James Spooner / White Lies Black Sheep {film review}



Saw Spooners new film, White Lies Black Sheep last night at the Afropunk Festival. Pretty impressive piece of work despite being low budget. Expanding on the whole black punk resisting white supremacy narrative, Spooner turns his attention to creating a scripted story out of the same foundation that made Afropunk (the film) what it was and what it (the community) is.

While the story is a bit simple, it seems that it's kept that way intentionally. It avoids the what comes "after" part of the story of resistance. When dealing with African people that part is always the harder part of the story to tell. Moreover, I think we often have to tell the story of breaking free before we can properly tell the rest of story -- the sorta post-colonial part. This film -- as seems the foundation of the Afropunk idea -- is definitely focused on the act of breaking free. Where this connects with the black radical tradition is a bit more vague. For now, I think it happens on a personal level by certain individuals within the community as opposed to being something that the community has embodied as a whole.

I wanted to ask James about that -- what kind of discipline it takes to focus on just the beginning part of the total experience when telling a story, instead of going further into what a person becomes after that "moment of clarity" and change in direction -- but didn't get a chance to. Maybe later. What do you guys think of that?

I'm not going to give away much of anything else here. But one point that haunted me for the rest of the night was this one overachiever in the audience who shared that he thought certain parts of the dialogue where white people are saying the darnedest things, were just too surreal to be believable -- there was just too much white stupidity and ignorance for an audience to buy it according to him. I couldn't help but think of a show like Cops and how black (as in non-white) ignorance and stupidity has been normalized to the point where it's barely worthy of protest from the same type of critics who will say what this dude said seemingly in order to ensure that the film doesn't alienate too many people by presenting too many "impossible" scenarios. I told James this after the screening and he kinda chuckled about it. I wasn't able to get a guage for how he feels about that. Afterwards I thought about the fact that his white mom was in attendance and wondered what effect, if any, that continues to have on him. Most certainly it has some effect, how could it not? There's a lot here to look into. Look for an interview in The Liberator around the time the new film drops sometime in '08. Until then, check out the old one here: Writer/Director James Spooner On "Afro Punk: The Rock And Roll Nigger Experience".

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