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FILM REVIEW: Black Films Thrive at Sundance Film Festival 2022

NNPA NEWSWIRE — At the last minute, due to Omicron concerns, the 2022 Sundance Film Festival morphed from an in-person and virtual event to a purely digital experience. Thanks to streaming, Black filmmakers and Black films were on center stage all over the world. Check them out…
The post FILM REVIEW: Black Films Thrive at Sundance Film Festival 2022 first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Dwight Brown, NNPA Newswire Film Critic

At the last minute, due to Omicron concerns, the 2022 Sundance Film Festival morphed from an in-person and virtual event to a purely digital experience. Thanks to streaming, Black filmmakers and Black films were on center stage all over the world. Check them out…

Aftershock (***)

According to WHO, the U.S. ranks 60th on the list of countries with the lowest maternal mortality ratio. The Population Reference Bureau cites, “Black women are three times more likely to die in pregnancy postpartum than white women.” Directors Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee’s illuminating documentary breaks down the contributing factors and possible solutions for maternal mortality in the aftermath of two specific women’s deaths. Shamony Gibson and Amber Rose Isaac both died after labor and a grassroots movement for birth justice and equity, in their honor, is heroically launched by Omari Maynard and Bruce McIntyre, the fathers of their children. The courageous dads, like shamans, guide you through the perils and needs for a change in obstetric care from pregnancy to births, to aftercare.

Systemic issues (hospitals profit more from risky, fast-buck C-Sections than slow vaginal births), disparities, root causes and communication errors are revealed. Notably a job once done by black slave midwives is now the domain of white male OB-GYNs. Watching the consciousness-raising support groups of widowed Black men is as inspiring as a thousand Million Man Marches. Very solid doc filmmaking instincts reflect an empowering movement born from painful experiences. The revolution in pre- and postnatal care for Black women will be Instagrammed, Twitted, Facebooked…

Descendant (***1/2)

A yearning for a definitive history is the driving force of this heart-warming doc. The Cotilda schooner was the last American slave ship to bring Africans to the U.S. The imprisoned captives from Benin arrived in Mobile Alabama in 1860. The Black descendants of that ship settled in Africatown, which has since been parceled away by public domain highway projects, a lumber yard and other businesses. Still the proud residents keep their history alive, orally, passing on info, names and dates to future generations who become historians and record keepers.

Director Margaret Brown captures the spiritual experiences of these chosen Alabamians. She films their interviews just as a white journalist and white owner of a mechanic’s shop decide to look for the ship that was burned by its owner Timothy Meaher and hidden in neighboring swamps.

Brown’s chronicling of this hunt and what it means to the heirs of the Cotilda’s last passengers is never obtrusive. Her style is reminiscent of the grassroots doc Something in the Water. Culture, history, reckoning and reparations all add a richness that makes the film emotionally compelling. Grainy footage of the ship’s last survivor Cudjo Lewis, as filmed by author Zora Neale Hurston in the 1930s, is as astounding to see as an heir of Meaher’s showing up for a ship discovery ceremony. These stalwart descendants of slavery save their culture and history. Their tenacity and courage prevail in a very illuminating way.

Emergency (**)

In Weekend at Bernie’s, three white guys tooled around with a dead body in a mildly funny one-joke movie. In this similarly premised college life satire, the laughs aren’t as easy. African American director Carey Williams and Mexican American screenwriter KD Davila’s spoof delves into the hazards of Black life at a predominately white school. Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins, The Underground Railroad) is a brilliant pre-med student. His loosely wired, vape-smoking buddy Sean (RJ Cyler, The Harder They Fall) is a devil-may-care pothead. They intend to go on a legendary party circuit bender, but before their first beer pong, they discover a drunk, unconscious white blonde (Maddie Nichols) on their living room floor. A Latino roommate Carlos (Sebastian Chacon) is oblivious. The trio tries get the cataleptic girl to safety, which takes them down a deep rabbit hole of mishaps.

