Friday, March 17, 2006

Issue#10: O&Os

Issue #10, diez, dix, δέκα, dieci, tien, zumi! It's here! We had so much Overseen & Overheard from all over the world, we had to leave the feature for next issue! Read on...


ANSWERING A HIGHER POWER?....According to his press rep Rob Moore, earlier this week Isaac Hayes officially requested a release from his contract with "South Park," and Comedy Central. The voice of "CHEF" since 1997, Hayes, a follower of the Church of Scientology, says recent episodes have embarked upon what he feels are inappropriate ridicule of religious communities. According to Moore, while "fully acknowledging [the show's] right to freedom of speech, Hayes is disappointed with what he perceives as a growing insensitivity towards personal spiritual beliefs." Said Hayes in a statement, "There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins. As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices." Proof, People, that the almighty dollar does not surpass the Almighty in the eyes of some.

CAT FIGHT...Just heard that rapper/actor Mos Def and Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) are in final talks to co-star in indie drama Stringbean and Marcus, set in 1978. They will play two ex-Black Panthers who have fallen out of love. Written by and to be directed by first-time feature filmmaker Tanya Hamilton, shooting is set to start in July in Philadelphia. Get out your leather and black sunglasses!

WANTED...and more in rumored scoop: Man-about-town Damon Dash is supposedly behind an upcoming effort by Universal Pictures to actually bring the Larry Davis story to the big screen. If you caught the street documentary about Davis, you got all the schoolin' you need to know that with even more dollars behind this story about a modern Jesse James-type character, it will be ON in the theatres. Now, here is where it gets even more interesting: Our source tells us that Robert DeNiro will be signing on to direct. Now let's just see what actually comes of this, but remember, you heard it here first Kidz.

THEATRICAL TOLERANCE?...While we're on the subject of DeNiro, his Tribeca Film Festival ( plans to offer Americans insights on the Muslim world, many of them surprising. According to statements from exec director, Peter Scarlet, the Iraqi war is a theme of many of the entries. Among the offerings: The War Tapes, edited from footage filmed by National Guard soldiers in Iraq, When I Came Home, a documentary featuring an Iraq war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and living out of his car in Brooklyn, and The Blood of My Brother: A Story of Death in Iraq, about an Iraqi family whose son is killed by a U.S. patrol. And that's just a sampling; about half of the films being screened are set in Muslim countries. Check it out for yourself April 25-May 7 festival in the Big Apple. But no word about how the festival plans to offer insights on racial issues right here in the U.S. or, say, a special outreach to urban films. Hmmmm.....

WELCOME TO 2006...In an unprecedented move, an anchorman of color will take the prime-time helm at France's TF1 network in July. This country of 60 million diverse people will finally get a reflection of its true population during the coveted primetime slot. Remember the name Harry Roselmack (age 32) because dude will no doubt be referred to in history books. Only question: Why does it normally take riots and acting out in order to get the powers that be to suddenly realize that everyone should be included in the mix?

MOVIE FOR A MOVEMENT...Speaking of France, it seems one filmmaker has taken it upon herself to try and solve the racism problem in the country. French film director Yamina Benguigui has just completed a documentary on racism in the workplace that she hopes will spur an affirmative action movement there. The quota system does not yet exist in France due to its views on how equality should be handled. The film's called Le Plafond de Verre (Glass Ceiling), and it follows the frequent discrimination faced by France's immigrant communities, mostly black and North African Arab, when job hunting. And Benguigui, who was born in France of Arab-Algerian parents, is marketing the film in a unique way--she's holding her own weekly screenings sessions in a Paris theater. It seems someone is indeed listening; several local officials such as Michel Charzat, the Socialist Party mayor of Paris' 20th district, has dropped in for discussion. Could change be afoot?

Yes, that's right The A-List is the worldwide eye for all things media related with a brown hue and then some. So here's some more for ya. "Everybody Hates Chris" has done the unthinkable for a black American show--it's being aired on the UK's BBC channel. According to our sources, the British myth is that its TV viewing public isn't too keen on black comedies (though some air on smaller "cable" channels; but not on the mammoth BBC). The powers that be cite the fact that Brits supposedly don't get Black American humor references--though we guess they get something like "Seinfeld. "Another supposed reason that black American shows aren't picked up as readily for UK distribution is that they just don't stay on the air long enough in the States to insure an overseas audience. While we can all debate this issue for weeks, the fact of the matter is that the relatively new black American comedy "Everybody Hates Chris" has beaten the odds. But how? Insiders are say that the show was actually bought by the BBC before it even aired in the U.S. Stay tuned as we research the backstory to all this further.

