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Sorry, But I Don't Need The New York Times To Tell Me What's Happening In Black Cinema...

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by Tambay A. Obenson
June 3, 2013 12:06 PM
60 Comments
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In the last 24 hours, my various mailboxes (email, Facebook, Twitter) have been flooded with messages alerting me to THIS New York Times piece, titled Coming Soon: A Breakout Year for Black Films, referring to the unusual volume of films by and about people of African descent, scheduled to be released theatrically in 2013.

It's what I refer to as The New York Times' annual "state of black cinema" (broadly speaking) nod, and, each year, for almost as long as I've been running this site, I'm bombarded with messages linking me to whatever it is The Times (or The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, etc) have to say about subject matter that we cover on this site daily, and have been writing about for the last 4 years. 

I'm never sure what exactly my response is supposed to be to these messages, as well as the articles that I'm being alerted to. Is it Jubilation? I'm supposed to be excited about the *acknowledgement* from mainstream papers? Am I to fall all over myself and start singing Negro Spirituals?

There's this euphoria that consumes *us* when these pieces are published, which I don't quite understand - one that contributes to the idea that, for some of *us*, *our* endeavors aren't worthwhile, until formally recognized in some shape or form, by mainstream (read: White) institutions.

So, The New York Times realized that this year will see the once-every-decade occurrence, when more black films backed by studios (as well as a few indies) enter the marketplace. 

So what? Why is this cause for celebration? Especially when I wrote about the same damn thing, right here on this blog, a few weeks ago, earlier this year. But I don't recall seeing that piece shared multiple times on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, or heard about it being forwarded en masse via email. 

Or is it that we only *act* when it's the The New York Times (or Variety, or The Hollywood Reporter)?

Instead of sending me these articles, telling me what I already know, and write about on a daily basis, alert me to new and exciting films and filmmakers you know about, that are coming down the pike, that we haven't covered on this site. Some filmmakers are so damn secretive with their projects that getting the information out of them is like trying to suck an elephant through a straw. But THAT, my friends, is what will get me excited about black cinema and its future - indie black cinema especially - and not some annual write-up from a publication that frankly, ultimately, doesn't really give a shit about black film the way YOU and I do.

Do we still insist on receiving this kind of validation?

Come on people, wake up! In case you haven't noticed, there's a war happening right now (yes, a war), and the control of our images and stories, are what's being fought over. An annual editorial by The Gray Lady (aka The New York Times), or any of the other papers of its ilk, affects little to nothing. As someone who's on the front-lines, the view hasn't changed all that much. One so-called "breakout year" is just that. Check in with me in another 5 years, and let's see where we are - just as I said 4 years ago, when this site was launched, when a similar piece was published in one of the previously-mentioned papers, and many of us felt it signaled the beginning of a black cinema revolution of some sort. 

4 years later, I'm still waiting...

Yes, there've been a few highs here and there, but, little that's constant, or steady enough, that carries over from year to year, indicating real, genuine overall change. 

Call me a cynic, but I groan when I see identifiers like "New Wave" or "Renaissance" in reference to black cinema. We still have a VERY long way to go, and A LOT of work to do (*us* not *them*, because I've long given up waiting for *them* to help *us*) before we achieve anything that resembles parity.

Maybe I wasn't clear enough the last time.

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60 Comments

  • HERNANDO ROJAS | July 7, 2013 11:22 PMReply

    It seems that for European powers,
    an indian follows being an indian
    although he is going in his presidential plane,
    but the empire is still the empire
    although a black is their ruler.
    Faces of the world that we have had to live.
    William Ospina, colombian writer. Julio 7 de 2013. “Diario El Espectador”

  • BillDe | April 9, 2014 4:48 PM

    And why aren't there any Black awards shows?

