In This Political Season, A Film Portrait of East Coast, White Working Class Racial Identity


Critic A.O. Scott take a while to get around to it in yesterday’s New York Times, but towards the end of his review he writes: “The movie takes up, indirectly and perhaps inadvertently but powerfully and unmistakably, a subject that has lately reinserted itself into American political discourse. It’s a movie, that is, about the sorrows of white men.” Of the film’s main character, Lee Chandler (played by Casey Affleck),  a Boston apartment building janitor who was born in a Bay State seaside town, Scott surmises: “Cast out of this working man’s paradise, Lee is also exiled from the prerogatives of whiteness.  . . .to deny that Manchester By the Sea has a racial dimension is to underestimate its honesty and overlook its difficult relevance.”

Sounds like critical race visual cultural studies is in yet another the critical conversation.

A.O. Scott, “Currents of Grief Beneath Everyday Life–Film Review,” New York Times, November 19, 2016, Weekend Arts Section I, 1, 12.




On Race-casting

richard-lund-hollywood-sign-at-nightImage from Filmathon–For the Love of Films

The ethno-racial look always informs the casting decision, from Bourne and Bond to Eliza Doolittle, Evita, M. Butterfly, Nina…and so on.

Yesterday, in the Guardian, film writer Ben Child wrote a blunt critique of “yellow-casting.” Child makes many good points. But a word (i.e., warning) to the reader: this op-ed is not for the faint of heart. Child’s piece is, as they say on sports radio, “real talk.”

And, if you wanna get really riled up, see Britt Julious’s op-ed from last year.

Filmmakers Cheryl Dunye & Dee Rees @San Francisco State University (Sept. 23-24, 2016)


Portrait of Cheryl Dunye (


Black/Feminist/Lesbian/Queer/Trans* Cultural Production: A Symposium Honoring the 20th Anniversary of Cheryl Dunye’s “The Watermelon Woman”

This symposium honors the 20th anniversary of Cheryl Dunye’s film, “The Watermelon Woman” (1996). The first feature film directed by and starring a black lesbian, the production of this film marked a watershed moment for black cinema, feminist cinema, lesbian cinema, and new queer cinema. Appearing in the heyday of what filmmaker and scholar Yvonne Welbon has called the “golden age” of black queer cinema, the film garnered widespread critical acclaim, and its success inspired many black lesbians to create their own films in the years following. Her latest release, “Black is Blue” (2014) is a critically acclaimed narrative short film that follows the life of a black transgender man in Oakland, California. Dunye continues to break ground through complex filmic representations of the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality. Thus, this conference honors Dunye’s growing body of work, as well as her cultural legacy.


Photo of Dee Rees (

Dee Rees will be in conversation with Cheryl Dunye on Fri., Sept. 23, 2016 @7 p.m. Pacific Time at McKenna Theatre, Creative Arts Building, SFSU.

The Conference, sponsored by The College of Health and Social Sciences, Center for Research and Education on Gender and Sexuality, Dean of the College of Health and Social Sciences, Dean of the College of Creative and Liberal Arts, Jamie and Phyllis Pasker Funds, Queer Cinema Institute at San Francisco State University, Watermelon Woman 3.0, and Black Sexual Economies Working Group (Washington University-St. Louis), is free and open to the public.

For more information on the symposium, please go to: Watermelon Woman Anniversary Symposium

On Cheryl Dunye’s Watermelon Woman: The Watermelon Woman

On Dee Rees, see: Dee Rees at IMDB.COM

Watch and learn: the hidden messages in children’s movies

Ever suspected Frozen was more than a simple singalong? Have the false promises of Emerald City ever rung alarm bells? Here are nine family flicks that have been mined for underlying meaning

See ‘s article in The Guardian, Jul. 13, 2016.

The world of “Tarzan” and ours

In a searching review from yesterday’s The New York Times, critic Manohla Darghis writes in the concluding paragraph:

“Part of Tarzan’s appeal–at least to some–is that he inhabits a world that resembles ours, but without the unsettling distractions of real suffering. It’s become trickier for pop entertainments to gloss over historical traumas, which may be why so many modern colonial struggles involve deep space or an alien invasion. Perhaps it’s easier to rewrite history through futuristic fictions, where worlds can collide before everyone moves on. . .”