What’s on view is a very shallow attempt at exploring racism that turns into nothing more than a trivial excuse for comic debauchery. The very young black hip-hop influenced dialogue is the film’s strongest element. Stagnant dialogue-heavy scenes thwart most good intentions. Watkins and Cyler exhibit a Harold and Kumar chemistry that would feel better in another movie. There’s just enough story and humor here for a SNL skit. Not much more. Trying to make serious points in a pointless film is a worthless endeavor.

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul (**)

“Where’s Tyler Perry when you need him?!” Pastor Lee Curtis Charles (Sterling K. Brown) and his wife Trinitie (Regina Hall) run a Southern megachurch named Wander to Greater Paths. The place is near empty. Why? Evidently a preacher man being caught up in a sex scandal drives congregations away. But the duo is charting a comeback, even if it requires standing at the side of a road with placards begging for parishioners and humiliating themselves while being filmed.

The Ebo twins (writer-director Adamma Ebo, producer Adanne Ebo) start with a promising parody that descends unto a two-character thud. The dearth of solid narrative and consistent comedy leaves Brown and Hall stranded. The twins frame shots well, but don’t know how to milk moments or sustain scenes with biting verbal or physical humor. Brother Brown’s interpretation of a clueless, smarmy minister is glorious (Can I get an amen?!). Sister Hall perfectly finds the nuances of the put-upon wife (Praise be.). Funniest scene is when they drive a Cadillac Esplanade singing to a rap song, cursing and screaming like gangstas. Pity the film runs out of gas. Madea would have known what to do. Looks low budget. Feels low rent. Jesus wept.

jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy (***)

Ten minutes into this lively documentation of 21-year-old Kanye West the unsettling contrasts between this hopeful, humble adolescent and his embittered and inflated persona these days is quite jarring. Chicago public access TV host Coodie chronicled West’s pilgrimage from Chicago to New York in the late ‘90s as he tried to transition from music producer to superstar rapper. Fuzzy-looking footage reveals all. Consider Coodie’s homage to be more like a home movie/travelogue with famous people (Damon Dash, Pharrell) than a typical doc. No video tricks. No gimmicks. No mounds of news footage, interviews etc. Just largely an unfiltered look at West fighting for a record deal at hop-hop’s holy grail, Roc-A-Fella Records.

The most touching scenes are West and his wise, nurturing schoolteacher mother who wants him to remain humble: “You can stand on the ground with your head in the air at the same time.” The most awkward scenes are watching Jay-Z, RR’s CEO, keep Kanye at bay: he wants the milk (West’s “jeen-yuhs” producing) but not the cow (Kanye as a rapper). The fly-on-the-wall filmmaking lets you cavort with family, friends, adversaries, mentors and hangers-on. Discovering West’s middle-class background explains his early brand of rap and its often-spiritual elements, which are evidenced in the making of his classic hit “Jesus Walks.” West, with no gangsta cred whatsoever, was on a mission: “I’m gonna bridge the gap to hip-hop.” And he did, with a verve and naiveté that was reflected on his smiling face. Luckily, Coodie documented the good old days, or no one would believe the 1990’s West and the 2022 Ye were the same people.

Master (*1/2)

If you’re going to examine racism through the prism of a horror movie, and exploit that social ill, you’d better have all your dead bodies lined up just right. This Get Out knockoff does not. Jasmine (Zoe Renee) is a first-year student at the nearly all white Ancaster College. Gail (Regina Hall) is the new dean of students, aka Master. Both experience the slights and mockery whites can put on token Blacks. In addition, Jas’s room is haunted. Cue the ghosts, creaky noises, weird nightmares and freaky images.