  • Khadijah | June 21, 2013 2:37 PMReply

    To hell with the nyt. They don't make us. It's about time the times showed some respect to people who represent the genre (since we're still allowing ourselves to labeled). That's you.. Tambay. Shadow and Act I support you 1000 percent. Eff all of these naysayers. @ Jon, I agree with you...we don't treat each other well at all. LeSigh :(

  • Lola Smalls | June 6, 2013 12:14 AMReply

    Hi Tambay,

    Let me tell you about something new. It's a web series and it's called BOOMERANGS. We'd like tons of supporters so that we, too, can contribute to the world of black cinema with shorts and feature length films. Watch it and share with the rest of the Shadow & Act family, please?

    http://youtube.com/maepoppro

  • Almost | June 5, 2013 5:23 PMReply

    You should change the title to "Sorry, But I Don't Need/Want You To Tell Me About The Article From The New York Times Discussing What's Happening In Black Cinema...

  • JEFTCG | June 4, 2013 4:46 PMReply

    Tambay, you are right on point.

  • AFRIEND | June 4, 2013 12:46 PMReply

    This post is beneath you, Tambay. Grow up.

  • WHAT? | June 4, 2013 1:38 PM

    A friend, really? With friends like you, who needs enemies? Why is this post "beneath" Tambay? He merely stated why he didn't need to read e-mails on subjects he's well aware of.

    He also asked for submissions on "subjects" he's not aware.

    What did you read?

  • Jon | June 4, 2013 8:08 AMReply

    The way we dialogue, among ourselves and in relation to "others," is deplorable.

  • Daryl | June 4, 2013 7:59 AMReply

    Black Cinema is changing not because Hollywood decided to do the right thing but technology. Filmmakers no longer need to go to the studio and ask them can they make a film, they can get the film made themsleves and not have to go into the poor house to do it. Hollywood knows the writing is on the wall of them shutting out black films or any films of people of color. They have no choice but to start being inclusive or they going to go out of business or they profit margin is going to take a sharp decline. The black audience has a choice now to see a variety of films by black filmmakers even if the studios are not making enough of them yet, the black indie scene is growing and the audience is starting to check for those films because they want to see different black stories. The Ny Times article is outdated and the whole mindstate of waiting on Hollywood to get your stories told is also. I say to the black filmmakers just keep making your films, the change is here, the only way it doesn't happen or revert back to the way it was if you don't believe you have the power to tell your stories now and the audience believe those stories are not out here because the studios not making them.

  • Black Sun Tzu | June 4, 2013 6:34 AMReply

    Blogs are venues for their writers to share opinions about certain matters. In this case Black Cinema. And what Tambay did was exactly that. I respect his opinion as a cinema expert and as a human being and I know where it comes from, being a reader of S&A and a black player in the film industry. Frankly, I haven't read the NY Times article. Just by reading the tittle of it I KNEW what they were writing about because I've been following the successes and failures of Black Cinema. I certainly congratulate every black filmmaker for their successes in this tough industry, but reading that tittle didn't move me because I know where I stand and I know what needs to be done: Keep on working, regardless of the acclaims. There's A LOT of work to be done and that's all I care about. You are certainly entitled to have your own opinions and to cheer about whatever is published in any kind of media about Black Cinema. But so is Tambay! Keep up the good work, brother. I will always love your honest opinion even when I don't agree with it.

  • Ashunda Norris | June 4, 2013 2:35 AMReply

    Thank you.

  • Ashunda Norris | June 4, 2013 2:35 AMReply

    Thank you.

  • Rel | June 3, 2013 11:37 PMReply

    I tend to agree w/ Tambay, who cares what they think?

  • So many clowns... | June 3, 2013 10:46 PMReply

    Why can't Black folks have any modicum of healthy discourse with varying differences of opinions. Belittling and name calling always ensues: the thirsty trolls hiding behind their ridiculous handles wishing and hoping to one day be relevant enough to be addressed by name. Hateful slave syndrome suffering negroes dragging each other into a pit of misery and mediocrity.

  • T | June 4, 2013 9:38 AM

    That is hardly a "black" issue. It just what happens on internet comments sections. This is actually one of the more tame and intelligent discussion boards that I've seen.

  • Wise | June 3, 2013 10:30 PMReply

    With all due respect, perhaps the "act" ie sharing on social networks, was a matter of discussion about the annual "Black Film Announcements." People who know you, know you do this daily, probably were less interested in the info about the films and are perhaps seeking your commentary (and damn, they sure got it!) on the presentation of the article, the quotes from the filmmakers, etc. How are we missing this opportunity to clown Talbert's "Renaissance" declaration?? Or the obligatory code-switch in the brothers and sisters quoted??

