMReply

    Thanks JMac, you most recent comment ring so true. When I hear the words "The Black Church", I believe many people pull out their "one size fits all" blanket.

    And for the most part, it's obvious (to me) that many who are dropping salt on "The Black Church" do not belong to a black church (or only have visited a few) and therefore their opinions are regurgitations of what some other fool has said or what they’ve seen on the 10 o’clock news. Also, I can safely assume that those who feel comfortable in their haste to spout porous and unsubstantiated opinions about The Black Church, has never read The Bible. Consequently when I hear people make statements like “Do not be fooled by the white man’s religion Christianity has been against blacks in the past, and will be again in the future” and “The hate toward gay people in the black church demonstrates that mankind is hopeless” and this nonsense that had nothing to do with the subject at hand... “The other vital point to consider, is that there would be no President Obama without the gay vote”, I shake my head and believe that’s a special kind of fool with his own personal agenda.

    In fact, anyone that points fingers at “The Black Church” and says they don’t “believe” in the Bible, I question if they’ve read the Bible, and if they have, what specifically do they not believe in? Granted, one may not believe in the concept of heaven and hell, nor believe rather or not the stories are true, I understand that, yet who would deny, or can’t believe the following is not true. Thou shall not kill another, “Thou shall not desire thee neighbors wife, neither shall thou covet thee neighbor house” “Thou shall not steal” “Thou shall not commit adultery” “honor thy father and mother” , etc.

    Also, who has read the book “Song of Solomon”: A book of Poems and Love? What’s not to be believed in that book? What about Proverbs? What’s not to be believed in a book of guidance and wisdom on how to simply be a better man? I am suggesting people should talk about things they know, and not mimic the opinions of the fool next door, who is also talking out of his ass.

    JMac said; “Some black churches still are activist churches / tackle social issues- helping with financial problems, HIV/Aids education, sustained assistance to the homeless, drug addicts, marital/family problems. Oh, and not every black church “hates gays” as you put it. If you don’t like having gays put into one damn them all box, don’t do it to any other group and maybe you might get somewhere”

    You go Jmac, tell’em what you know and kick dust and truth on the super cynical naysayers, who's trying to sell their own black magic.

  • BluTopaz | July 13, 2011 6:56 AMReply

    Within several blocks of my home in Bed Stuy there are several places of worship: a gorgeous 150 year old Catholic church, several beautiful Baptist, a tiny Protestant 'holy roller' church next to a rib joint and a mosque. It would be interesting to explore if there is a vast disconnect between these communities and the raging dysfunctions out in the streets, to see if they interconnect at all.

  • Ya'ke | July 13, 2011 6:00 AMReply

  • chiguy | July 13, 2011 5:22 AMReply

    When I read this post I knew it would generate some great replies and some of you already touched on the biggest issue regarding a film like this being made.

    Who would support it?

    If a filmmaker made an unbiased enlightening narrative about some of the ills of the church, ie: the gossiping, the manipulation, or the capitalistic nature, the film would not only not be supported, it would be protested against. There are certain things the African American community covets and the church is probably at the pinnacle. You can't even have an honest discussion with someone about the affects of Christianity in the African American community without it turning in to an argument. African Americans are very protective of their faith, so protective, that they will go above and beyond to shut down anything that attacks it.

    As a filmmaker that happens to be black and makes a film of this magnitude, they would have to realize how small their audience would be. Black films are already a niche within a niche. You would really have to wonder what the filmmakers agenda is... controversy? attention for their brand?

    Personally I would love to see a film like this but I also know that I am in a small minority.

  • JasonJee | July 13, 2011 4:54 AMReply

    I meant working out their church issues. I'm not interested in a lecture on how someone thinks we should think.

  • JasonJee | July 13, 2011 4:52 AMReply

    I'm interested in good movies involving Black folks not someone working our their particular 'church issues'.

  • lynne | July 13, 2011 4:49 AMReply

    Google Almighty Debt and Soledad O'Brien.
    "Almighty Debt" was Soledad's last Black in America documentary. It aired on CNN in October. It focused on a Black Church in New Jersey.

  • JMac | July 13, 2011 3:58 AMReply

    "The far right would love blacks to eliminate gays. Of course, once the deed was done, blacks would be next."
    I wasn't aware blacks were no longer a target so that we could be " next. "

    "Do not be fooled by the white man’s religion."
    How is any religion owned by one racial group? Do you honestly think the forms of Christianity some Americans worship is the exact same teachings people everywhere believe. Just because whites 'interpreted' the bible to their favor does not mean it was always evil and will be evil. Depends on the group, yes?

