Breaking Brooklyn

Release Date:   12/1/17; In Theaters
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  PG-13
Director:  Paul Becker
Studio:   Opposite Field Pictures
Cast:  Louis Gossett, Jr. (Miles Bryant), Vondie Curtis-Hall (Greg Bryant), Nathan Kress (Albee Davis), Jack Noseworthy (Christian), Brian Tarantina (Randy Davis).

Story:  A homeless young dancer and his brother are taken in by an old Broadway showman when their father is arrested.  When one of the young men learns that their new guardian could lose his theatre, they enter a dance contest to save it.  Source:  Screendaily.

Trailer:

King Of The Dancehall

king-of-the-dancehallRelease Date:  9/11/16; Toronto International Film Festival
Genre:   Drama/Music
Rating:  NR
Running Time:  100 mins.
Director:  Nick Cannon
Cast:  Nick Cannon (Tarzan Brixton), Donovan ‘Dada’ Davidson (Colin Harper), Whoopi Goldberg (Loretta Brixton), Louis Gossett, Jr. (The Bishop), Beenie Man, Busta Rhymes (Allestar ‘All Star Toasta’).

Story:   Nick Cannon’s feature film musical centers on a young man from Brooklyn named Tarzan (Cannon) who hatches a plan centered on marijuana to pay for his mother’s medical bills.  Tarzan travels to Jamaica where he meets up with his cousin (Busta Rhymes) and falls into the Jamaican dancehall music scene.  The fast-paced soundtrack includes Beenie Man, who also narrates the film.  Dancehall is a love letter to Jamaican music complemented with amazingly choreographed dance sequences that amount to physical poetry.  Source(s):  Indiewire; IMDB.

 

The Other Side

Release Date:  8/1/18
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  TV-MA
Running Time:  138 mins.
Director:   Warren Pemberton
Studio:  The Other Side Productions, Soul Rebel Entertainment, Usman Sharif Productions

Cast:   Erica Hubbard (Gemma), Brad James (Allen), Altovise Lawrence (Kiya), Miguel A. Núñez, Jr. (Tobias), Roger Guenveur Smith (Martin), Cocoa Brown (Wedding Planner).

Story:  When Gem decided to invite her long-lost friend to be the Maid of Honor in her wedding, Allen, her fiancé, had no clue he’d be meeting Kiya, a wildly outspoken lesbian novelist.  Though an aspiring writer himself, Allen finds not a friend in his new house-guest, but a rival for Gem’s attention.  Eventually, the soon-to-be husband discovers there’s a lot more to the story than his fiancée explained.  Source:  theotherside-movie (Official Site).

Trailer:

For The Love of Ruth

For The Love of Ruth

Release Date:  5/9/15 (TV One)
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  NR
Studio(s):  Swirl Films
Running Time:  Unknown
Director:  Christine Swanson

Cast:  Denise Boutté (Ruth), Gary Dourdan (Braxton), Loretta Devine (Naomi Marachond), James Pickens, Jr. (Stephen).

Story:  Inspired by the biblical story, For The Love of Ruth follows the journey of Ruth Sommerling (Boutté), who, orphaned as a child and currently residing in a women’s shelter has lived a life filled with pain and disappointment. In rapid succession, Ruth marries Nicholas Marachond, but a dreadful accident leaves her widowed. Refusing to abandon the new family ties she’s formed, Ruth develops a close bond with Naomi Marachond (Devine). As the matriarch of the Marachond family, Naomi introduces Ruth to the fullness that a life filled with faith and loyalty presents. However, Naomi’s brother-in-law Stephen (Pickens, Jr.) discourages this connection and voices his suspicion of Ruth’s intentions. Ultimately, the love she desired all her life is found in Naomi’s reclusive cousin, Braxton (Dourdan) who despite objections from others showers Ruth with an outpouring of love and kindness. Source: TV One.

