A 1968-1978 Filmmaking Revolution Sparked “Is That Black Enough For You?!?” – Florida Courier | Episode Movies







“Is that black enough for you?!?” Writer-director-narrator Elvis Mitchell. His documentary surveys the revolutionary film years 1968-1978.




Now on Netflix is ​​the invigorating documentary Is That Black Enough For You?!?, borrowing its title from a line in the 1970 caper Cotton Comes to Harlem.

This film was not a climax of the forthcoming cultural revolution. But for a particularly prosperous decade, 1968-1978, black representation finally got a foot in the door of a powerful white film industry. Stories of more than one type of Black image and experience, made independently and then, because there was money, mainstream and studio-funded, found their way into theaters.

This is critic, writer, director and host Elvis Mitchell’s love letter to this decade.

It tells a collective story of long-frustrated and marginalized talent finally getting a break. Many of the key players were established (Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte), others younger and less polished. Many were also dazzling and unique, gone way too soon (Diana Sands at 39, Rupert Crosse at 45).

The Netflix project, produced by Steven Soderbergh and David Fincher, among others, has Mitchell speak directly to films that shaped his childhood, adulthood and calling. He’s particularly good at the immortal, peerless theme songs and soundtracks associated with everything from “Shaft” to “Superfly.”

Mitchell isn’t even trying to stay within his chosen 10 years. In “Is That Black Enough For You?!?”, Samuel L. Jackson, among others, talks about growing up watching old movies with supporting cast and occasional henchmen like Willie Best doing their caricatured, submissive, humiliating thing in bob- Hope films have done . But these actors made Jackson consider acting for a living. And maybe dream of better possibilities.

Cleverly edited and built for speed, the documentary takes a look at the legacy of pioneering silent and talkative filmmaker Oscar Micheaux; the mid-20th century breakthroughs for Poitier and Belafonte; and on groundbreaking early ’60s indies like Nothing But a Man.

As Mitchell points out, white singer Petula Clark touched black guest Belafonte’s arm in her 1968 TV special. The resulting outcry was no small one. Meanwhile, the streets burned and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy set the course for America’s political future.

Hollywood responded with more than the usual, but also with a risk or two that opened the door a little wider. Low-budget, high-return hits like “Cotton Comes to Harlem,” “Shaft,” “Superfly” (all boasting the Curtis Mayfield score), and so many more meant times had changed. Still, Mitchell says from the off, the whiterun industry meant that “Black success was often treated in the media as if you found a $100 bill on the subway — an unrepeatable phenomenon.”

Later, Mitchell crystallizes a perspective that I find both succinct and provocative, a new way of looking at ’70s filmmaking in all its dejected post-Watergate ruminations. While white men (Gene Hackman among them) indulged in moody, bittersweet studies of stasis and despair, Mitchell argues that “Black films have redeemed the ideal of heroic protagonists” in Shaft, Coffy, and so many others.

Then came The Sting and Jaws, among others, to give the whites a happy ending. Also “Rocky”. Oddly enough, Mitchell doesn’t even bother to delve into “Star Wars,” which changed everything about the industry a year later. And not for the better. Well, that’s for another project, preferably an unauthorized one.

If nothing else, Mitchell’s fluent conversational document should draw a few more eyes to historical markers that are forever in need of new champions, like the one-off freak-out Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968). Or Charles Burnett’s tender 1977 classic Killer of Sheep, filmed on the streets of Burnett’s Watts in Los Angeles. “A poet who finds beauty in his own neighborhood,” is how Mitchell put it simply. Its celebration of these films is seriously entertaining

Leave a Comment