    It's like going to a white school and sitting on the bus joking with the only other black kid about whatever white shit happened that day. I see why you mad, but I dont see the automatic connect to white affirmation seeking (in THIS particular case).

  • BANTA | June 3, 2013 10:01 PMReply

    Bitter much?

  • CC | June 3, 2013 10:00 PMReply

    **WARNING! CUSS WORDS AHEAD**

    Has anyone seen the movie "Death Takes A Holiday"? Okay, hold that thought.

    I read the title of this post and then went straight to the comments. After doing so I thought, "damn, Tambay must have really messed up this time" so I read the post. Damn, to my not-so-surprise, some negros done got the shit twisted, convoluted and all fu*ked up.

    Hey, remember the movie Death Takes a Holiday? Well, death decides to take a holiday from his usual business to see what it is like to be a mortal. So I am thinking, I wish Tambay would take a holiday from his normal well mannered self so he could tell some black folks where they can stick it. I mean, I don't know what some folks read, but I wish Tambay would have replied the voice of early Bernie Mac. It would go something like this...

    "I ain't scared of you mother*ckers. So the next time one of you "need to be validated and formally recognized by White institutions" negros sends me an e-mail linking me to shit about subject matter that we cover on this site daily, and have been writing about for the last 4 years I'm gonna slap the shit out of you. What the fu*k did you expect me to do, start singing Negro Spirituals or run out and kiss the first white person I see?

    Come on people, wake the fu*k up! Who said I give a rat's azz about what they say? Didn't you read my post "Eventually, You Come To Realize & Make Peace With The Fact That They Don't Care About You..."? Shiiiiit, y'all can miss me with that bullsh*t 'cause I don't recall seeing that piece shared multiple times on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, or heard about it being forwarded en masse via email.

    Instead of sending me these articles, telling me what I already know, and write about on a daily basis, teach me how to fuck. THAT, my friends, is what will get me excited. Or alert me to new and exciting films and filmmakers you know about, that are coming down the pike, that we haven't covered on this site. Yeah, call me a cynic, but I've long given up waiting for *them* to help *us* before we achieve anything that resembles parity. So stop sending me those goddamn e-mails because I am not the one" ~ Tambay

  • CELESTE CRAWFORD FROM OAKLAND | June 3, 2013 4:56 PMReply

    A) "there's a war happening right now." - You sound crazy
    B) "as someone on the front lines." - Um, I think the people making actual films and not just blogging about them are the ones on the front lines. Sorry.

  • Steve | June 3, 2013 4:59 PM

    CELESTE CRAWFORD FROM OAKLAND is attention whoring and it is not working. #madbecauseheisignoringyou

  • Carla | June 3, 2013 4:50 PMReply

    You may not, but others do. Why would you disparage an article that big ups so many of our moviemakers? Because you aren't quoted? Because you aren't featured? Shame on you and those who think like you here. Petty minds.

  • Steve | June 3, 2013 4:56 PM

    Bitch go sit down. He wasn't feeling your email. Get over it. Moving on.

  • You Wasn't Mad When | June 3, 2013 4:13 PMReply

    Either of these happened.

    http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/s-as-own-tambay-obenson-profiled-in-the-new-york-times

    http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/new-york-times-profiles-cinematographer-bradford-young

  • katie | June 4, 2013 12:40 AM

    What does that have to do with anything? So now that makes his opinion invalided.? Go sit down.

  • EXACTLY | June 3, 2013 4:27 PM

    You Wasn't Mad: Thank you. EXACTLY!

  • Um No | June 3, 2013 4:19 PM

    Those articles weren't talking about the state of black cinema. Apples and Oranges. Try again because obviously you are another one of the bitch asses that is crying that he rejected your email about the Times.

    You gonna cry too?

  • Roddy Piper | June 3, 2013 4:08 PMReply

    But...you frequently reference the Times. And...you get more than half your info from mainstream sites like Deadline. You sure you don't need them?

