“It’s imagination. To imagine means to image. And once you make an image, you can make flesh. It’s power upon power. And it’s real. That power, that force–if you let it, it can move mountains.”–Rza, The Wu-Tang Manual
Earlier this week, Rza dropped the first trailer for his directorial debut martial arts flick–The Man with the Iron Fists. Set in a fictional 19th century China, it stars some premium actors, among them Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu and the incomparable Pam Grier. Rza, better known as the mentalist leader of the Wu-Tang Clan, and for digging in the crates to mash-up an orchestration of dissimilar sounds to lay classic Hip Hop tracks and score such films as Ghost Samuraiand Kill Bill I & II, co-wrote the film and plays a starring role–as a martial arts blacksmith alongside a razor-fan slicing, gun-toting, golden-skin morphing cast of characters. For anyone even remotely familiar with Wu-Tang, and the mind of Bobby Digital especially, none of this should come as a surprise.
“I’m sick of these m@thaf*ckin zombies on this m@thaf*ckin train!” utters Frederick Douglass, right before he begins slaying hordes of the undead with a shotgun and sword. Remember that part in history class? When Frederick Douglass slayed all those zombies? On a train? No? Good. Thank a public school teacher. The lines are actually part of a spoof trailer created by Ola Betiku, mocking the film adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s minorly steampunk but majorly alternate-history monster feature Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter due out in theaters this weekend.
I’m a fantasy racist. There I admit it. It’s not entirely my fault. It’s what I was taught. From an early age, my fantasy godfathers and godmothers (well, mostly fathers actually), raised me to despise Goblins, Orcs, Trollocs and a host of other sub-human beings who tend to congregate in throngs, masses and “teeming hordes.” Let’s face it, when was the last time you met a “horde” that was “teeming” with good intentions? Right. I thought so. Vicious, mindless, perverse, prone to mayhem, pillaging and not above stewing other sentient beings in a cooking pot, I came to learn that there were precious few worthy qualities about any of them. The only good Orc is a dead Orc! Right….?
So, apologies for using the word “white” in a second post in a row. But I just saw Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and it seemed apropos. I’m not going to give a long drawn out analysis of the flick (though I will give a smart alec’y recap), just a few observations and thoughts. And just so you been warned, it’s chock-full-o’ SPOILERS.
Okay. A break from speculative fiction, just for a brief minute.
Race movies. I used to love them. Hollywood Shuffle, Do the Right Thing, Higher Learning. Here were films that often gave voice to my inner frustrations of race and identity, and did so with a great deal of satire and entertainment. As Bernard Shaw once wrote, “My way of joking is to tell the truth. It’s the funniest joke in the world.” From Robert Townsend’s Black Acting School to Radio Rahim to the complexities of race, identity and gender on American college campuses, these films dared to tackle often under-discussed issues on the big screen–and gave us something to talk about. Movies like these seem rare in our times. What we get instead are endless “black culture” films (all chasing the genius of Drumline) wherein race is broached in the white girl/guy who “slums” it with black dancers, or worse, feel-good-convoluted-but-doesn’t-really-expose-anything white-privilege dramas like Crash. And of course, the white-savior trope–Hollywood’s favorite forays into race–continue unabated, from The Blind Side to The Help. I won’t even go into the new-age black poverty porn film industry or whatever it was George Lucas was trying to tell us with Red Tails (I liked it better when it was called The Tuskegee Airmen, in 1995, on HBO, with a better script).
Well in the legacy of those pioneering, provocative edu-taining race films of the past, comes a new project called Dear White People. According to its creators, the film “follows the stories of four black students at an Ivy League college where a riot breaks out over a popular “African American” themed party thrown by white students.” Claiming to have “tongue planted firmly in cheek,” Dear White People aims to “explore racial identity in “post-racial” America while weaving a universal story of forging one’s unique path in the world.” Hoping to get their film off the ground, the producers have put together a funding platform on Indiegogo and a rather polished and darkly humored trailer. As they rightly state, “there hasn’t been a film like Dear White Peoplein a long time.” I agree, let’s make this happen. See the trailer to the film above. Visit the site here to donate to its production.