I am a college student, and this semester (the first of my sophomore year) I am taking the first of many major-related courses. Among those are Intro to Film and African American Cinema. My first few weeks in these classes (that I take back to back) I was flooded with multiple films to watch, names of directors and actors and film eras, and an ocean of technical terms I had never heard of before. Immersed in a foreign world, I tried my hardest to push against the pressure and swim to the top to catch my breath. Now that I’m steadily floating along, all those names and terms that used to be bitter and sour in my mouth now are the sweetest. I give myself cavities talking so much about film.
My two courses, taught by the same professor, are like two Build-a-Bears. They are both different on the outside, one dressed in Red Carpet garb and the other in shorts and an afro, yet their center, their foundations are the same; they were both crafted with the same stuffing and thread.
In the beginning of Intro to film I was BORED OUT OF MY MIND. Our second assigned film was Orson Well’s Citizen Kane. This film innovated the basics and is arguably the best film ever made… at least that’s what my professor said. I am not refuting her point, I agree that the editing and cinematography was a revolution for its time and I do think that we (I and my classmates) as film scholars should have seen it, but I was not washed over by the story (which is probably why I could disconnect from immersion and pay attention to the characteristics of the shot) and I know it’s silly, but I prefer films in color. Yes, there are instances when shooting something in black in white is significant, but I love color. I love manipulating color, matching colors, mixing colors, dying colors, printing colors, dulling colors, enhancing color, washing colors… We live in color and I like to use it as an expression, as did our third assigned film, Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. The plays with tints and contrasts really stood out to me, just as Jane Campion’s The Piano. These two are my favorites of the class and inspired me to really start playing with color. I work for my schools broadcasting team in the sports department and I took some of the game footage, slowed it down and just added different tints and hues and stresses to see what it looked like. Of course, my producer was a little confused when all the players ended up as black pixilated blobs and the sky was purple, but I came up with a few ideas for future scripts that will revolve around the color. I want color to act as one of the characters, like in Coen Brother’s O’ Brother Where Art Thou. I want the audience to be able to feel it.
Through my African American Cinema class, I have come to more understand a culture as a whole and the film expression of that culture. Years and years of oppression both in society and art, a whole people have fought and are still fighting for “freedom.” My journey through this class will continue to be a soul touching one. We spent time with the notorious racist and film mastermind D.W. Griffith, we listened to Micheaux’s rebuttal, watched some of the significant films from the offensive Blaxploitation era, and are finally at black independent cinema. The film introducing this topic was Haile Gerima’s Sankofa. This film cannot be found anywhere legally and it costs around $300 to buy from Mypheduh Films (the production and distribution center). I have never seen anything like it; it is a calling to the African American Culture to wake up (from the Blaxploitation) and find peace and find yourself in your roots. It is not a black movie made for white people, nor is it a black movie made for a black audience yet also calling to whites for pity or guilt. The political message is not drowned out with guns and sex, but embedded in the heart of the film. This film is so unique in its story, its brutal yet accurate portrayal and editing and in its message alone. This film was an inspiration; it is the only film so far in the semester that I felt had something real to say. Funny isn’t it, how the most touching, the most inspirational, and the most “real” film is the one that can’t be found for viewing? Along with my desire for palpable color in film, is my need to make something so real, something that speaks—a revealing of a truth unspoken.
As I continue to sit in class day after day (well, every Tuesday and Thursday) I find myself either birthing new ideas, or relating what I learn to my previous film projects. I try so hard to be inspired. I go walking trying to be encountered by something groundbreaking, I research different music, different painters, and different artisans looking for a spark I can turn into fire. I pressure myself into finding inspiration, and I wonder why I’m having a hard time. Inspiration doesn’t come from thin air, like I and many others think; sometimes inspiration can come from the most obvious places, like school, or a film class for that matter.