  • JaySmack | June 9, 2013 8:22 PM

    Roddy Crack Piper--
    Please calm down, and do some research. Cross-reference the articles on Deadline with the ones Tambay talks about. Not even 10% of the things he blogs are even mentioned, even tangentially, on Deadline.
    Nice attempt though, I know you had to try.

  • EXACTLY | June 3, 2013 4:28 PM

    roddy: EXACTLY!

  • Steve | June 3, 2013 4:18 PM

    Bitch go sit down.

  • Orville | June 3, 2013 3:29 PMReply

    I can be wrong and Tambay can correct me, but I think what this article is saying is there is still this attitude in the black community that we require and need white society's validation in order to be successful, respected ect. And it shouldn't be that way, but subconsciously I think a lot of black people especially in the arts want to "cross over" if you will and reach a white audience. It is kind of sad in a way, that minorities have to "cross over" in order to have wider success. It means that some minority artists have to placate, tone down, or sell out in order to be accepted by white society.

  • Michelle Materre | June 3, 2013 3:24 PMReply

    Hey Tambay! I've been saying the EXACT same thing you did! We've known there were plenty of great black films made by great black filmmakers around for a LONG TIME, on a variety of universal, critically engaged topics! Have they ever received the recognition they deserved? Have they ever had sufficient marketing/p.r. budgets to make it into the "Hollywood" validated festivals, etc.? The answer is NO, but the films and the filmmakers have been out there forever! The validation thing is definitely still our MAJOR problem...and until we "kick that habit" we can FORGET it!!

  • HUH? | June 3, 2013 4:29 PM

    Way off topic.

  • KRIS | June 3, 2013 3:24 PMReply

    Long time reader. Respectfully Mr. Obenson, this is the first thing you've written that makes me question how much you are an actual advocate for Black Films with this blog or how much you are into your ego because this blog.

  • Steve | June 3, 2013 3:59 PM

    Oh shut the hell up Krissy! When has the NY Times or any publication give news about indie black filmmakers? You sound like a failed blogger who is jealous of Tambay and you are using this post to take shots. You are talking out your ass. Saying we need to stop thinking the white man's ice is colder is not ego tripping idiot.

  • ALM | June 3, 2013 3:00 PMReply

    Well, tell us how you really feel.....LOL!!!

  • MINCE | June 3, 2013 2:22 PMReply

    Mad that someone else is writing about black movies. Ain't that about a Tambay.

  • Nadia | June 3, 2013 2:07 PMReply

    Damn! Tambay has dropped 2 bombs in 2 weeks. What's really going on Tambay? Talk to me. Lol

  • al | June 3, 2013 1:20 PMReply

    Don't you guys get it?????????? The NYT article was an alert that it's okay to go see some black films. It was the proverbial "all clear" signal to people who normally don't suport black cinema. Kind of like a dog whistle!!

  • Akimbo | June 3, 2013 1:17 PMReply

    I don't see what the problem is. A larger publication with a wider reach covering black cinema is a win for the featured film makers. At the end of the day, it's really not about you or the NYT, it's about the content and the creators. It's not like the NYT/WSJ/Hollywood Reporter readerships are all white; plenty of black art lovers read those publications and don't read this one. Let's be happy that the information is traveling via multiple avenues and not make it an ego thing.

    Your only response need be "great for [insert projects/artists here]" and keep it moving. Clearly, if someone is sharing the article with you, they know what you do and it would make no sense for them to send you an article from your own site, so...I don't know why you're mad.

  • obi-talker | June 4, 2013 4:41 AM

    Akimbo you by far have the best and most sensible comment on this post. New York times can write what they want to and Tambay does sometimes get angry over what doesn't need no anger. so wat they did a piece, they cud also not hav done any. Tambay your readers appreciate your work and understand what u are doing, you dont need to involve your self when another platform does something close to what you do. I run a site and blog too and sometimes I follow a story and break it first before the other bigger sites but these bigger sites get all the attention even when they sourced it from little me, or I ve bn covering that story for donkey years. I don't get angry when that happens I just see it as the topic I m covering is gettin more attention.

    you need to relax Tambay sometimes you really lose it! and this is one of those moments. Continue your good work though

  • Carl | June 3, 2013 2:01 PM

    Clearly folk like Akimbo and Exactly are EXACTLY whom Tambay is referring to.

