Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The short of it at Project Row Houses: Round 36

Dean Liscum

On Saturday, April 14th, I saw two short films as part of "The Cultural Portal: Reclaiming Our Image" exhibition in Project Row Houses Round 36. I showed up not knowing what to expect. The announcement didn't list what films would be screened. I was hoping that they would be works that included or were produced by Monica (Monie) Henderson and Marc Newsome, members of Our Image Film and Arts. Specifically, I wanted to see and discuss Newsome's "Here Comes The Neighborhood"

Here Comes The Neighborhood - Marc Newsome from Blackfilm.com on Vimeo.

or one of Henderson's  projects.

Disappointingly, their works weren't being screened. Henderson and Newsome are curating this series, not starring in it. However, Henderson assured me that they were both working on projects that would premiere soon.

She assured me that I'd like their choices, and I did.

The first film was Carla (which is available from IMDB) by Henry G. Sanders. It's a disturbing account of a female Army officer's return from fighting the Iraq War with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and the reason for the trauma. I'll spoil the movie for you by repeating a quote from Representative Jane Harman that appears at the end of the film,

a female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.

It's well-done, riveting and it promises to be made into a full length feature film.

The second film was On the Grind by James M. Cheeks III. It's tag line reads "Skateboarding isn’t some suburban sport, it’s a means of survival…" This film documents the efforts of youths in Long Beach California to not only thrive in an economically depressed area, but do so through a form of sport and self-expression, skateboarding, that is not typically accepted in an otherwise basketball, gang-banging, hip-hop culture.

The trailer gives you a sense of the groups plight. More importantly, it documents their resilience and raw talent as a group of kids without mentors or financial backing or governmental\religious institutional support organizes and nurtures themselves and their artistic and competitive aspirations.

From an artistic perspective, what I took away from this film was how much of a form of art, perhaps most similar to ballet, skateboarding is. It's a competitive sport, yes, but it's also a form of self-expression and a creative outlet.

The remainder of the series at Project Row House is ...

May 5: 
Artist Lauren Kelley will present a short film and performance on the unfortunate power of negative imagery and media stereotypes, followed by an artist talk and discussion.

May 12: 
DJ Flash Gordon Parks will lead a discussion on Houston's role in the music industry world-wide.

June 2:
Our Image founders Monie Henderson and Marc Newsome will lead a town hall meeting, "Reclaiming Our Image" in which they invite audience discussion about the best methods and practices for working with the media to ensure non-stereotypical, honest, cutting-edge, thought-provoking depictions of Black and other ethnic communities.

June 23:
Artist Lisa Harris will present a short film and performance, followed by an artist talk and discussion on gentrification.


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