10 Years Strong

When I first started the blog back in September of 2011, the world was a much different place. Streaming was still a relatively new phenomenon, cord cutting hadn’t reached its apex yet, HBO was only available via a cable subscription, and a then unknown filmmaker created a hit web series sensation called ‘Awkward Black Girl.’

Obliviously much has changed since that time. The streamers are now king and too numerous to name, superhero movies are even more ubiquitous, and movie theaters are still struggling as the world has the world has dealt with the worst pandemic we’ve seen on a global scale in 100 years. I too have changed as I’m now in film school and a little more than a semester away from graduation. I still remain committed to telling stories that educate, entertain and enlighten. I’m learning the skills of just how to do that effectively via school.

For those of you reading this, thank you. I have not been active as I’ve been busy with work/school/life, but let’s keep this thing going. Till next time and happy New Year to you and yours.

Shot in October 2021 on the last day of my thesis film

When the Curtains Closed for Good: Movie Theaters on the Brink in the Age of Covid-19

A few years ago I went to see a matinee movie for my birthday and was looking at the previews that run before the showing of the film. I was struck by one message in particular. In it, an actor is sitting in a chair starring directly at the camera and says something along the lines of “Thanks for coming out to the theater today to see a film as it’s meant to be seen.” It was clear that this was more than just a subtle shot at the streaming networks, but also an emphasis that nothing could quite match the experience of seeing a film on the big screen. So far in 2020, the streaming platforms are flourishing and the theater industry is on its knees experiencing perhaps its greatest threat in recent memory.


Teaneck Cinemas in Teaneck, NJ. Winter 2017.

First, a bit of perspective. As rough as a period this has been for movie theaters, it’s been equally hard for the travel/hospitality industry, event shows, and the media industry in general. However, it’s important to remember the human cost in all of this. As of this writing, more than 92,000 people have lost their lives due to the Coronavirus here in the United States and more than a million have been infected. My heart goes out to all those who have been personally affected whether through a loved one or a friend, and not to mention the countless healthcare providers and those essential workers who we too often forget about until we need them.

The Coronavirus didn’t become real for most Americans until mid-March. There’s a line of demarcation after the second week of March when we were all travelling around freely, to within a matter of days, witnessing society shut down in ways none of us had ever been accustomed to. With restaurants and events being canceled left and right, suddenly going to the movies was no longer an option. Films that were going to be released in the ensuing weeks and months like the latest James Bond film, were either pushed back to later in the year, or in the case of the Fast and the Furious, dropped from a 2020 release all together.

Films that decided not to push back their release dates, opted for a new strategy: direct to consumer via the streaming platforms. The film “Trolls World Tour” did this, sparking a direct backlash for the movie theater industry. It’s easy to see the potential snowball effect: studios bypass the traditional theaters in lieu of the streaming platforms, or just have consumers pay for the film upfront, in which they render the theaters obsolete. It’s worth noting however, that for a film to be considered for the Academy Awards, it must be shown in a theater setting, though that rule has been waived this year due to the Coronavirus.

As a filmmaker and someone who enjoys going to movies, these are uncertain times to say the least. The theater model is clearly feeling threatened in ways it hasn’t been before. However, I still believe that there’s no better way to see a film than at the theater. Between the huge screen, surround sound, and darkened environment, it’s very hard for most people to replicate that specific environment in their homes. Also, the communal feel of watching a scary movie together or a comedy, and everyone laughing at the same joke, is an experience unique to theaters. Who knows when we’ll be able to have those experiences again.

My 2018 Films of The Year

I don’t get to watch movies as much as I would like to these days. When I first really got into film and the power of cinema, I was 15 and had oodles of time on my hands. Get home from school and as soon as I finished my homework, I had the rest of that afternoon/evening to watch whatever I liked. Those were the days. Well, fast forward 15+ years and while my time isn’t nearly as bountiful as it once was, I still did get to see some quality films this year. Here were my top 3 in no particular order.


This film, which was directed by academy award winner Alfonso Cuarón, tells the story of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) and her relationship to the family with whom she works for as maid during 1970s Mexico. We see the world through not only her work, but her relationships with the individual children within the family, the matriarch Sra. Sofia, and her own strained relationship with her boyfriend. The cinematography in this film is probably the best I’ve seen all year and I like how multiple narratives are woven together. Not everything is as it seems with the family Cleo works for and in the midst of all this, we see glances of a revolution taking place in the streets. Roma is currently streaming on Netflix.




