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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Blogging about film II

The Jamaican writer Marlon James, prompted by two films, last year's Shooting Dogs (about the Rwandan genocide) and the soon to be released The Last King of Scotland (about Idi Amin), sounds off today about a particular brand of filmmaking: the type of film where "all these white boys are in blackest Africa trying to save the blackies because they so want to make a difference. Not in Africa, mind you, but their own lives." He asks:

"Am I the only one sick of this bullshit? I see the trailer for The Last King of Scotland and it reminds me of Shooting Dogs, which reminds me of The Serpent and The Rainbow, which reminds me of Tears of the Sun, which reminds me of Zulu! Which reminds me of Shaka Zulu, which reminds me of King Solomon's Mines, which reminds me of Tarzan, which reminds me of The African Queen, which reminds me of Patrick Swayze's horrendous City of Joy, which reminds me of Dances With Wolves which reminds me of Apocalypse Now which reminds me of Heart of Darkness, the novel that all but invented this formula. Take a white man, add savages noble and ignoble, stir and great god 'a moighty, lookee there at the spanking new (though bruised and battered) white man that floats to the top. The black, brown and yellow people, they stay down in the mix."

And in a previous post, James comments on an often unremarked phenomenon of contemporary cinema: the Magic Nigger:

"His mission in life is to bring attention to the white people around him. The Magic Nigger is no Bojangles. In fact most times the Magic Nigger is more intelligent, more refined and just plain smarter than the white hero. He is not really the good guy, but like Will Smith in The Legend of Bagger Vance, his purpose is to make the good guy better. The Magic Nigger's purpose is to humanize the bitch as Wanda Sykes did for Jane Fonda in Monster In Law. His purpose is to help the white man tap into his latent humanity as Morgan Freeman did for Miss Daisy; to have him recognize his inner power, as Morgan Freeman did for Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty; or to introduce him to cool new gadgets as Morgan Freeman did for Christian Bale in Batman.... He is the noble savage transmogrified in a three-piece suit. His purpose is to add the third dimension to the white character, not himself. Some people view this as progress."

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