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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts and the black revolution

Neal, Larry
Notes and discussion: film and the black cultural revolution,   pp. 348-[351] PDF (3.4 MB)

Page 349

than many independent nations in the
world. The Negro creative intellectuals
cannot make peace with a cultural
apparatus that will not take Invisible
Man, or any other representative novel,
and film it. Whether such works are
good, bad or excellent is academic,
in view of the millions of dollars wasted
annually in filming trash for the movie
market. . . . However, any advanced
nation that has allowed its inner cultural
expression to be so debased and
corrupted, deserves nothing less than
governmental investigation, correction
and control.*
Cruse is correct, but he is pursuing a
chimera. The creative artist should only
partially direct his efforts toward
changing the Hollywood attitude. The
main effort should be directed toward
developing an independent group of
black film companies, and an independent
way of distributing their films. Unless
Black people are themselves able to
control the total production of a
particular film, Cruse's approach will
We have already seen the failure of
white liberal attitudes to accurately
depict Afro-American reality in film
production. Here I refer to films
like Imitation of Life, Pinky, Green
Pastures, and Home of the Brave.
The same tendency to distort the Afro-
American reality and personality mars
such films as The Defiant Ones, and
Lillies of the Field. To be specific,
the problems posed by these films are
essentially connected with the white man's
sensibilities and not the Black man's.
Hence, the black audience and the
white audience alike are confronted with
a glib, guilt-ridden characterization
of Afro-American life.
On the basis of this analysis, it is
impossible to expect an honest and
meaningful approach to the filmic
presentation of Afro-American life until
Black people themselves begin making
films. Essentially, we have been
allowing an alien sensibility to dominate
our view of the world. This domination
not only goes for film; it extends into
all areas of Afro-American cultural
expression. If the civil rights movement
had understood the nature of cultural
imperialism, it would probably have
developed an independent media that
would challenge the racist and
unrealistic thrust of the communications
Our film, Revolution in Black America,
will probably be one of the first
films dominated by the sensibility of
black creative artists. We intend to make
a semi-documentary film on the rise
of "Black Consciousness." The film
will be produced by American
Documentary Films which recently won
first prize at the Leipzig Film Festival
for the anti-Vietnam war film,
Sons and Daughters. It is our intention
to document the powerful upsurge
in cultural and political awareness on
the part of Black America. How did
the current Black Revolution come into
existence? What are its components, and
what kind of dynamic guides it? Who are
its spokesmen, both known and
unknown? Where is it all going? These
are some of the questions we intend
to examine filmically. We must show
by carefully integrating the filmic
elements, how people move from one
stage of consciousness to another. This
kind of film naturally encounters certain
technical problems. The most important
of these are transitional. In some
cases, we will be forced to use news
footage. This footage must be integrated
in a manner that is natural and organic
to the other elements of the film.
U .
*Harold Cruse, The Crisis of the Negro
Intellectual, New York, Morrow, 1967,
page 111.

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