    Convicted much? lol

  • EXACTLY | June 3, 2013 1:53 PM

    The mean spirited nature of this post is a little shocking, Tambay. It's just an article sharing facts with people about the upcoming slate of black directed films. Why the hate? For your information, everybody doesn't read or care about shadow and act. And for the MILLIONS around the WORLD who don't, I for one see no problem at all with having a photo of Frutvale Station on page A1 of the moat widely read newspaper in the world. The fact that you do, is the problem.

  • al | June 3, 2013 1:07 PMReply

    Glad it's not just me. Thanks Tambay.

  • GlobalFusionist | June 3, 2013 12:58 PMReply

    AMEN!! Applause! Too many of us don't seem to get these words you have spoken so eloquently in how we prevent our OWN self determination from being recognized as worthy!

  • KRIS | June 3, 2013 3:25 PM

    Huh? You've made no sense whatsoever.

  • JIHUDI | June 3, 2013 12:48 PMReply

    Hear, hear! I glanced at the story and it was my sentiments exactly. Been there, done that.

  • COLE WILEY | June 3, 2013 12:42 PMReply

    Of course black independent filmmakers such as ourselves are very familiar with the state of black cinema, but there are many of our friends and supporters who are not as well-versed. The article was published in one of the most widely read publications on the planet, at the very least it makes sense to share the piece. Once that's done, it's back to making the next crop of projects happen. We all know that these articles and conversations recycle the same themes and topics over and over again, but we must continue to produce and disseminate. That's it and that's all.

  • Jen Jen | June 3, 2013 2:20 PM

    ^^^All of this!

  • Dankwa Brooks | June 3, 2013 1:21 PM

    ^^^What they said^^^

  • Dankwa Brooks | June 3, 2013 12:41 PMReply

    I read the article and this is the thing that stood out the most “I would have to liken this to the Harlem Renaissance,” said David E. Talbert, kind of premature. I don't think we're on THAT level yet.

    Also maybe I too am already super informed about upcoming black cinema, because I already knew about every picture they named. And even seen some if them already. I just shrugged and thought it does have a wide readership. Maybe less informed people will hear about these works.

  • Jen Jen | June 3, 2013 2:19 PM

    Yes, "less-informed people will hear about these works". Isn't that a good thing??? Sorry, not everyone who reads the NYT reads S&A. I enjoy this blog, but I don't follow it every day or read every post--I hadn't even read the blog post that Tambay references in this response. A couple of these projects were news to me--and now I'm totally psyched to see them. PR game. Set. Match. I didn't finish this article with a sense that the NYT was validating this work. Acknowledging it? Definitely. This article probably came from a discussion between Michael Cieply and his intern or black friend who informed him of the existence of these films and filmmakers. And you know what? I don't care. Does it mean that major studios will be investing millions into Ava DuVernay's next film, or suddenly calling David E. Talbert or Ryan Coogler to direct their next superhero flick? Maybe not. But, if it means more eyeballs will be watching any of these movies, and these filmmakers can use that to leverage their next project, I don't see a problem.

  • blah, blah | June 3, 2013 12:24 PMReply

    I read the title and already knew I was going to love this piece.

  • Robert | June 3, 2013 12:22 PMReply

    Get out of my head, Tambay.

  • Nikyatu | June 3, 2013 12:19 PMReply

    Preach. I've gotten so many direct links to this article from (well intentioned) supporters of my work and now I can save my economy of words and simply respond with a link to your spot on response. Thank you.

  • JaySmack | June 9, 2013 8:45 PM

    And you're ignorant.

  • UM | June 3, 2013 1:57 PM

    You're ridiculous.

  • Tryphina | June 3, 2013 12:19 PMReply

    Applause! Applause! Applause! Thank you, Tambay.

  • Jeremiah Jahi | June 3, 2013 12:16 PMReply

    Well said, Tambay. As usual, unless the white media (corporate structure) say it, then it don't mean ish to Black folks. Any person who cares about Black cinema knows that Shadow and Act keeps you well informed.

    Thanks Again

    Jeremiah Jahi

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