Trailer:

The Black Horror Genre

Movies are a powerful tool for manipulating facts, information and images that often affect people’s perceptions, beliefs and mental attitudes toward the subject presented. Throughout the history of motion pictures, horror films, like many other movie genres have revealed, through representations, perceptions of Blacks and Black cultural themes, as well as have contributed to and reflected sociopolitical issues. Early portrayals of African-Americans in films could be considered a low level form of horror because on-screen presentations of Blacks, although not intended to terrify or frighten in the classic sense, did promote stereotypical caricatures which cautioned Whites against a particular race of people that they should be afraid of.

HollaThe horror film genre, as defined by Isabel Christina Pinedo in Recreational Terror: Women and the Pleasure of Horror Film Viewing, is composed of the following elements: (1) it disrupts the everyday world; (2) it transgresses and violates boundaries, (3) it upsets the validity of rationality; (4) it resists narrative closure and (5) it works to evoke fear. Another hallmark of the genre is its complexity. Horror films can provide the most spirited, daring, emotional, fantastic and imaginative narratives but can also feature plots depicting shocking, abhorrent, and unspeakable violence. Physical and emotional violence are often central to the horror film and the genre’s reliance on violence as a key narrative device cannot be overlooked.

The horror film is fascinating because it embraces the unthinkable, while also challenging our ideals of good and evil, depravity and innocence, the divine and the profane. It is one of the most provocative forms of entertainment in its scrutiny of our humanity and our social world.

The Black horror genre is comprised of two categories: Blacks in horror films and Black horror films.

I am Legend“Blacks in horror” films present Blacks and Blackness in the context of horror, even if the film is not wholly or substantially focused on either one. Such films have historically and typically been produced by major studios for mainstream consumption. Many of these films tend to provoke a consensus of what defines horror films – the disruption of the audience’s notions of rational, fear-free, everyday life. These films have also contributed to debates regarding not only Blackness, but also its proximity to interpretations of what is horrifying and where it is embodied. Examples include Night of the Living Dead (1968), Vampira (1974), The People Under the Stairs (1991), I Am Legend (2007).

Street Tales of Terror“Black Horror” films on the other hand are often “race” films. That is they have an added narrative focus that calls attention to racial identity – Black culture, history, ideologies, experiences, politics, language, humor, aesthetics, style, music and the like. Blacks may appear in all manner of horror films, but the films themselves may not be Black per se, in their relation to filmmaker, audience, or the experiences they present. Black horror films have one or more of the following elements: a Black producer, writer, and/or director; an all-Black or predominantly Black cast; hails a Black audience; draws on notions of African-American culture – such as Black vernacular, music, style, urban locations and other aesthetics.  Films like Son of Ingagi (1940), J.D.’s Revenge (1976), Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), Street Tales of Terror (2004) are included in this category.

Together, “Blacks in horror” films and “Black horror” films offer an opportunity for an examination of how race, racial identities and race relationships are constructed and depicted.

What is not included in the Black horror genre are films that do not provide significant insight into the legacy of Blackness’ relationship to the horrifying. Films where Black characters are incidental or token and where a commentary on Blackness – except to say that it has fleeting relevance – is absent. Such films are those in which Blacks are relegated to the status of victims, sidekicks or largely undeveloped characters.

The history of the Black horror genre begins with silent films. Early films, most featuring White actors in blackface, could be interpreted as horror with their depiction of violent physical and psychological attacks against Blacks. These films reflected the sensibilities of the time and presented destructive and biased views of racial hierarchy and White supremacy. The 1915 film The Birth of a Nation offered one of the most insidious and long-lasting stereotypes of Blacks as unintelligent, vicious beasts. It is believed that the film was used as a recruiting tool for the Ku Klux Klan and as such the societal impact of “on-screen” horror provided inspiration for countless “real-life” horrors. Birth of a Nation 4While many Whites were trying to escape the fictitious on-screen dangers of the ferocious Black masses rising up against them, outside the movie theater, Blacks were actually dying from the factual horrors of being lynched, shot, dragged, raped, beaten, castrated and burned by White supremacy groups like the KKK and other enthused racists who bought into that film’s hate inciting message. It is one thing to be vicariously thrilled or horrified by some gruesome act happening to someone else on the movie screen knowing that the actor eventually washes off the fake blood and goes home, and another to actually experience the horrific and gruesome event in real life with no director to yell “cut.”

