With Black History Month upon us we will learn how far blacks have come in politics, education, health management, sports and entertainment. We will also learn about the heroes and she-roes who paved the way for us to live a better quality of life.
One of the best ways to celebrate Black History Month in the film world is to check out straight to DVD movies produced by, or directed by and starring African Americans. It’s our stories told from our point of view without studio interference.
True there are some ‘dogs,’ really bad films on DVD, but if you look carefully, and go with proven actors, writers or directors you’re bound to come up with some real gems.
One such gem is “Blackout” which features a powerful performer that not only stars in the film but is the films producer, Jeffery Wright (HBO’s “Boycott,” “Angels in America” “Casino Royale”). We get a first hand look at what happened when the lights went out in East Flatbush, Brooklyn in 2003. This little known story is based on true events.
“Blackout” recounts the devastating events of two days and a night in this inner city neighborhood. The film literally keeps you on the edge of your seat, as lives intertwine and collide in the midst of the largest power failure in American history.
Imagine living in an already poor neighborhood, largely forgotten by the city fathers. Gangs bully and terrorize the residents, absentee landlords ignore crumbling buildings, and hope never seems to greet you in the morning. We meet a group of diverse people carving their way through life with everything they have from a rising young publishing executive ( Zoe Saldana “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pear) trying to deal with her traumatized husband who was at ground zero 9-11, a single mother (LaTanya Richardson-Jackson, “The Fighting Temptations”) and her college-bound son, a Middle Eastern convenience store owner, and an elderly building superintendent (Melvin Van Peebles, “Sweet Sweetback’s Basdasssss Song”) trying to keep angry tenets away from the visiting landlord. It’s hot, it’s stressful and then everything shuts down, by nightfall it’s pitch black and pure chaos.
From the very beginning the film pulls you in, you know what’s coming and you’re praying the very likable main characters will be able to survive through the night.
As an extra added the treat the video includes interviews with the performers, filmmakers and actual individuals who lived through the terrifying event.
One footnote, the legendary writer/producer/director Melvin Van Peebles was one of the first African American filmmakers to go straight to video, recognizing the value early on of this sure-fire way to get your film to target audiences.
Another film on DVD is “Showstoppers.” This spirited film surrounds the sisters of the Lambda sorority and their step captain (Faune Chambers, “Epic Movie”, “Bring it On Again”) who dreams of winning the national stepping championship. Only problem is their rivals, who’ve won the nationals several times are also Lambda sisters, but from a different campus. To add insult to injury, their team member with all the hot moves defects to the rival’s side for a better scholarship and more prestige.
If that’s not enough, love and jealousy complicate matters even further. Bryce Wilson (“Beauty Shop”) is forced to take a backseat to a ‘playa-playa,’ imagine that. Tempers flair, hearts are broken, rivalries threaten to bring the sorority house down, but all’s fair in love and competition.
It is fun to see the sisters go at it on the dance floor. Their movements are great, and if you expect to see a lot of ‘booty-shaking’ forget it. These Lambda sisters are all about skill and representing’.
“Blackout” and “Showstoppers” debut in the stores February 5. Add them both to your collection.
– Gail Choice is an independent writer/producer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.