2. Cinemas of the Black Diaspora: Diversity, Dependence, and Oppositionality, edited by Michael T. Martin
This anthology of essays, interviews, and documents offers, as its editor Professor Michael T. Martin describes in the preface, a “global survey of the plurality of cinematic traditions and film practices in the Black diaspora.” What do you know about Lusophone African cinema? Cuban films? The Womanist aesthetic in film? Black cinema coming from Western Europe? This book, was published in 1995 so it doesn’t register the contemporary ebullitions happening in countries such as Nigeria, and it lacks documentation of East African cinema or even the internet, but it’s still an amazing resource for people who need a set of references—something film critics can lack when it comes to Third World and/or Black cinemas.
3. “Directing Queen Sugar, Properly Lighting Actors of Color, and Why She Used to Be More Brave:” An Interview with Ava DuVernay
In a recent interview for Vulture, the Black American director Ava DuVernay said that as she is rarely asked about filmmaking, that she “could count on one hand the conversations that I’ve had about craft.” Many film critics complain about the preeminence of content over aesthetics in movies, as BuzzFeed’s Alison Willmore put it during a panel on film criticism in the digital age, during the Locarno International Film Festival. Black writers and filmmakers have called out this tendency for years. Ava DuVernay’s words resonate with those of the Nobel Laureate (and greatest writer and critic in the world) Toni Morrison, who said, in 1984, that “the discussion of black literature in critical terms is unfailingly sociology and almost never art criticism.”
This interview with Ava DuVernay is great because the interviewer and critic Matt Zoller Seitz, approaches her as what she is, meaning a director who thinks in terms of shot, composition, lighting, and colors. Ava DuVernay doesn’t shy away from talking about political issues (just check her Twitter’s timeline) because she’s a Black woman working in the perverse institution that is Hollywood, but she’s also an artist who has chosen film to express herself, and this interview acknowledges that.
When we reduce films to their representational merits, we tend to deal with only one aspect, erasing another that should be our paramount concern: the director’s style. I’ve been guilty of that and I’m trying to be as rigorous as possible.
4. Questions of Colour in Cinema: From Paintbrush to Pixel edited by Wendy Everett
Although the binary, content versus aesthetic is irrelevant, content influences aesthetics and content is aesthetic. Racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia are aesthetic issues. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! And if they don’t believe you, you can direct them toward Questions of Colour in Cinema, which dedicates an entire section to color in film and its intersection with race and gender. Oh, and if one reference is not enough, Toni Morrison’s essay collection Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination is good to have in your pocket. I mustn’t forget Richard Dyer’s crucial book on the various meanings and uses of whiteness in cinema entitled, simply, WHITE. OK, now you’re good.
Further reading: “12 Years a Slave, Mother of George, and the aesthetic politics of filming Black skin,” by Ann Hornaday.