Spike Lee did an amazing job with this film. Based off the true story of Ron Stallworth who in the 1970s became the first black police officer in Colorado Springs, BlacKKKlansman tells the story of how Ron and his white partner took down a local Ku Klux Klan chapter. The film which stars Adam Driver as Ron’s partner Flip, delves into the relationship of these two men within the confines of a police force, while simultaneously trying to take down the Klan. Oh, and it should be noted, Ron really did trick David Duke and the KKK into believing he was a white man via his on the phone demeanor and his partner Flip was his white stand in. Spike did a good job of not making this seem like a hackneyed black-white buddy cop picture. The ending really did have me invested and Spike had some well placed cameos in the film as well.




The city of Oakland really had its day in the cinematic sunshine in 2018. Between Black Panther, Sorry to Bother You, and now Blindspotting, all three films prominently featured Oakland in their story lines.

In Blindspotting we see Colin (Daveed Diggs), a man who has 3 days left on probation and is trying to stay out of trouble. His best friend Miles (Rafael Casal), however can’t seem to keep his cool or keep from running his mouth. Colin also witnesses an incident that leaves him haunted about what choice to make since he’s so close to getting off probation. This film is Oakland to the core and I liked the visuals that were on display of a changing city. It reminded me of another area that has seen rapid change recently due to gentrification and other forces (Hello Brooklyn). Blindspotting is humorous, heartfelt, and a reflection of the times we’re living in.

Netflix Bets on Black

One of most enduring images of last Sunday’s BET Awards had nothing to do with the award show itself, but of the commercials that ran during it.

Netflix seems to be expanding every year with new shows and new programs for just about any audience. Its also made a concerted effort to invest in one group that had been mostly ignored for much of television’s history: black actors. The ad was simple, yet empowering. Take a look for yourself.


Now with that being said, Netflix still has some work to do in the boardroom considering black folks make up only 4% of the people who actually work there, but this is a good start.

It’s ABFF Week on South Beach

The American Black Film Festival kicks off this week in its 22nd year and the festival really does give black filmmakers a chance to laugh, celebrate, and fellowship around film and cinema.

The festival is back to its original home of Miami after taken a two-year hiatus up north in New York a few years back. ABFF brings industry insiders and newcomers together for a chance to really talk about what projects are going on and how to break into the industry.

I actually had the privilege of attending the festival in 2015, one of the two years it was held in New York (2014 being the other) and had a really good time. In addition to meeting people like Andrea Lewis (you may remember her from her role on Degrassi) and Sali Richardson-Whitfield (she played ‘Angela’ in A Low Down Dirty Shame), I got to meet people like Pete Chatmon, an up and coming director who actually directed an episode of the hit series Insecure for season 3. Seeing these people in the industry and being able to speak with them made the dream of working full-time in the entertainment field feel more real.

In addition to networking opportunities, there were informative panels, the comedy show and plenty of vendors as well. It was at one of the vendor stations that I got to interact with former NFL running back turned actor Thomas Jones. I remember him telling me that acting was always something he felt he could do and once his football career ended, it seemed only logical to pursue it full-time.


Me at ABFF in 2015

There was a panel with Kenya Barris and Tracy Ellis-Ross emceed by Larry Wilmore that talked about the behind the scenes work that went in to making Blackish a hit sitcom. It got a lil awkward though when during the question and answer session someone from the audience asked Kenya if he was hiring.

For any reading this who has even an inkling of wanting to attend an event where they’ll get a chance to learn about film and interact with people doing the work they envision themselves doing, I definitely recommend going to ABFF. I definitely hope to be back next year.

Before Black Panther: Black Superheroes Who Laid the Foundation

It’s safe to say that with just under a week to go until it’s theatrical premiere, Marvel’s newest film Black Panther, is already a cultural phenomenon.

The film debuted last month in Los Angeles for it’s first official screening and the red carpet looked very different than what one would see at these types of events. Folks dressed in beautiful African garb and a who’s who of Black Hollywood, showed up in addition to the cast and crew for Black Panther. From that moment, the effervescent reviews have been flowing.

