Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Call to Action, Part One: Support Independent Filmmaking!

This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending screenings of the Oscar-nominated Live Action and Animated Shorts at Amherst Cinema.  A HUGE independent film fanatic, I love going to art houses to view the latest trends in independent art making.

Here's trailers for my favorite shorts from the 2012 Oscar nominees' list:
1.  Pentecost (Live Action), Peter McDonald, dir., Ireland

2.  The Shore (Live Action), Terry George, dir., Northern Ireland (many of you may recognize the lead actor, Ciaran Hinds from the HBO series Rome).

3.  Time Freak (Live Action), Andrew Bowler, dir., USA (this one was my absolute favorite)

4.  The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (Animated), William Joyce & Brandon Oldenburg, directors, USA (this is the entire film.  I loved this one, and actually cried at the end)

Unlike most movie-going experiences, I was (gladly) forced to stick around to watch the credits following every film, as each short was showed in succession of one another.  Reading the credits brought me so much joy and intrigue.  I was able to appreciate the "hustle" that it takes to create films with little to no budget.  I also realized the differences between art-making in the US and other countries.  In Canada and countries in the UK, independent films receive government subsidies towards completing the project.  In the United States...well, I hope that we are all aware of the state of funding "anything" here.  Its next to impossible to receive funding for organizational survival, let alone creating something that challenges artistic integrity.

For those who are interested in supporting the livelihood of your fellow neighbors (artists who need to put food on their table and pay their utilities), I suggest you check out your local art house.  To find your local art house, visit Independent Lens' website (Independent Lens is a series that regularly airs on PBS.

The Independent Spirit Awards is coming up.  If you're interested in finding out more on independent filmmaking, please check it out.  The awards show is airing on IFC on Saturday, February 25.  This awards ceremony is uncensored, so I'm betting that all viewers will have a great time watching it!  This year's festivities will be hosted by Seth Rogan.  To find out if IFC is provided by your cable or satellite provider, please visit their respective websites.  I have DirecTV and am proud to say that I get BOTH IFC and The Sundance Channel.  Both channels show independently produced films and television series.

In a couple of days, I'll be posting my list of favorite independent films.  You'll probably be surprised as to which films make the list, as many of them do not come across as independently-produced projects.  Also, I'll be posting information on the current state of arts funding in the United States and the importance of celebrating non-commercial art-making at some point this week as well.

If you live in Western Massachusetts, specifically near Amherst or Northampton, I highly recommend you see one of the screenings this week of either the Live Action, Animated, or Documentary Shorts before the Academy Awards airing Sunday, February 25 at 5:30 p.m. PST/8:30 p.m. EST on ABC. I think that we'll all pay attention to the brief, ackwardly set-aside moments when the winners of these categories are giving their speeches, as I believe they deserve more time than they are granted for they are truly the best "hustlers" out there.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tradition Magician

This was the HARDEST blog post to write.  Originally, I started writing this about a month ago.  I'm glad that I waited to finish it as so much has happened in my personal life and within the discourse surrounding the matter.  I'm really happy that I waited.  This time gave me a better opportunity to thoroughly thing about this post and I hope that all readers will gain something from it.  

I'd like to dedicate this blog post to my mom, someone whose taught me how to appreciate the strength of my beauty and my being.

Its serendipitous that I write about love this Valentine's Day...well, Valentine's Day and a half, as I post this on the day after the fact.  With love all around me, friends getting married and proposals flowing aplenty, I had (and still continue to have) a lot to think about this Valentine's Day.  I've never been one to celebrate it nor crave my significant other indulge me with or shower me with capitalistic inspired trinkets.  But this year, Valentine's Day chose to celebrate me.

As I attempted to avoid the Hallmark-induced holiday yesterday, I was bombarded with chocolates.  "Chocolates to the left of em.  Chocolates to the right of em.  Eat.  Digest.  And Eat Some More" was my motto.  I was offered free chocolate at the coffee stand I frequent at work, at my office, in a couple of meetings, and in class last night.  Thank goodness it was all dark chocolate, keeping those healthy flavoroids coming!  I tend to speak things into existence.  I was so sure about wanting to "not" celebrate Valentine's Day.  Instead, it stalked me all day.

Rewind to a month ago from yesterday.  I served as the coordinator and bride's attendant for two dear friends' wedding.  As we're becoming even "closer" friends, it was an honor to serve in this capacity.  I enjoyed the day, including participating in all of the rituals and traditions that accompany the occasion.  I was fortunate enough, despite my hesitations and protests against partaking in said ritual, to catch the bouquet (with how perfect a "catch" it was, I think it was planned as many of the friends in attendance at this occasion are ready to see me-and a few other single women-hitched already).  Catching the bouquet means that I'll be the next bride.  As there are no candidates for "spouse" at the moment, I beg to differ in this sentiment.  However, its forced me to conduct inventory on my dating situation, or lack thereof, and why getting married is important to me.

