Category Archives: movies

Only Yoda made me cry…

STAR WARS LAST JEDI SPOILER ALERT.

This is not a review of “The Last Jedi” which by the way, I think was an okay film. This is just about one moment in the movie that caught me off guard and produced unexpected eye water.

Reya (you don’t really need to know who she is) has come looking for Luke Skywalker, the great Jedi to save the rebellion as usual. He has isolated himself on a desolate island with a dark secret and no intention of going anywhere to save anyone because he thinks it’s time for the Jedi way to die, namely because of his dark secret which is basically  a mistake he made and cannot face.

Long story short, his sister Leia gave her bitch baby son Kylo Ren over to Luke for Jedi training and despite his greatest efforts, Luke found himself to be matchless against the strength of darkness in Kylo Ren. One night in a moment of weakness he came to Kylo’s bed with his saber and for a moment was poised to kill him. By the time he thought better of it, Kylo woke up and saw him and well, you know, defended himself and then ran off into the night to be all dark and whiny.

yoda-you-must-unlearn

Yoda, the great Jedi who taught Luke only appears once in this movie. And when Yoda shows up, it’s never trivial. After Luke burns a temple on the island with the only Jedi texts in them, Yoda’s spirit appears and laughs at him which clearly you can do when you’re a dead Jedi and no one can try and kick your physical ass anymore.

Luke sits beside him looking forlorn and lost, watching his holy things burn. Yoda thinks it’s funny that Luke believes this symbolic destruction means anything since the teachings are still within him. Luke starts blubbering about how he was too weak to help his nephew. And Yoda tells him something like, yes, teach wisdom, knowledge, all these things are important, but teach failure also. Failure is a great teacher as well…

I didn’t expect it. I didn’t expect to understand that even Luke Skywalker was someone so full of shame and self judgement that he would hole away and deprive the rebellion of his talent, because he had failed in one way no matter how many times he had succeeded in others. He still hadn’t learned to be patient and accepting with the darkness inside himself, so how could he be patient and accepting of the darkness in Kylo Ren or in anyone? Worst of all, he had exiled himself, physically, emotionally and spiritually, punishing himself for his failing before anyone else could.

And Yoda said simply that as a teacher you have to allow failure to be a lesson as well, that there has to be balance between the lessons of success and failure. Clearly that’s not what society teaches us here or in a galaxy far far away.

So finally Luke shows up and confronts his abandoned disciple, whom he’s really been hiding from since the night he almost killed him. But really, he also confronted himself and the darkness he wouldn’t allow himself to accept so that he could finally transform.

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Belafonte: Film History 101

Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences' 2014 Governors Awards - Show

Last night I was watching the acceptance speech Harry Belafonte gave after receiving the Humanitarian Award from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He is someone I have admired greatly for years, more for his activism and work with youth, than his acting. I prefer his musical performances to his dramatic ones. But having worked in film at a time before racial integration, the projects he chose to work in were deliberate in their revolutionary positions on race, social justice and class structure. Even he has said that he never wanted to be an actor for any other reason than to have a platform from which to positively affect social change.

My favorite part of his acceptance speech is when he began to reverently and expertly break down the fundamental ways in which films like “Birth of A Nation” and “Tarzan,” while admittedly innovative for the time, helped to invent and stereotype popular ideas about who Black Americans and Black Africans were, to in effect plant the seed of hatred in the minds of Whites and Blacks alike. Even Belafonte was impressed as a young person, watching “Tarzan” for the first time. But he was clear that for people of color, awe and amazement were quickly stamped out by images of themselves that evoked and reflected the base fears of a dominant white culture that were bent on maintaining power over this medium by keeping aesthetic ideals of intelligence, beauty and heroism as white as could be.

That hasn’t changed by the way.

As an avid film lover with a degree in Media and Social Issues and as a woman of color I make it a point not only to study film but to try my best to understand what I am consuming when I watch films. Since the dawn of filmmaking there has only been one story to tell albeit in many different ways. The story is of humanity. We cannot tell any other story but this. Even in nature documentaries about animals, ecosystems, planets, everything that is being studied, or explored, or interpreted is being done through the human mind. We like mirrors. We hate mirrors. But if we do not look, we can never know we exist, how and for what reasons.

The medium of film has been co-opted by the dominate culture for decades but the stories of humanity within them that have been allowed into the mainstream have been broad, compelling, heartbreaking, transcendent, universal and beautiful nonetheless. Like any form of art, you can find the voices you’re looking for even if they are not released by the big studios. But you have to look. And if you can’t find the voice you’re looking for, try using your own or supporting and encouraging those around you which hold promise.

I know without looking at my film collection that it is primarily made up of white casts, and white directors. I can also guess that the majority of these directors are male. This is the world I live in. I can see myself in a story that does not include characters that look like me because as humans, we all share the human experience. But humane portrayal in film is not always shared equally across race and gender. Types stick. Genres and formulas generate buzz and bring in millions. And the deep psychological effects of racism and sexism play out on the big screen and the small in ways we are often depended upon to overlook as consumers.  Being educated about the history of any medium of expression is to understand more about its present day incarnations and the ways in which the actual evolution or change in its depictions are usually more or less the same as they ever were for better or worse.

With regard to film and the role it plays in enlightenment, exploration and inciting movement, it’s not always change that’s necessary, but a realization about why we tell stories the way we do in the first place. Our  voices, stories, faces, our diversity is there.  It has been from the beginning in directors like Oscar Micheaux and performers like Paul Robeson, in films like “Black Orpheus” and “Sugar Cane Alley” The problem is in the monopolization of the dominate eye behind the camera. And you can always tell whose eye it is because the same trail of evidence is left behind in each frame.