    Some black churches still are activist churches / tackle social issues- helping with financial problems, HIV/Aids education, sustained assistance to the homeless, drug addicts, marital/family problems. Oh, and not every black church "hates gays" as you put it. If you don't like having gays put into one damn them all box, don't do it to any other group and maybe you might get somewhere.

    "The other vital point to consider, is that there would be no President Obama without the gay vote"
    Obama wouldn't be where he is without a lot of people's votes: black, whites, native americans, hispanics, democrats, republicans, independents, straight, gay, middle class, upper class, low class, christians, muslims, jews, etc.... Not any one group had a make it or break it impact on his campaign. It took EVERYBODY to get his ass in.

    If you're trying to get some sympathy and support you're going about it the wrong way.

  • Mark | July 13, 2011 3:49 AMReply

    As african americans we are generally all taught to keep secrets and cry in the dark. Mask our pains and short comings with razzle and dazzle. I don't see a film dealing with any of those struggles breaking any head way anytime soon.

    But to get off subject for a second, Am I the only one a little annoyed by the term "Black Film Maker". I find it hard enough to be a film maker, do I really need to throw in the fact that I'm black.

  • lamont pierré | July 13, 2011 3:28 AMReply

    Yes, Black filmmakers should tackle "church" stories that would differentiate from the typical "Prodigal Son" films that are so commonplace.

    These types of films would be more relevant now than ever before. The question is would the large churchgoing audience support...probably not. But, that still shouldn't stop us from making them. Maybe I will...

  • stevie68a | July 13, 2011 2:57 AMReply

    The hate toward gay people in the black church demonstrates that mankind is
    hopeless. What group should better understand this hatred than blacks?
    Perhaps there is a bit of truth in the "buy bull". That is "man against man, brother
    against brother".
    Fortunately, gays have a huge advantage over blacks, in that we can "pass" if
    need be.
    The far right would love blacks to eliminate gays. Of course, once the deed was done, blacks would be next. Do not be fooled by the white man's religion.
    christianity has been against blacks in the past, and will be again in the future.
    While the church was a vehicle for civil rights at some points in history, it's
    important to see that those days are long over.
    The other vital point to consider, is that there would be no President Obama
    without the gay vote. The far right voted against Obama, and is now singing
    the praises of slavery. Wake up.

  • RB | July 13, 2011 1:26 AMReply

    NO... Not interested.

  • JMac | July 13, 2011 1:16 AMReply

    Not happening. No way. No how. Not if it's an air your dirty, nasty laundry movie. Maybe something along the lines of people coming to an understanding or learning to tolerate each other - like black muslims and black christians working together to attack a common enemy or pursue a common goal [I know there's not exactly a dispute between these two groups in the US but someone could use it as a model for overcoming muslim v. christian animosities in other locations] or agnostics and believers learning to genuinely respect each other's views without succumbing to the "I'm more knowledgeable and superior than thou art" mentality. It would have to be a "positive" serious film with no hot button controversies.

    It'd be asking too much for there to be a black version of "Our Fathers" - Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal or "Priest (1994)" - Priest engaging in homosexual sex with a stranger but helps young teenage church member who's been forced into incestuous relationship with her supposedly religious father.

  • Jug | July 12, 2011 12:04 PMReply

    I wonder if the films are going to be "set" in the Black church or "about" the black church? Everyone is talking about DOUBT & PRIMAL FEAR, two bangers to be sure, but they weren't "about" the Catholic church. One dealt with faith with a capital "F", belief as in pertains to your sense of right & wrong & the other was a sexed up thriller. PRIMAL could've taken place at a pre-school or kindergarten, but it wasn't about "blowing the lid off" the scandals at 2nd street Primary school ya know.

    What I'm saying is, if the film is sensationalized, it loses it's impact. Movie that were made over the last few years about Black Men and "the Down Low" were scandalizing the issue like bad melodrama, ultimately pointing the finger and also schooling folks about the damage it does to the community. Information that's needed for real, but as a movie it becomes trite & forgettable. But then you look at stuff like ANGELS IN AMERICA or PARIAH, & they're about characters who are going through crisis, & that crisis "happens" to be homosexuality, or the politics surrounding it, their religious noddings, etc.

    But it's that focus on character that made PRIMAL & DOUBT so damn good. Yes, the subject matter may have been salacious (in DOUBT it was a little more subdued, primarily because it was a play first & came from that "don't show 'em all ya got" school of thought) or even gruesome, but it wasn't about spending every scene trying to exploit & unmask the evils of this societal construct.

