One of the most disturbing things about Black independant movies was the intraracism: by this I mean the tendency to use lighter-skinned perfomers to play the parts of heroines and heroes (a trend which is still very popular in today’s films).
Now again I ask the reader to remember that these are Black filmmakers making films for Black patrons– yet no one is rasing an eyebrow about a practice which is so obviously indicative of self-hatred: expressing distaste for the color of one’s own skin.
Another unsettling trend, was the manner in which Black women were portrayed. While the filmmaker sung her praises putting her on a pedastal as wife and mother, the Black woman on screen was rarely, if ever, heroic (Pearl Bowser, Black Film History p. 50). In race movies, as they were called, she was helpless, rarely a winner, often unlucky in love and frequently lost her man, her status or both (Bowser, p.50).
Sisters were also, filmically symbolized as the receptacle for the sins of the race (Sound familiar?). Within this motif, the Black woman was depicted as a stumbling block which blocked the heroes path to success–an obstacle which he must overcome (e.g.Scar of Shame, 1927).
Tell how different are things today? Did (do) the dreamweavers create these images to depict the fact that Black women were catching hell? Or were they designed to cage Sisters?
One African American independant stood apart from the rest. Oscar Micheaux.
To be continued…
Copyright Valjeanne Jeffers, Valjeanne Jeffers-Thompson 1997, 2012 all rights reserved. Excerpts from The Story of Eve have been published in PurpleMag.