BP Premiere

Lupita N’yongo’ and Chadwick Boseman at Black Panther premiere in Los Angeles

Black Panther is a cultural landmark not just for audiences, but also for the film’s parent studio — Marvel. As the the 18th movie in Marvel’s ever expanding cinematic empire, it’s the first film to feature a majority black cast. With Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther himself and featuring Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya, and Micheal B. Jordan, the film encompasses some of the leading young black actors of today. Not to mention it’s directed by Ryan Coogler (this is his and Micheal B. Jordan’s third film together) the film certainly has many people excited.

Black Panther comes at an interesting time for Marvel. For 2018 marks the 10 year anniversary of Marvel’s first picture that ignited the studio’s resurgence: Iron Man. Since then, the studio has earned more than $12 billion dollars from it’s films as of 2017. Things weren’t always so lucrative however. As of matter fact, in the mid 90s Marvel the brand was nearly bankrupt and theatrical success for its comic book characters seemed little more than a pipe-dream at the time. That was until a gun-wielding vampire slayer showed up onscreen and ignited a sleeping giant.

When Blade debuted in 1998, Wesley Snipes was still a megastar. From New Jack City to White Men Can’t Jump to Passenger 57 and Money Train (OK, maybe not Money Train), Snipes had established himself as one of Hollywood’s more bankable stars during the 1990s. After a fair amount of success, Snipes wanted to make a film based of the comic book character Black Panther. Unfortunately for Snipes, the timing just simply wasn’t right.


“I think Black Panther spoke to me because he was noble, and he was the antithesis of the stereotypes presented and portrayed about Africans, African history and the great kingdoms of Africa,” Snipes said recently in an interview to The Hollywood Reporter. Snipes also mentions that although he had the blessing of Stan Lee at the time to make the film, they couldn’t get the right screenwriters and a director who shared the same vision as Snipes.

“We went through three different scripts and couple of different director options,” Snipes says in the interview. But where Black Panther failed to launch, that opened the door for Blade and the rest is history as they say. “They both [Black Panther and Blade] had nobility. They were fighters. So I thought, hey, we can’t do the King of Wakanda… and the hidden kingdom in Africa, let’s do a black Vampire.”

Blade would make more than $100 million at the box office and spawn two more films for the franchise. As successful as it was however, there were other black superheroes during the decade who were leaving their mark as well.

In 1993 MGM’s The Meteor Man starred Robert Townsend as a D.C. school teacher just trying to do good until he’s hit by a meteor one day and wakes up with super powers. Though a light-hearted comedy, the film did touch on issues regarding gangs and the drug trade. What’s also interesting about this film is that Townsend’s character never wears a mask, and hence, everybody knows who he is.

Meteor Man

Robert Townsend as Meteor Man

There was Daman Wayans in Blankman in 1994 and also Micheal Jai White’s Spawn in 1997. Even Shaq got in on the act during this era with his movie Steel that also starred a young Ray J, who himself would go on to make very different films a decade later.

Fast forwarding back to today, what these films show is that black superheroes aren’t exactly a new thing, but that there has been some time since they’ve had their due. It’s self affirming to see people who look like you onscreen and even better when they’re kicking ass and taking names.

Films like Black Panther help to open up the comic genre movie-going experience for more audiences. Knowing that a film like this has been in the works for over 20 years and is finally coming to fruition, is an achievement not only of the cast and crew, but for those pushing all these years for a day like this.

The Role of An Eclipse and Nat Turner’s Rebellion

Here in the United States, people were obsessing about an eclipse that could be viewed by millions throughout the country. Apparently this was possible for the first time since the 1970s. The eclipse was treated with a lighthearted celebratory fare, with the only concern being people not look directly into the sun for fear of damaging their eyes. Not everyone got the message however. It was on this day though, 186 years ago, that an eclipse proved to be a harbinger of one of the most storied rebellions in American history.


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Filmmakers Remember the L.A. Riots

25 years ago this week, Los Angeles was up in flames over the acquittal of four police officers who were caught beating up Rodney King on videotape. Now filmmakers are using their craft to reflect on what was, and what has become of Los Angeles since that day.

NPR has a list of films commemorating the 25th anniversary of the riots, and one film of particular interest to me is “Gook.”

Directed by Justin Chon, “Gook” tells the story of two Korean-American brothers and their friendship with an African-American girl during the outset of the riots. Chon actually lived through the riots himself, witnessing his father’s shoe store get looted as a child. Chon felt it was important to tell the riots from the perspective of two Korean brothers rather than immigrants, as he points out that too often recent immigrants and those who had been living in L.A. for sometime were just lumped together as Koreans without much context.

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