BOOK 'EM...You'd think Hill Harper would be busy enough what with his weekly duties on the hit TV show, "CSI: NY." But he has found time to pen a book--Letters To a Young Brother (Gotham Books). The motivational book targeted at youth hits stores April 20. Guess this magna cum laude grad from Brown (and J.D. holder from Harvard Law) might have some good advice for the youngins.

CALL FOR ENTRIES...Philly's getting its own black film festival. Yup, you read right. The first annual The Black Film & Media Conference (BFMC) takes place May 4-May 7 @ the Pennsylvania Convention Center. They have put out a call for entries of all genres--deadline is April 14. According to organizers, the BFMC will consist of programs and promotions focusing on the history of Black film, the spirit of “independence," insight from local and national filmmakers, government influences, education, and corporate relationships. There'll be a series of film screenings, workshops, expert panels, an exposition, education/career fair, and networking events. Visit or call (215) 763-2400. Don't miss it.

DALLAS DIVA?...Will glamour gal J.Lo actually be joining the cast of the film version of "Dallas"? Insiders are buzzing but nothing is set in stone just yet. Word - is director Robert Luketic wants Lopez to play Sue Ellen Ewing, the alcoholic wife of J.R. Ewing, who was originally played by Linda Gray. John Travolta has been offered the role of J.R. The real question is, will they add some new brown faces to this version, which they seemed to forget the first time around?

FREEDOMS FORGOTTEN?....According to a recently released survey by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum (, Americans are more likely to be able to name the three judges on “American Idol” than the five First Amendment freedoms. Almost half of the 1,000 surveyed could name none of the freedoms, but a majority (54%) could name at least one Idol judge, 41% could name two, and one-fourth could name all three. The five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment are: freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition for redress of grievances. Sorry, Paula, we'll take freedoms over Idol anytime.

MUSIC TO OUR EARS...We aren't sure if the deal is actually in the works, but friends of the family of Jazz legend Miles Davis tell us directly that they're trying to get a biopic made with Don Cheadle in the lead. They, apparently, would like Antoine Fuqua to direct. While we read in HR and other outlets this may be on, our sources say it's not a done deal yet. If this film does get made, it might just do Davis proud.

AIDS AWARENESS...Sheryl Lee Ralph just gmailed us about a one-woman play she's written and, of course, is starring in. Sometimes I Cry ( tackles the issue of women with HIV/AIDS. Ralph tells the story of six very different women and their battle with the disease. Sometimes I Cry is the second production from The Diva Foundation, a not-for-profit charitable organization founded by Ralph in 1990 as a memorial to the many friends she had lost to HIV/AIDS. Sometimes I Cry is @ the Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica. Tickets are $40, March 16th (Opening Night Gala) and $20, March 17–19. For reservations, call (310) 315 -1459.

KING KAYNE?...It was only a matter of time before Hollywood decided Kayne West was fly enough for the big screen. He will executive produce and star in an innovative feature film inspired by his own music for New Line Cinema. And since it is Kayne, you know he has to come from a different angle. The film will feature a multiperspective portrait of the U.S. as seen through the eyes of West and several filmmakers. It's said that George C. Wolfe (directer of Lackawanna Blues, among other quality projects) will co-executive producer. Some six writers and 10-12 directors will create short stories linked by a central theme. As always, Kayne West continues to prove he's on top of the world, baby.

OLD BOYS NETWORK REVAMPED...Former "Amen" star Clifton Davis has been tapped to be executive director of Philadelphia’s Sunoco "Welcome America" festival, a week-long annual summer event, according to our friends over at Seems Davis is an old college buddy of Philly Mayor John F. Street so they hooked up to tackle the problem-ridden fest. While the non-profit Welcome America earned $5 million in 2004, the city is looking for Davis to boost its bottom line and exposure. For his trouble, the Tony nominated Davis is taking home a reported annual salary of $114,000. Now, is that taxpayer funded or what?

THUG LIFE...This just in: HBO has ordered a half-hour comedy pilot based on the life of comedian Mike Epps. "The Unsuccessful Thug" will be a single-camera series and the pilot is executive produced by Epps, Brad Kaaya, Russell Simmons and Stan Lathan. Only time well tell on this one.

According to the New York Times, New York City's bid to bring in more production to the city is backfiring. Due to special tax credits and incentives, the film and television industry has become the fastest growing employment surge in the city, says the Times--creating some 10,000 jobs since last year. But now there's so much production in the city, that it is actually costing the Big Apple money. It seems that since 2002, the number of production shooting days in NYC has more than doubled. Because of this, New York has gone through the $50 million it alloted for four years' worth of tax credits for the industry. While there are many suggestions from officials, currently the city has not yet determined how it will make up the difference for future productions.