Eventually horror films made the transition to portraying Blacks as a symbol of evil by “exoticizing” and distorting African and Haitian folkways and religions, such as the character of the wicked voodoo practitioner in films such as I Walked with a Zombie (1943) or as partially clothed “natives” in films like King Kong (1933) and White Pongo (1945). I Walked with A ZombieThis in turn gave way to an era of characterizing Blacks as comic relief, as a people to be dismissively laughed at and ridiculed. This perception of Blacks as portrayed in mainstream films, is perhaps the most damaging contribution to White society’s image of African-Americans, as there were no contrasting positive images to provide balance. Hollywood films of that time relegated Blacks to subservient characters such as butlers, maids and chauffeurs or they appeared on the screen simply to entertain as stereotypical coons and buffoons. The famous actor Willie “Sleep ‘n’ Eat” Best flapped his lips in a series of spooky Hollywood films while other established funnymen such as Eddie Anderson and Mantan Moreland also became well known for their ability to bug their eyes and shake at the knees in times of panic and fear.

Mantan Moreland

For a much broader spectrum of on-screen images and to counteract Hollywood’s representation of Blacks, films which starred Black actors and featured Black stories, known as “all-Black cast” or “race” movies, began to appear in earnest. Race films were first introduced as early as 1916 by Black filmmakers in response to the negative and racist depictions presented in The Birth of a Nation. With the increase in the production of race films, whether Black produced or otherwise, came the introduction and promotion of a variety of diverse images, presenting complex, multidimensional characters, as well as a broad range of narratives, including fright-films. Among the approximately forty movies made by pioneering filmmaker, Oscar Micheaux, at least three were silent fright-films which more loosely resemble the horror genre of today. Another Black filmmaker who contributed to the genre, was popular actor Spencer Williams, Jr. who wrote and directed a string of movies in the 1940’s that included the horror tale Son of Ingagi (1940). In all-Black cast films, each character, the good and the bad, were all representative of a complete darker hued world that actually reflected real life, but was seldom seen on the silver screen.

In the 1950s when the race film era began to die out, African-Americans were once again virtually ignored by Hollywood. The 1950s and ‘60s saw Hollywood shift its attention from menacing creatures and supernatural evils to technological calamities. The Atomic Age brought terrifying themes of how science and technology can go horribly awry when left unchecked. As Americans found laboratories, space travel and technological advances to be the stuff of nightmares, Hollywood deemed intellectual and inventive achievement out of reach for Blacks and as a result, the appearance of Black characters in horror films were virtually non-existent.

Ben - Night of the Living DeadHowever, in 1968 Blacks returned to the genre courtesy of George Romero’s cult-classic, Night of the Living Dead, a zombie movie the likes of which had not been seen before and which has been copied thousands of times since. In addition to its’ being credited as revolutionizing the zombie subgenre in horror, at the time is was released it directly and overtly addressed America’s social problems and racial climate. To the shock and pleasant surprise of Black audiences, the film featured a complex Black male in a starring role. The character of Ben, played by Duane Jones, was not only allowed to survive through a night of terror in which the dead returned to life to eat the living, but also competently took charge of a horrific situation in a film in which the rest of the cast was composed of White actors. Although in the end, the picture did not stray from the established trend of the demise of the Black character, for the time, Ben was a rare and controversial commodity.

