The mission of The Department of Afro-American Research Arts and Culture to identify the global significance of the creative contributions pioneered by an international diaspora of Blackness
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Friday, June 16, 2023

Just an Old Sweet Song (1976, TV Movie)

"Just an Old Sweet Song" (1976) was a made-for-television drama presented by GE Theatre which aired on several local network channels. Melvin Van Peebles wrote the script for the movie, and stars Robert Hooks and Cicely Tyson as the lead actors. 

By 1976, black actors started seeing more work in TV movies, especially with more programming featuring a primarily black cast. These films were welcoming counters to blaxploitation movies that were flooding the market. "Just an Old Sweet Song" is a story about a family from Detroit that moves down south. While there, they face various situations where the family tries to understand themselves and their societal place. As expected, Robert Hooks and Cicely Tyson were masterful, but the supporting cast was just as good, which includes Beah Richards, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Mary Alice, Kevin Hooks, and Sonny Jim Gains. 

Overall, the film is a good watch and honest with its intentions. I recommend the movie if you want to see legendary actors in their element.

Director: Robert Ellis Miller
Writers: Melvin Van Peebles, Jane Parker

Starring Cicely Tyson, Robert Hooks, Beah Richards, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Joe, Minnie Gentry, Edward Binns, Kevin Hooks, Eric Hooks, Sonny Jim Gaines, Mary Alice, Tia Rance, Philip Wende, Walt Guthrie, Lou Walker

Priscilla Simmons (Cicely Tyson) is a working-class mother who traded her "backward ways" of the South for a Nothern education. Now she has a husband, three kids, and a promising career. Her life in the big city is very ordinary until her mother's illness forces the family to venture across the Mason-Dixon line for the first time.

Monday, June 5, 2023

The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)

"The Gods Must Be Crazy" (1980, released in 1984 in the United States) is an adventure comedy film set in Southern Africa, primarily in South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia. Jami Uys was responsible for writing, directing, and producing the movie.

This film is one of the most clever movies I have ever seen. Filmed like a National Geographic documentary, the movie follows Xi (played by N!xau), a Kalahari Desert bushman with no connection to modern-day society. In addition, the narrator paints a great picture of the people and their daily lives and the contrast of perspective lifestyles of people from the city. A pilot throws a Coke bottle from the airplane, and Xi discovers it. Unfamiliar with such an object, he returns it to his tribe, where they use it until it begins to cause trouble among the tribe's people. From here, Xi decides to get rid of the bottle by tossing it off the edge of the earth. What happens next is a series of paths and events that leads Xi, a school teacher, a microbiologist, and a terrorist group to connect.

This movie has many layers, so addressing some would only be possible. But, interestingly, you don't know how to take it when you first see it. And then the comedy subtly comes in small and clever dosages. There are some geopolitical aspects to this film that I am ignorant about, especially cultural characteristics. However, the film is still enjoyable and offers much more than a regular comedy. I highly recommend this movie for viewing.

Director: Jami Uys
Writer: Jami Uys

Starring N!xau, Marius Weyers, Sandra Prinsloo, Louw Verwey, Michael Thys, Nic de Jager, Brian O'Shaughnessy, Ken Gampu, Paddy O'Byrne

The tribal people in a remote African desert live a happy life, but it is all torn to pieces when a Coca-Cola bottle falls from a plane. With the villagers fighting over the strange foreign object, tribal leader Xi (N!xau) decides to return the bottle to the gods to restore peace. However, his journey to the "end of the world" eventually has him crossing paths with a bumbling scientist (Marius Weyers) and a band of guerrillas who take a schoolteacher (Sandra Prinsloo) and her class hostage.