I'm not your "stereotypical" girl.  Before I launch into this part of the discussion, I must add that I take offense to societal-assigned gender roles and how they've dictated human behavior and interaction.  It has and continues to subject women, in "hetero" relationships (man/woman), to assume much of the burden of the relationship while the man can just "be."  (More on this later...)  I didn't collect bridal magazines as a teenager.  I don't have a picture book with clippings of photos, piecing together my "dream dress."  I don't have a storyboard or dream board of my fantasy day or my fantasy mate.  I haven't officially chosen members of the wedding party, a site for the ceremony (though I have some ideas and the desire of getting married in my hometown), the design of my engagement ring, or even the type of cake I would want.  I have, however, made the executive decision that I want to get married and that I want to marry a man with specific qualifications.  The qualifications are easy to fulfill, as I look for someone who can love me as much as I love him, except me for my faults (as I would equally of him), strong family values, dreams that he's pursuing, and a heart full of love who believes in good "samaritanism" and being good to thy neighbor.  I have been told that my standards are quite high but that's another story.

I'm (cough, cough) years old and have only came close to getting married once.  I'm not sure how much that one counts given that the engagement had its special reasons for coming to an abrupt ending only five months in.  My ex-fiance and I still remain good friends.  I've only had a handful of boyfriends, none that I would consider marriage material.  No offense, ex-boyfriends of mine.  Trust me, I'm a lot to handle.  Do you really want a Type A, workaholic, OCD control freak as a wife?!  BTW, I enjoy that I possess these qualities.  It means that I can live many different lives in a short period of time.

The discourse for "forever single educated (black) women" expands daily.  Just within the week, articles on the negative implications of being a black woman to the difficulties of marrying when educated and career-driven to the realities of finding love while educated continue to flood my e-mail's inbox.  I even have comedians (Steve Harvey) and lawyers turned actors (Hill Harper) "instructing" me on how changing "my" behavior and my "list(s)" will "bring" me my mate Notice how I didn't insert "ideal".  Steve Harvey, in particular, wants black women to settle.  And, also notice how I didn't mention any of his books.  I'm not turning into his free publicist.  You can "google" on these men to find their "trash talk."

To add insult to injury, dating sites like eharmony regularly sends me articles on topics ranging from "why you're still single" to "the top 7 reasons why no one is dating you right now."  I registered for eharmony a couple of years ago during a free weekend but decided not to continue using their services after I found out how much it was to subscribe to their site (its member-based and you can only communicate with others on the site after you've paid a huge lump sum of money, something my pockets can't afford at the moment).  Though I was able to discontinue my "membership," I was still receiving the e-newsletter, which was filled with self-esteem killing articles on how "not" to be the you "you" are right now.  They make it extremely difficult to unsubscribe from their e-newsletter.  After getting their e-newsletter for three years, years after canceling my subscription to the site-based services, I figured out (through tons of FBI-type research) how to cancel the subscription to the e-newsletter.  Similar to an abusive relationship, eharmony only told me how bad of a person I was because I didn't partake into their ordeal.  Taking on advise used on my most recent relationship, as prescribed by sex and relationship columnist Dan Savage, I "DTMFA'ed!"

Though I'm not going to share the specific advise from these men and websites, I'm going to "generalize" (yes, I'm stepping into dangerous territory here...hell, these men did in their books, so can I) and share what these men and others in my life have said pertaining to me and marriage (prepare yourself as this list is going to be long and possibly overwhelming):

  • I'm too smart (I have a bachelor's degree from a top-notched public Ivy League state university and am now working towards my doctorate degree)
  • I'm too driven career-wise.  I don't seek to be the "dominate" one of the relationship or the household.  I want to be able to live a comfortable life and for most of my life, I've been living it alone.  A girl's got to support herself.
  • I'm too tall (come on now, this one is ridiculous)
  • I'm overweight (in most Eastern countries and places in Europe, my full-figure equals wealth, hell, women of the 1960s were considered beautiful but by today's standards are considered "fat."  Society, please stop spazzing, acting all ADD and bipolar and make up your mind on what's in and what's out)*
  • My standards are too high (to not want a man who acts like a child and can't even provide for himself and someone who wants a "second" mother is setting my standards too high?!  Remember what I said earlier)
  • Black women are ugly and unattractive (I'm going to save what I have to say for another blogpost as what I have to say can be published throughout a series of encyclopedias)
  • I don't follow the "dating rules."  Whenever the 1,001 commandments on dating come out on a chiseled slate of stone, then I'll divulge into whatever this bullshit means.
  • Wait, am I forgetting any?!  As I've been told a lot about myself that makes me "undesirable," I tend to forget some of these things.