The 1970’s ushered in a new generation of movies which reflected racial pride and social awareness. The Blaxploitation era not only gave movie goers gritty urban street dramas like Shaft (1971) and Superfly (1972), but it also saw the birth of several Black themed interpretations of classic horror tales such as Blacula (1972), Blackenstein (1973) and Dr. Black & Mr. Hyde (1976). Horror films produced during this time frequently advanced the notion of Black empowerment through violent revolution while simultaneously presenting anti-establishment narratives. As this period of on-screen afro-enlightenment faded, the doors of mainstream horror slowly began to open.

Blacula

The next decade saw a marked decline of the Black Power-inspired film themes seen in the 1970s. In the ‘80s, Blacks were often featured as secondary characters in “buddy” or supporting relationships with Whites. Such portrayals were also found in “Blacks in horror” films. These characters often displayed a value system of loyalty that was generally disproportionate and unilateral (i.e. the Dick Hallorann character in The Shining). In addition, many films during this period moved White monsters and prey to locales often viewed as inaccessible to Blacks. These included suburban or rural settings such as Elm Street (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Haddonfield, Illinois (Halloween) and Camp Crystal Lake (Friday the 13th).

Djimon Honsou, Deep Rising

 

Lastly, this period is also considered by many as the pinnacle of Hollywood’s “kill a negro” or “kill a nigga” phase. Not only were the vast majority of Black characters in horror movies killed off, they were most often among the first to die.

 

The 1980s was a time when there were very few independent Black films being produced in the genre. But in the ‘90s things began to change dramatically with a force that had not been seen since the Blaxploitation era. Several horror films were being made by African-Americans including Def by Temptation (1990), Tales from the Crypt: Demon Night (1995), Embalmer (1996), and Beloved (1998). The 1990’s hailed the return of “Black horror” movies defined by the reintroduction and recognition of fully realized characters and themes, representing a new generation of race films. Black horror films in the 1990s also offered a reversal of racial majority/minority roles. In these films, there is often a self-consciousness in the narrative that makes it clear that the disruption and reversal of type is purposeful – part retribution, part redemption (i.e. Tales from the Hood). Films of this era additionally presented the battle of good and evil as being played out within the confines of predominantly Black, lower and/or working-class urban communities.

BonesThe new millennium saw an onslaught of “Black horror” films inspired by hip-hop culture and many featured hip-hop artists in leading roles. These films continue to present an allegiance to the ‘hood as seen in the 1990s. However in the 2000s, an explicit rationale for such a geographical focus is the historical and aesthetic credibility such places promise and are often set, to a hip-hop beat. There is an abundance of “Black horror” films during this period, some of which evidence great imagination and creativity and others great mediocrity, due to the proliferation of underground and low-budget films produced for the expanding straight-to-video market.

In the years that have followed, more and more Blacks have appeared in horror films, whether they are the first to die or not. The popular and financially lucrative horror film franchise Scary Movie introduced by the Wayans brothers has added to the broad range of the genre. The straight-to-video market has a mass of Black horror titles to choose from with varying degrees of fear, quality and production budgets. With advancing technology that makes film production more affordable to the masses and internet screening outlets such as You Tube and Video-on-Demand, many more Black people will die horrible deaths in horror films to come, but many will also triumph over evil and survive to see another day.

A Haunted House 2

See Black Cinema Databank – Black Horror Filmography for a complete listing. (Note: this listing does not include Blacks in horror titles).

