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Men with a message for young males


Mario Van Peebles is working to connect the dots. The second-generation filmmaker this weekend participated in a screening in conjunction with Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE), of one of his newest films–“Fair Game?”–and says it is just the latest vehicle he has created to get out a message he feels is critical for young people to hear, particularly African American males.

“Fair Game?” looks at the plight of Black males in America, as told by . . . Black men in America.

The men range from ex-offenders to the president of a Fortune 500 company. They are community organizers, entrepreneurs, music moguls, actors, rappers and filmmakers.

They are people like P. Diddy, a former Howard University student turned music mogul, who said he pumped gas, cleaned toilets, washed windows and worked as a hotel doorman before “making it.”

But despite their different walks in life, the men in the film are saying the same thing–education really is the key to success.

Van Peebles says “Fair Game?” is, in part, a follow-up to  his 2012 film “We the Party.”

“Subtextually (‘We the Party’) was saying it was fun to be in school. It was an effort to shift culturally from anti-intellectualism to smart is the game.”

It was a film in the genre of the Kid ‘N Play movies and focused on partying but with an underlying message.

“Fair Game?” is a 60-minute-plus documentary that talks directly to adults, according to Van Peebles. It reminds people that adults must be there to direct and guide the young men once they do obtain an education. It also demonstrates to young people what can be achieved.

“Mario Van Peebles’ ‘Fair Game?’ documentary touches on such an array of issues our community in particular has been dealing with for a long time and is continuing to manage and persevere through,” explained Dawn Modkins, organizing director of Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE), the local grassroots organization that connected with Van Peebles and the Pan African Film Festival to screen the documentary.

“The setting of Mario’s documentary being based in a post-Barack Obama era accentuates the opportunities for success in achieving attainable benchmarks along the road of addressing the many systemic issues highlighted in his film.”

“This year is SCOPE’s 20th anniversary  . . . . of working to attain some of these benchmarks addressing some of the systemic issues the film highlights. From police brutality, to healthcare, welfare reform, green jobs, and now shifting the way our communities and voters think about the way government budgets work, as well as our tax system that is full of disparities where not everyone is paying their fair share,” continued Modkins.

“I watched Mr. Van Peebles’ film just two years after the election of Barack Obama, with a group of Cal State Long Beach students whose energy and spirits I saw jerked from ‘Fair Game?’ I knew this was a film that needed to be connected to broader audiences.”

Modkins says SCOPE plans to screen the film again the film itself, with designated demographics, fathers, sons and youth in general.

“We want to use the film to support our work by helping (increase) awareness to and help create dialogue around the strategic, systemic issues our community deals with–just pulling up ones boot straps or giving a kid a dollar … We will use the film to inform and engage our communities who aren’t typically engaged.”

At the same time he was making “Fair Game?,” Van Peebles said he created a shorter version called “Bring Your A Game.” This 23-minute video–which the film’s director jokingly advised the audience to download, bootleg and get it out to young men by any means–can be viewed online for free, and according to Van Peebles is the movie between “We the Party” and “Fair Game?”

Van Peebles’ goal in creating “Fair Game?” and ” . . .  A Game” was to use his Hollywood cache to get people to return his phone calls, donate their talents to then develop film vehicles that discuss the problems and offer potential solutions.

Among the solutions offered in the film were the benefits of mentoring and of such organizations as the Harlem Children’s Zone and the Eagle Academy.