Black in America

My cousin Katrina, who directed Traces of the Trade, was on a panel at Sundance this afternoon on filmmaking and being “Black in America.”

The panel was hosted by film critic Elvis Mitchell, who collaborated on The Black List, now playing at Sundance, and also included actor and filmmaker Danny Glover; Melody Barnes, who works in policy on Capitol Hill; actor, musician, and comedian Nick Cannon, starring in this year’s American Son; and Orlando Bagwell, the documentary filmmaker who hosted our panel on public outreach yesterday.

The panel was an engaging, wide-ranging, and often entertaining exploration of a variety of serious issues confronting black filmmakers and those interested in making films about the black experience in the U.S.

What struck me most about the panelists and their remarks, aside from their passion and the depth of their concern about the obstacles facing black filmmakers, was the variety of perspectives they offered on race in our society.

Danny Glover, for instance, spoke passionately and in compelling terms about the black experience and the obstacles facing black films and filmmakers, and offered a nuanced discussion of the complex interplay between mainstream and “black” films. At the same time, however, he seemed to see these realms as fundamentally separated, with little opportunity to begin coming together. Meanwhile, Katrina emphasized her desire to market Traces primarily as a film specifically for white audiences, with comparatively little to offer black viewers.

Nick Cannon, on the other hand, seemed to offer the perspective of a younger generation on the panel. He spoke from the outset about this society as a melting pot, in which we must all come together despite the obstacles facing us. I was particularly impressed by his emphasis on our responsibility, in a society still too often divided by race, to build relationships and engage in ongoing dialogue. This isn’t to suggest that he (or I) see the racial obstacles in this country as less than formidable, or that we can simply come together as one people without significant internal and external struggle. But this perspective does suggest other, radically different possibilities for racial progress than were expressed by the other panelists. To the extent that there are people in this country whose racial self-identity and life experience allow them to proceed in this way, I think it’s essential that this perspective be an integral part of the national conversation on race.

One Response to “Sundance Panel: “Black in America””

  1. International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade | The Living Consequences says:

    […] cultural event entitled “Breaking the Silence, Beating the Drum.” Performers include Danny Glover,Phylicia Rash?d, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and there will be taped messages from Nelson Mandela […]

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