    And Adam is right, whoever does it is gonna have to have balls of steel cuz black folks are gonna blast they Ass! Don't look for no Image Award that year LMBAO

  • Lynn | July 12, 2011 11:28 AMReply

    Should there be more films dealing with church issues that are typically ignored in black films? Is this the best time to bring up “dirt” that is usually avoided at all cost?

    I would like to say that not every single Black person is familiar with Black American "church" culture and what takes place in them.

    Oh and I would also like to mention that the film "Doubt" had some "dirt" like you described but that was specifically about the Catholic church.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | July 12, 2011 11:24 AMReply

    I don't think the author needs to speak on white Catholics because we're discussing black issues and black cinema. That said...

    We do need films on the level of "Doubt" (a great pic, and about white Catholics [lol]) that deal with the underbelly of black Christianity and the church; this includes our *wink, wink* attitude toward gays in the church (so long as he's the minister of music he's cool), our tendency toward Bigger Nigger Syndrome (as evidenced by how we defer to someone just because they claim an "anointing") and the sexism, elitism, and even racism often hiding within black church walls -- to name a few things.

    Long is a symptom of a bigger problem, and I think it needs to be spoken on -- and discussed among viewers -- through the visual medium.

    It will take an iconoclast, someone -- one of us, really -- who basically doesn't care what vitriol is spewed by simple or narrow-minded Negroes in response to, say, a film about a preacher who takes sexual advantage of some of his (male) parishioners.

    I know blacks like to ignore things (like high blood pressure or Greek hazing), thinking it'll just go away -- but it won't.

  • CareyCarey | July 12, 2011 10:59 AMReply

    OoooWeeee Cynthia, Pandora’s box for sure. After I read your post I couldn't wait to read the comments and had a good idea what the would consist of.

    But you're right, there has been several "Catholic" films (Doubt and Primal Fear comes to mind) that has tackled sensitive subjects such as pastors/priests with roaming eyes, but not many about The Black Church.

    But ol'boy, who would be the target audience?.
    But gossip, infidelity and who’s sleeping with who has always been a big seller, so who knows. Tyler Perry has made a bundle of money on The Black Church.

    But in reference to Eddie Long’s “settlement” , he recently did an interview. He may have paid but he's not admitting any guilt.

    And Steve Harvey had a few comments

  • BoseMac | July 12, 2011 10:57 AMReply

    As a filmmaker it's not something I think I'd touch. Religion is pretty personal and runs deep within each person.

  • saadiyah | July 12, 2011 10:51 AMReply

    My question still stands. I didn't ask if that question about Catholics was posted HERE!

    It's a silly question that would probably not be posed to any other group.

  • misha | July 12, 2011 10:40 AMReply

    Umm, no. I'm more interested in seeing more films about black folk tackling everday issues like love, loss, redemption, etc. Now, if a filmmaker wants to make more films dealing with church issues...fine. But I don't think there should be any obligation to do so.

  • Rasheed | July 12, 2011 10:25 AMReply

    @ Saadiyah

    Shadow and Act isn't a blog dedicated to White films so posing that question to White Catholics would be pointless.

    Why shouldn't Black film explore some of the SERIOUS issues going on right now with these Black mega-churches? Are they somehow above criticism? This would be an opportune time for an expose because so many Black films are being co-produced by these 'institutions'.

    Point of fact, Boyz was successful in at least starting dialogue about what was going on in the inner cities. Whether these conversations were successful is a different conversation.

  • saadiyah | July 12, 2011 10:16 AMReply

    Did you pose a similar question to White Catholics about the rampant pedophilia going on in their Churches?

    Contrary to what the world believes Black people are NOT the only ones that have issues. There are also better ways to deal with social issues than in entertainment. Does that ever work anyway? Did "Boyz n The Hood" cause any serious work to be done around violence in the Black community?

  • Jeremy | July 12, 2011 10:12 AMReply

    very interesting timing. I recently completed my first feature length script (first draft anyways) centered on faith, forgiveness, challenging the perception that after the sermon "they all live happily ever after", and the battles that believers face against those who see them as blind.

Follow Shadow and Act

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • 'Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black ...
  • Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs ...
  • Veronica and Efren Go on a Trip in Divisive ...
  • AAFCA Announces 2015 Special Achievement ...
  • Thankfully, 'The Equalizer' Gets an ...
  • First-Look at Seth Gilliam as Father ...
  • Pioneering Documentary Filmmaker William ...
  • 'The Equalizer' Engages His Adversary ...
  • Unpacking My Locarno Summer Academy ...
  • Powerful Documentary 'The Homestretch' ...