Coachella (GoldenVoices)
This documentary takes a behind the scenes look at one of the world’s fastest growing music festivals, Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival--a sort of a Woodstock for the current youth generation. Taking place over the past six years, the festival features rock, hip hop, heavy metal, and techno performances on five stages operating simultaneously. Each year this sold-out event brings forth ambitious aspiring artists and music lovers from diverse backgrounds. Now the highlights over its course have been gathered on film. But there's more than just the music in the documentary--it's filled with interviews showcasing all sides of the music industry including political views from such artists as rapper/preacher/poet/musician Saul Stacey Williams. In addition, legends such as Kool Keith and Iggy & the Stooges are profiled as well. This film does a great job of taking the viewer behind the scenes and into the dressing room of each performer. This all-star list includes The Flaming Lips, White Stripes, Fisher Spooner, Morrissey, and Crystal Method to Ash, Mos Def, The Pixies, and The Chemical Brothers. A must see for serious music enthusiasts who appreciate the art of expression. Directed by Drew Thomas, the film played in art house theatres earlier this year, and is now gearing up for a wider release. See the flick at Coachella 2006, April 29-April 30, or look for it to hit a city near you. Link: A-List Rating: A. --Marcell Cunningham

What book would you like see made into a film?
Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle. It won the National Book Award in 2004. It takes place in the 1920s and is about an African-American doctor who moves with his family to a previously all-white Detroit neighborhood. When a mob tries to drive them back to the ghetto, he defends himsef and kills a white man. Clarence Darrow, defends him and he actually gets off for killing this white guy in the ' 20s. It's an amazing book.
Prof. Todd Boyd
Professor, USC School of Cinema-Television/Author
Young Black Rich and Famous: The Rise of the NBA, The Hip Hop Invasion and the Transformation of American Culture

Questions, Comments, Kudos? Hit us up at

Dear A-List:
When Gordon Parks died, I had a conversation with a friend of mine speculating on how few Black children--or adults--knew much about the very gifted, glorious Mr. Parks. Not many, we imagined. Sadly the number is probably fewer for the fearless Oscar Micheaux. The most prolific black independent-filmmaker in American cinema, Micheaux wrote, produced and directed forty-four feature-length films between 1919 and 1948. His fifth movie could have gotten him killed. In "Within Our Gates," Micheaux attacked the racism in D.W. Griffith's incendiary "The Birth of a Nation." In his movie, Griffith depicted blacks as lazy alcoholics who raped white women. Micheaux dared to duplicate Griffith's rape scene--BUT this time a white man tries to rape a black woman, Micheaux used exactly the same lighting, blocking, and setting as the black on white rape scene in "The Birth of a Nation."

How could he have had the nerve?? He was never short on that. In his lifetime, he was a visionary who tried to uplift the race by making Hollywood movies, complete with actors typecast as the "black Valentino" or the "sepia Mae West."? In the 1930's, his films represented a radical departure from Hollywood's portrayal of blacks as servants just shufflin' along. He brought diverse images of ghetto life and related social issues to the screen for the first time.

The Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame honors artists every year at the Oscar Micheaux Awards Ceremony. In 1973, I went with my dear Brock Peters up to Oakland when he was inducted and met Clarence Muse, who was also inducted that year. So one word about Mr. Muse. Born in 1889, his career spanned 80 years. He was a lawyer, writer, director, composer, and actor. He moved from the progressive all-Black Lincoln Players in the 20s always working. He also composed the songs and co-wrote the story for the 1938 Bobby Breen musical "Way Down South." During World War II, he served as a member of the Hollywood Victory Committee that arranged the appearances of stars overseas, and he made hospital tours to entertain wounded soldiers.

In 1955, Muse was a regular on the weekly TV version of “Casablanca,” playing Sam the pianist (a role he nearly got in the 1942 film version) and in 1959, he appeared in the film "Porgy and Bess" with Sammy Davis, Dorothy Dandridge and Sidney Poitier. Other film credits include “Buck and the Preacher” (1972) and “Car Wash” (1976). These men and so many others get lost in today's hype. But we should never forget on whose shoulders we stand--to quote Sidney Poitier at the 2005 Black Movie Awards.
Ruth Adkins Robinson
Co-producer, 2005 Black Movie Awards

Tisha Campbell, Tichina Arnold, Jamie Foxx and Norwood Young at Lisa Raye's classy bridal shower at Euro Chow.

If you want something done right, don't do it all yourself, have a posse. Shout out to our U.K. insider Melissa Ross, the ever present Gil Robertson IV, and new Hollywood contributor Marcell Cunningham.