Two documentaries premiering at NYFF60 deal with American history clashing with made-up assumptions. revealing the extent of the lies those in power would commit to stay in power, descendant and Is that black enough for you?!? Dealing with white cultural oppression. They also emphasize the resilience and resourcefulness of black people in overcoming and succeeding in the face of hateful discrimination.
Detection of misrepresentations and lies
Margaret Browns descendant Chronicles how oppressive lies cover up the true story of the slave ship Clotilde. in the Is that black enough for you?!? Filmmaker Elvis Mitchell denies that black films never achieved the success of white films. Highly successful black films pioneered white filmmakers who generously stole ideas for plot, protagonists, conflict, and so on. Both filmmakers brilliantly use their themes to inspire, enlighten and encourage us to keep going. They reveal that despite the lies and misrepresentations, the truth wins the day.
Margaret Brown’s excellent documentary descendant follows the unveiling of the complicated history of Clotilde. Despite the ban on the slave trade in the United States in 1807, kidnappings still took place in secret. As such, the ship’s history as the last slave ship to reach the United States remains an important story. Eyewitness accounts of the kidnapped slaves from the 1860s can be compared to earlier accounts of the slave trade. Although the abductees were sold into slavery, oral histories of their journey survive, passed down by their descendants.
The film’s interview clips begin with comments from a member of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers who had been searching for the Clotilde. From there, Brown goes into a discussion of the ship’s history. The ship was born through a bet by the wealthy Timothy Meacher with another wealthy white man. Meacher built the ship for a lot of money and financed the illegal journey. Spurred on by rumors that the West African kingdom of Dahomey (now in Benin) was selling its enemies to slave traders who Clotilden Captain William Foster sailed to Dahomey. Unopposed, he bought slaves and sailed back.
destruction of the ship
After winning his bet, Meacher burned and sank the ship to avoid a death sentence. It remained undiscovered for over 150 years, while the stories of the enslaved people lived on through their descendants, many of whom lived in Africatown, a neighborhood that was incorporated into Mobile, Alabama. Taking the story of their ancestors particularly from the first-person narrative by Cudjoe Lewis, the community kept the story of the slave ship alive, believing that one day the ship would be found.
Brown divides the documentary into several parts that have been fused together through excellent writing. She devotes a section to the search, interviewing reporter Ben Raines and business owner Joe Turner. Intrigued by the story, these men helped locate the ship in 2019. Other interviewees include a NatGeo archaeologist and a member of the Slave Wrecks Project, which also works for the Smithsonian. Most aptly, Brown interviews Kern Jackson, a professor, folklorist, and co-writer of the film, which contains intriguing detail.
Zora Neale Hurston knew about it Clotilde
The most interesting section of the film, however, touches on Harlem Renaissance author Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston told the story of Cudjoe Lewis in her 1931 book. Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo. Rejected by publishers for decades, it was finally released in 2018. The cover-up ended and the recent slave narrative broke out. For Hurston lovers, Brown includes clips of her singing songs she learned from her research.
Hurston actually filmed the area around Lewis’ home. Always an outsider, she was the first black woman film director. Everyone who lived in Africatown knew the stories of their ancestors. The accuracy of their oral tradition overcame more than 150 years of lies and cover-ups in which white culture mistook the stories for myth.
However, it was the raising of the ship that really proved the oral traditions and descendants’ story. you have to see descendant To witness this exciting adventure Clotilden Discovery.
Is that black enough for you?!?
Comprehensive and insightful, Elvis Mitchell’s documentary (the title is a reference to an Ossie Davis film) explores the Black Revolution in 1970s cinema. Mitchell covers every Black film in canon. With an incisive narrative that reveals the adventure, humor and excitement, Mitchell creates his own historical perspective. He not only recalls the history of the time, he reactivates it with his sharp criticism. He selects fabulous iconic film clips and fuses his commentary with clips that illustrate his perspective.
Interviews with the big ones
Although Mitchell’s writing exhausts the viewer, his interviews with the greats add humor and excitement. We hear chronicles of Hollywood and filmmaking from Harry Belafonte, Laurence Fishburne, Samuel L. Jackson, Billy Dee Williams, Margaret Avery and many more. Mitchell caps her outstanding experience with her main vehicles. Too numerous to count, the films span genre films, social realism, and more. Although the documentary covers the making of superhero films, it also includes original artistic films that reveal the artistry of the emerging black film craftsmen.
Importantly, he critically examines the blaxploitation flicks and how they inspired filmmakers to copy their idiosyncratic approach to exciting cinema. Again and again he reveals how brilliant Black filmmakers set standards in their films (e.g. music incorporation) that became the modus operandi of the film in general. Indeed, their contributions have brought brilliance to the art form in myriad ways.
Black film history related to empowerment
Mitchell not only explores film history, he chronicles black political empowerment through filmmaking. Though cinema might not be viewed as classic black history, Mitchell reveals subterranean cultural settings of the time. Crucial to the winds of change are black films attended, inspired and influenced by white moviegoers. Tolerance and acceptance have prevailed precisely because of the entertainment value of these films. Given the current racial divide, Mitchell’s perspective is important. If filmmakers and the arts counteracted divisions then, they can now soften divisions.
Both descendant and Is that black enough for you?!? reveal and remind us that lies do not live forever. This is especially true when a critical mass of individuals doggedly seeks and subverts what cannot stand. Look for both titles streaming on Netflix.