Feb '00
African Street Festival in Brooklyn - Is this black enough?

(Feb : Main Page * Features * Reviews * Gallery ) Current Issue * Archive
Notes from the New York African Film Festival
By Marcus Allison

One thing about struggling attempts of blackness; whether it's something artsy -- you know, film festivals, poetry readings art shows etc. -- is the authenticity it imbues. I am reminded of the African Street Festival held here within the near-nether regions of Brooklyn, at the Boys and Girls High School; ever been? Well if not, don't go now, as you will not get what I'm talkin' about. The festival has become an overcrowded brouhaha, ringed with portable toilets and damn-near brim-filled with blackfolks suckin' on fried chicken legs and professin' to be 'down wit' da struggle·' Yeah, authenticity is imbued in struggle. That's why the caged bird be hollerin', and why brothas walk with serious dips -- wherever they be. You ever see how Jamaican brothas be steppin'? How about the serious glide of the Brazilian dudes? Frederick Douglas said it best: "If there is no struggle, there is no progress." Authenticity, beauty, progress· all the same thing.

I gave this some thought while hanging out at the African Film festival this year. Held at a small two room theatre on Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn; the setting was an intimate one. Sparsely filled seats allowed for one to kick up the kicks, laugh heartily and chew on chips and popcorn with little regard for noise made, or the noise others make. Afterwards, some film cognoscenti connected to the film just shown, humbly (lack of exposure keeps you humble) make their way to the front to take questions; as many queries as one might have. 'Twas great. Where else can you do this? Then, of course, near the end of the question/answer moment, some person would ask the 'This film is so good why hasn't it been given wider exposure?' question. To which there is the predictable collective sigh. Aah, we don't know why people don't want to see black films, but shit, who cares why? I certainly want to be guaranteed the best seat in the house from year to year. Could you imagine what hell would exist if independent Black diasporic films were under the constant normative gaze of mainstream audiences? We'd have Black Hollywood trying to get in the independent door; Coke, Pepsi, Microsoft and all the other mega-co.s would make their stampede, seeing big profits in films that were once made with love and little money. "This African Film Festival is brought to you by·. (insert multinational of choice here)." Nah, not me. It's inevitable. Hopefully, by then there will be some other authentic artform worthy of sparsely populated audiences, and me, I'll be there, with my kicks up on the empty chair in front.


(Feb : Main Page * Features * Reviews * Gallery ) Current Issue * Archive