This post is based on the book: Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present by Robin R. Means Coleman.  Photo Source(s):  Aveleyman.com, Zombicon, Scene Stealer, The Weekly Ansible, IGN, IMDB, Rogerebert.com, Screen Rant, Calvacade of Shock, Blackhorrormovies.com

 

Basketball Girlfriend

Basketball GirlfriendRelease Date:  6/24/14; Direct-to-video
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  NR
Running Time:  75 mins.
Studio:  Nu-Lite Entertainment; eOne Entertainment
Director:  Jean-Claude La Marre
Cast:  Eurika Pratts (Carmen Johnson), Miguel A. Núñez, Jr. (Mr. Murray), Ernest Dancy   (Tyrone), Ernest Thomas (Lenny), Kristian Bernard (Blak), Jean-Claude La Marre (The Hatian).
Story:  Tyrone is one of the top college basketball stars in the country, but when his brother is released from prison he begins to feel the pressure of going back to hustling drugs on the street. Tyrone’s coach hopes to set his talented player straight by introducing him to Carmen. Carmen is a beautiful tutor, who in a tragic twist of fate turns out to be the sister of a rival drug lord. (Source: promotional material, IMDB).

Trailer:  Coming soon

TWO GUN MAN FROM HARLEM

Poster

 THE HARLEM BAD-MAN GOES WEST!

Details
Year of Release: 1938
Genre: Western
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 66 mins.
Black & White
Studio: Merit Pictures
Producer: Richard C. Kahn & Alfred N. Sack
Director: Richard C. Kahn

Cast
Herbert Jeffrey a/k/a Herb Jeffries (Bob Blake/The Deacon)
Margaret Whitten (Sally Thompson)
Clarence Brooks (John Barker)
Mantan Moreland (Bill)
Matthew ‘Stymie’ Beard (Jimmy Thompson)
Spencer Williams, Jr. (Butch Carter)
Mae Turner (Ruth Steel)
Jesse Lee Brooks (The Sheriff)
Rosalie Lincoln (Dolores)
Tom Southern (John Steel)
The Cats and the Fiddle The Four Tones

Synopsis

After hanging out with friends and later spending time with pretty Sally Thompson and her talkative young brother Jimmy, Bob Blake returns to John Steel’s Wyoming ranch, where he works as a cowboy.

Bob Blake

At the ranch, Bob discovers that Steel has been murdered by a man with whom his wife Ruth was having an affair, and whom she refuses to name.  As Bob inspects the body, Ruth substitutes her lover’s gun with Bob’s, and Bob subsequently is accused of the crime by the sheriff.  During the sheriff’s interrogation, Bob’s friend Bill, the ranch cook, turns off the lights, Bob hides, and the sheriff, believing that Bob has escaped, rides off with his men.

Once alone with Bob, Ruth confesses to framing him and insists that he leave the area to avoid arrest.

Ruth tells Bob to leave townBob hitchhikes across the country and eventually arrives in Harlem, where he meets a man known as The Deacon, a killer who was once a preacher and who Bob greatly resembles.

Bob meets the DeaconBob gets the idea to assume a new identity and return to Wyoming disguised as a church elder in order to clear his name.  Bob, now known as The Deacon, allies himself with Butch Carter.  Carter, a miner who has been paid by the well-to-do John Barker, to kidnap and murder Ruth as she knows that Barker killed her husband.

Carter rides to Sally’s ranch, where he forces himself on her.  Bob, who has been told by Jimmy that Sally is being pressured into marrying Barker to avoid foreclosure on their father’s ranch, saves Sally from Carter’s advances.Bob makes Butch pay Sally

Bob cleverly cons Carter into paying Sally two thousand dollars, which she happily gives to Barker to pay off her father’s loan.Sally pays BarkerSoon after, Bob fights with Barker and confers with an angry Ruth, who has been locked in a shed by Carter.  While Jimmy rushes to find the sheriff at Bob’s request, Barker and Carter plot to get rid of The Deacon.  They converge on the old mine where Bob has taken Sally for protection.  While Bob fights with Barker, Bill uses his trusty frying pan to save his friend from Barker’s hired gunman.

Bill saves Bob 2Just as the sheriff arrives, Bob overwhelms Barker and takes the lawman to Ruth, who finally exposes Barker as her husband’s killer.  Bob’s true identity is revealed and he leaves with a smitten Sally.

Sally learns that The Deacon is Bob

Source(s):  Turner Classic Movies; YouTube.