I wish Dargis had written more about the intersection of contemporary Hollywood’s vision with Tarzan’s creator Edgar Rice Burroughs’, and about why the blond, muddied, bare chested Alexander Skarsgard (in the role of Tarzan), is a called-for element of our twenty-first century visual culture. Utterly fictive images of transcendent white masculinity have to written, consumed, and rewritten, I guess. . .


“Tarzan has always had bad optics–white hero, black land–to state the excessively, obvious,” quips Dargis.

No kidding, and suddenly Hollywood gets it, too!

If only this was a case of better late than never. . .


HIDDEN FIGURES and the genre of “race” film

Taraji P. Henson’s question at the end of this preview feature piece, “Rocket Science, Race and the ’60s,” published in today’s Times is provocative:

“I hate when I do a film, and it has a lot of African-Americans and they call it a black film,” Ms. Henson said. “I don’t wake up and go, ‘Let’s see, this weekend, I’m going to see a Chinese film, I’m going to see a black film, no I’m going to see a while film with a black person in it.’ Who does that?”

(Hmmm, everyone.)

Cara Buckley, “Rocket Science, Race and the 60s: ‘Hidden Figures’ Lifts the Veil on NASA’s Female Scientists” 

New Book: “Horrofílmico—Aproximaciones al cine de terror en Latinoamérica y el Caribe”

Repeating Islands


Horrofílmico: Aproximaciones al cine de terror en Latinoamérica y el Caribe (San Juan: Isla Negra Editores, 2012), the first collection of essays on the horror film genre in Latin America and the Caribbean edited by  Rosana Díaz-Zambrana and Patricia Tomé.

Description: Horrofílmic presents different approaches to the horror genre in essays that are widely varied both geographically and methodologically. The anthology includes 22 essays and panoramic comparative accounts on the genre, presenting nationally or transcontinental geopolitical readings on historical events and socio-economic contexts; the use of parody in re-adaptation of foreign iconographic traditions; the cult film and its interconnection with so-called “disposable” formulas; and cinematic implications arising from consumer practices in the digital age.

The contributors are: Fernando Pagnoni Berns, Pedro Cabiya, Jorge González del Pozo, Jonathan Risner, Laura Canepa, Ignacio M. Sánchez Prado, Carlos Primati, Alfredo Suppia, Lúcio Reis Filho, Gabriel Andrés Eljaiek Rodríguez, Nadina Olmedo, Gabriela Alemán, Rosana…

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Discovery Channel’s Africa

Africa is a Country (Old Site)

The Discovery Channel and the BBC have joined forces to produce a new seven part series entitled, Africa. The series is four years in the making and brings together stunning footage of the landscapes and animals within the continent. The first episode focuses on the Kalahari Desert, while later ones will capture the wildlife in others regions spread throughout Southern, Central, Eastern and Northern Africa, with later episodes titled (you’ve guessed it), “the Congo”, “the Cape” and “the Sahara.”

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A Tribute to Puerto Rican Cinema in Cuba

Repeating Islands

cinePLeslie Salgado Arzuaga writes about the recent tribute to Puerto Rican cinema in the recent 34th edition of the New Latin American Cinema Festival [Festival de Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano] in Havana, Cuba. The festival took place from December 4-14, 2012 [also see previous post 34th Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana].Here is a summary and rough translation of the
original review.

This 34th edition was dedicated to 100 years of Puerto Rican cinema. The tribute was expressed not only through a scheduled retrospective but also in academic seminars such as Puentes y más Puentes Latinos en USA [Bridges and More Latino Bridges in the United States].

[. . .] A year ago, the 33rd edition of the Festival had brought to the Cuban capital the Puerto Rican film El clown. Those who enjoyed this film by Pedro Adorno and Emilio Rodríguez could not imagine…

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New film: London art in the Jazz Age 1919-1939

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Drawing over the Colour Line: Geographies of art and cosmopolitan politics in London, 1919 - 1939

Visit UCL’s  youtube channel to watch our new short film discussing the project. The film focuses on art and the Black presence in Bloomsbury and highlights some of the artwork created by Slade School of Fine Art students during the interwar period.

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