Friday, August 20, 2010

Biracial, Not Black, Damn It! DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Groundbreaking Documentary Explores Sensitive Subject of Biraciality

You know you’re watching a groundbreaking documentary when it not only forces you out of your comfort zone but also manages to persuade you to reassess your point-of-view without resorting to potentially-alienating polemic. This is the case with Biracial, Not Black, Damn It!, a poignant, thought-provoking and ultimately most-enlightening film directed by the brilliant Carolyn Battle Cochrane.
The product of a mixed marriage herself, Carolyn sets the tone during the opening credits of her labor of love when she wistfully states, “My mother is the most incredible role model, and she’s a white woman.” This matter-of-fact comment is, at first blush, slightly startling, since she looks like a sister and, let’s face it, we’ve all been culturally conditioned to see anyone who’s even partially-black as simply all-black.
However, the picture subtly implores you to rethink that reflexive tendency to lump biracials and blacks together unfairly. For instance, who wouldn’t be moved after hearing Carolyn, while sitting on the steps of a brownstone in the ‘hood, confront another’s prejudice with, “I think the tragedy is when you shrug your shoulders when I say it’s an identity issue.” This insightful observation by the filmmaker is only one of many by a variety of biracial adults, teens and children about what it feels like to be pigeonholed in a country with a color line when you undeniably actually happen to be equal parts black and white.
Overly embraced by African-Americans as if solely their own, yet kept at a distance by Caucasians for not being purebred lily-white, the subjects of this expose’ tend to find themselves languishing in a limbo neither of their liking nor making. “I don’t know why we have to choose,” one interviewee says tearfully. Another, who refuses to deny half of her heritage, asserts, “When you say you’re black, when you’re really mixed, you’re passing for black.”
Again and again, the theme of ethnic identity is addressed in a revealing manner, from the white mother who wonders, “How did I give birth to just black kids?” to the innocent little girl often asked by strangers what color she is who perplexedly looks down at her own arm and shrugs, “a tannish color.”
Nonetheless, there is much hope on the horizon for this invisible segment of society more in search of understanding than sympathy. After all, the census reflects that biracials are the fast growing demographic in the nation. Hence, the spirited discussion, here, about Barack Obama, indicting the President for passing up a priceless opportunity to put biracials on the map.
“He talks about ‘change’ but wouldn’t change constitute teaching white people that he is of them as well as black?” one participant suggests. “Why doesn’t America, black or white, want to see him as biracial?” asks another.
Credit Carolyn Battle Cochrane for having the guts to pose the tough questions about a taboo topic to elicit the heartfelt, sobering reflections from members of a momentarily marginalized group collectively poised to emerge as the face of 21st Century America.

Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 141 Minutes
Distributor: Battlecatt Productions

6 comments:

MaG said...

awesome documentary. recommend it to anyone who has an open mind and an open heart

Angela said...

thanks for posting about this doc. It's great that someone's come forward to tell this story.

AP
http://whatareyou.posterous.com

Sam said...

This is a great film. A must see to all. In some way or another we are all mixed race. This documentary brings understanding and clarity to issues that are rarely discussed. Great job Ms. Battle-Cochrane!

Steve Riley said...

"He talks about ‘change’ but wouldn’t change constitute teaching white people that he is of them as well as black?” one participant suggests...???

Perhaps, but real change constitutes teaching everyone that that there is no such thing as "race" beyond a Eurocentric concept designed to separate European settlers physically and emotionally from the native peoples (Indians) they nearly exterminated and the Aficans they enslaved.

Despite this, America has been "mixing" for 500 years. Or in other words "biracials" have "been on the map" for five centuries. We are not becoming a "mixed" society, we arlready are!

Battle-Cochrane and Kam Williams seem to forget that the vast majority of "black" Americans have some non-African ancestry (like Michelle Obama) and are--shall I dare say--mixed.

The same could be said about a significant of "white" Americans who have some non-European ancestry.

The notion of "equal parts black and white" is essentialist nonsense that merely reifies the false notions of "race" when we should be destroying them.

The heightened visibility of so-called "mixed-race" people should be an opportunity to examine the dispense with the notion of "race." If we do not, we may be in for a surprise when we discover (in a few decades) that the number of people who choose to identify as "mixed" actually decreases as Latino/white and Asian/white "mixed" people opt for a white identity as some sociologists suggest.

For anyone who's interested, I have a review of the film here.

Sasha said...

Real change constitutes teaching everyone that there is no race, you say Mr. Riley;
if that is your belief then maybe you can explain the site mixedracestudies.org, which appears to be under your design/domain.

I researched you after reading that scathing review on Carolyn’s film you have attached to this blog, not only was it a personal attack on someone whom we in the biracial community applaud, statements were taken out of context and blatant lies were laced between the lines of your foolish attempt at sounding like you were a legitimate reviewer.. I am curious as to why a man that isn’t biracial has a site which is geared towards subject matter he will never be able to discuss first hand and secondly why and how he finds the time to write such a hateful inaccurate depiction of someone doing great work; many of us have cried tears of joy in gratitude that someone is finally telling “our” story. I saw both parts one and two, and they are my story, my brother’s story…many friends story.

Many elements of your rant have been covered in the two parts that I have seen, so for the sake of civility I ask that you find a rock, crawl back under it so that you don’t stand in the path of the light that she brings to many of us in this community

AP said...

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RELATED COMMENTARY ON THIS FILM:

http://mixedchickschat.typepad.com/mixed_chicks_chat/2010/10/film-re.html

http://www.stevenriley.com/BiracialNotBlackReview.pdf

www.stevenriley.com/photography

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