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

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act June 3, 2013 at 12:06PM

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.
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Hmm

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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