I’m pretty sensitive to the social implications of black films. Some of us worked pretty hard to provide means for black voices to speak to their own (and other) issues and audiences. Gone are the days where a white establishment could exploit bug-eyed, stupid, violent stereotypes of blacks. Now blacks do it to themselves, which — forgive me — I see as slight progress.
That’s why I was surprised by this project. Sure, about 3/4’s of it is the same pandering we see everywhere, especially with the women. And most of that is rooted in one of the three overarching film formulas we continue to swallow in films of all sorts: small guy, big guy, small guy’s purity wins.
And we have the smarmy but slick moralising sometimes lathered on: the gangster is really getting his GED; the “white” guy is accepted back into the fold; various relationships turn out to be “normal.” The owner at the last minute doesn’t sell out, even gains converts.
But under it all is a sensitivity to community and history that I found to actually be as pure as the values referenced. It doesn’t occupy much screen time, but because it anchors the relationship of the film to the real world, it transmutes everything we see. Its the reaction of a few men, men we already know by then, to the King riots of years before. In that instant, we see humans not puppets. And we see the whole deal in economical, cinematic terms. Spike Lee, take note… there’s a dignity in this that you’ve never achieved.
Posted in 2004
Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.