*There are some dating sites geared towards hooking up "chubby chasers" with BBWs but I find them to be very fetishizing and demeaning to all parties involved.  Please check out the TLC series Big Sexy and it will fill you in on this counterculture phenomenon.  

On top of all of this, I've been battling with my hair since I was a child.  No, better yet, since the last time I resisted my natural style and started relaxing my hair again.  The year:  2004.  The event:  a job at a conservative yet highly regarded arts organization.  The matter:  a light-skinned supervisor who thought that my hair looked a "mess" natural.  There's all kinds of complexion politics up in this!  I was one of the only light-to-middle "skinned" women that work at this place.  Almost all of the darker-skinned women wore their hair in natural hairstyles, including locks, twists, and afros.  But for some reason, I had to straighten my hair in order to look more professional.  Up until that point, I was rocking God's given curls.  I did the "big chop" for the first time in 2001 after finishing undergrad and thought I'd never look back.  I loved my hair.  It grew back fairly quickly.  Try in a year and a half.  Despite that happy, almost orgasmic-like three years together, I fell victim to someone else's venom.  My hair hasn't grown since then.  Well, maybe a couple of centimeters....centimeters does no girl any good (I had to throw some humor in here).

Well readers, I've scheduled myself another lunch date with the "big chop."  Its going down on Friday (well, coming off).  I'm going back to wearing my hair natural.  Cutting off all contact with the socially-deemed regime of the bimonthly dose of the "creamy crack".  I miss my hair being natural.  It did something to my self-esteem.  Not only was it easier to style, the curls framed my gorgeous face perfectly!  Going back to this style brings on fond memories of our years together.  I look forward to making love to my coif once more.  I promise you that I will share this experience with all of my readers.  I was very apprehensive about this endeavor.

It took a lot for me to accept this choice.  I was very apprehensive about cutting hair because of what it could do to my dating life.  Wait, dating life.  I have one?!  Did I lose it in the park?  Is it in a foster home or at the kennel?  Or did the garbage person pick it up accidentally?  Nope.  Dating sans exist in the land beyond B.F.E. (where I currently "habitat").  I get this sense that men don't like short hair on women, for it could emasculate them.  I cried a little.  I laughed a little.  I even talked to other friends about it.  What sealed the deal for me and comforted me about my choice:  talking to my mom about it on the phone today. My mom, who means more than the world to me (I'm so happy to be so close to both of my parents, who are both still in my hometown), says that she remembers me when I had my hair that short and how pretty it made my face look and how happy I was when I had my hair natural.  I said to her that my natural is reminiscent of her hair during the revolutionary 70s.  My dad met, fell in love with, and married my mom in the 1970s with her afro and all.  He even had one at the time.  My parents are about to celebrate their 36th wedding anniversary.  If my mom's afro stood for love, revolution and Black pride, then let me be just like my mom for I am and want to be all of those things.

You might ask, how am I going to morph into this "tradition magician."  I can answer that question with this:  I believe that gifts in abundance exist for me, including one of a lifelong spouse (I'm open to love in all shapes and forms....go MARRIAGE EQUALITY) whose dreams will mesh with mine, whose love of life will strengthen beyond belief through our love for one another together; a book deal; an OBIE Award (off-Broadway, look out); launching my consultancy on socially-conscious arts management and doing a tour across the country sharing my work; traveling the world, celebrating the great diversity the world offers us; the college teaching job that will give me a chance to continue freelancing as a playwright, poet, and journalist, and that 10th floor loft in a major city, living within walking distance of a great neighborhood grocery store and a park to bring the children to.  Not to pat myself on the back, but who wouldn't want to share life with someone like this?!  Okay, maybe I'm being a lil' self-indulgent.  But, whose going love you if you don't love yourself?!  I'm going to reverse all stereotypes and live life the way I should live it and not by the way others dictate it for me for I'm going to live beyond the odds.  I'm going to be a proud, Black,beautiful, full-figured, sexy ass, HAUTE ass, smart as hell fashionista/naturalista arts mogul who will build a happy, fulfilling life with another human being.  It may not be my soulmate but its going to be one hell of a lucky person (and I will be too for my future spouse, wherever they are, happen to be awesome).

So, to answer Lionel Bart's* question, I know where it is.  It awaits me for when I obtain it, there's no looking back.

*Lionel Bart wrote the music and script for the musical Oliver!, which is an adaptation of the Charles Dickens' story.