Black voices

Spike Lee (photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage/IMDB)

Many of us have recently been reevaluating how we view Black voices and culture in America. For me, this reevaluation has taken two forms.

First, as executive editor of the International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA), I’ve refocused my efforts on finding more African-American subjects, and I’ve encouraged our editors to do the same, while continuing to value the Black subjects we already have. See my recent post on this topic.

As a film critic, I have taken a closer look at my Director list. Because I don’t consider people’s race, ethnicity or cultural background when placing them on my list, I never noticed that I had not included a single Black director. I could certainly blame the lack of inclusion on cinema history, not my personal tastes. And, admittedly, this list has always been a work in progress, and inclusion or exclusion has often come down to whether I’ve rated enough of a particular director’s films, rather than whether I’m judging that director as worthy. But the hard truth is it was shameful of me to not have a single Black director listed.

To remedy that, I’ve been on a Spike Lee kick. I’ve always had a bit of a like-dislike relationship with the director’s work. But I realize now that I had simply not seen enough of his films to get a proper sense of his contribution to film. After watching several I had never seen, I now have a better appreciation for his craft and sensibility, and I’m proud to add him to the list. That still doesn’t mean I like all his films. (Sorry, She’s Gotta Have It.) But, hey, that’s what film criticism and freedom of speech is all about. (My greatest find was his documentary 4 Little Girls, which I recommend highly.)

Barry Jenkins joins Lee on the list. Though he’s made just three features, he’s clearly a major talent and will likely join the ranks of cinema’s greatest directors in the years to come, if he has not already joined them.

It’s fitting that I’m writing this on the day we learn of the passing of American hero John Lewis. There has not been a more courageous champion of equality over the last 60 years, and I was proud to be able to recently review a moving documentary about his life: John Lewis: Good Trouble. In the wake of his death, the doc is even more necessary.

One Response to “Black voices”
  1. Paul Meier says:

    Good work!