Poem after being rejected from the Calarts Film Directing Showcase

 

Yes, this is an angry poem

yes, this is a tired poem

tired of sitting in classes and feeling like a wall-

poem

 

this is a poem that doesn’t bring up Cassavetes to feel important

this is a poem that never saw a Cassavetes film before coming to school

 

this is a poem that likes Love and Basketball

and wants to write for television

 

this is a sell-out poem

 

this is a black woman poem

a poem for my grandmothers who never saw themselves

reflected onscreen in their lifetime- poem

 

a poem for dusty film reels rotting in warm apartments

because the single black woman had to give up her dream

to make ends meet and feed children- poem

 

this is a Daughters of the Dust poem

a poem wet in Gullah water

and natural light

on beaches by itself because

critics couldn’t understand it’s dialect

 

this is a poem that don’t want no

magic negro/ monster’s ball

no begging to sleep with white men

to make it feel good- poem

 

this poem is black laughter and breath

cause we played at festivals and heard it warm

in the throats of black audience

 

this poem be black talkin’ and silence,

black without a title or tell-tale sign

of “blackness” stamped across the credits

to make you feel better

 

this poem is 16mm and 24 frames

of grandmother’s silence in segregated theaters

of my silence in cold film classes

not saying nothing because there’s nothing to say

 

this is a Boyz In the Hood for the 10th time poem

a Menace II Society poem in VHS

a Sankofa poem creeping out of sugar cane stalks

 

this is a love poem

 

this is Grand Lake Theater in 1992

watching Malcolm X with fish sandwiches in our hands

and our eyes wet- poem

this is daddy yelling Alhamdulillah at Denzel at the podium-poem

 

don’t ever tell me I’m being didactic because I put a black Muslim character in my script- poem

 

this is Jason and Lyric making love

in those purple and red flowers,

and that wedding scene at the end of Coming to America,

that made us all want to go live in Zamunda- poem

 

this is an exclusion poem

this poem can’t catch a football and be adopted by a white family

to win the Academy Award-poem

 

this is Dorothy Dandridge’s heart when she lost that Oscar

this is black movies pulled from theaters before their first breath

this is a Regina King and Kaycee Moore poem

this is a Euzhan Palcy poem

 

this poem can’t find work even though it’s considered a cinematic legend

around the world

 

this poem made a black woman come up to me after the screening

tell me she saw herself in my film,

and that I had to expand the film into a feature

 

this poem was rejected from the showcase

 

-Nijla

2012

————

This poem is ultimately about the idea of a “film audience” and who deems certain audiences more credible than others.  What role does race, sexuality, and class have in our reception of films? In my experience screening my short film Two Bodies at film festivals, I’ve seen that it strikes a chord in the audience. Those audiences have been comprised of different types of people, though mostly women and women of color.  So what does that mean? Does that matter in the larger context of its credibility as a film? I’ve written film criticism and theory. That lens is valuable as a filmmaker and viewer, but I’ve had to step outside of that lens to truly connect with audiences. When I walk out of a theater, and women come up to me and tell me that they appreciate my film, that’s the only thing that matters to me as a filmmaker. When a woman of color tells me she relates to the mother-daughter relationship in my film, that makes me feel good. If my film is helping women of color become visible in ways that aren’t common, then I’ve done my job.

bell hooks has done a lot of writing on this subject of the black female spectator. How do we enter films?  Are we a part of the mainstream “audience” and in what ways? There are several films from the “Golden Age of Hollywood,” that I neither like or want to watch. They are considered classics. They usually feature black women as “mammy” stock characters. Is there something wrong with me? Am I a true film buff because I’m not excited to watch Gone With the Wind?  Why are “black films” financed by major film studios mandated to do well or else another black film won’t “ever” be financed? Is that an issue with the black audience or the fact that certain stories are seen as more important and lucrative than others?

These are some of the questions that spurred this poem. These are some of the films I grew up watching. Some of the films and people that introduced me to cinema and had an impact on my immersion in it. I fostered an emotional connection to some of these films, and still do. If that brings down my worth as a filmmaker, film critic, and person, so be it.

I make films to move people.

"Daughters of the Dust," directed by Julie Dash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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