Mariama Diallo’s script and direction attempt to bait audiences’ attention with racist tropes (nooses, cross burnings, racial epithets). Cheapening those real-life traumas peaks in a scene when a rap song comes on at a nearly all-white dance party and white kids surround Jas chanting the “N” word lyrics at her. The constant repulsion without any redemption or payoff is an unforgivable buzz kill. Even through the misguidance, Hall’s presence shines like the North Star. Unoriginal. Derivative. Lackluster. If you’re going to mess with the horror movie genre recipe you have to do it with better ingredients. Diallo does not.

Nanny (**1/2)

African immigrant stories often possess an innate appeal. In this instance, Senegalese writer/director Nikyatu Jusu’s odd mixture of horror, thriller, romance and muddled family drama has the opposite effect. Aisha (Anna Diop), a twentysomething from Senegal, leaves her young son behind to find work in New York. A white couple (Michelle Monaghan and Morgan Spector) hires her to tend to their young daughter Rose (Rose Decker). The wealthy spouses are lax with pay, Aisha loses communication with her son and weird visions of a boy in rain haunt her.

Supernatural aspects and cryptic images have no context for 90 minutes of this 97-minute motion picture. Regardless of the iffy narrative choices, Jusu and cinematographer Rina Yang make a very attractive film that displays their excellent taste in staging, composition, angles, lighting, etc. Scenes look fresh and modern. The director also excels at depicting a love story between Aisha and an understanding doorman (Sinqua Walls, American Soul). Jusu shows great promise as a director. Even a genre-messy film can’t hide her talent.

We Need to Talk About Bill Cosby (***)

Really?! Is there some explosive secret about the shamed comedian that has yet to be revealed? Stand-up comic turned documentarian W. Kamau Bell thinks so. To make his case, he assembles an exhaustive array of talking heads (Roland Martin), comedians (Hannibal Buress), rape crisis counselors and even a journalist who investigates date rape drugs. Cosby’s well-publicized fall from ’60s TV pioneer (I, Spy), to 1980s/’90s quintessential all-American boob tube daddy (The Cosby Show), to convicted, imprisoned felon is meticulously charted. Victim after victim exposes his pattern of drugging, assaults and rapes. The black community’s initial ambivalent feelings are pondered. His hypocritical jabs at young black men while he’s molesting women are documented too.

Two hours of this in-your face negativity is more than enough. Four one-hour segments are overkill. Too many clips of Fat Albert. Too much faux indignation over stupid stuff like Cosby playing an obstetrician on The Cosby Show. The barrage of info will test your patience. Also, watching folks hypothesize as they sit on expensive leather coaches, dressed like fashionistas and lit like they’re in a fashion shoot is off-putting. But credit Bell for his inventive style. Incriminating words dance across the screen and victims are noted on a horizontal calendar that pinpoints Cosby’s crimes from the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and 90s. Plus, Bell’s insights into black culture, history and the TV industry are thorough and sometimes profound.

Indicting rapists like Cosby is fair game and newsworthy. But many viewers may wish the second two hours of this doc were spent teaching women how to beware of predatory situations, detect rapists, self-defense, report incidents and find supportive aide (e.g., rape crisis centers). We have talks with our sons about encounters with police. Why don’t we have talks with our daughters about dealing with people like him? Bell and this doc had a chance to be an advocate for rape victims and provide a public service. It’s a missed opportunity that would have given the series some depth.

There wouldn’t be a President Obama without a Bill Cosby. There wouldn’t be 60+ rape victims without a Bill Cosby. It’s an ugly paradox now captured on film.

For more information about the annual Sundance Film Festival go to: https://www.sundance.org/festivals/sundance-film-festival/about.

Visit NNPA News Wire Film Critic Dwight Brown at DwightBrownInk.com and BlackPressUSA.com.

The post FILM REVIEW: Black Films Thrive at Sundance Film Festival 2022 first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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IN MEMORIAM International Soccer Icon Pelé Dies at 82

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Sometimes called “Pérola Negra” (“Black Pearl”), Pelé became a Brazilian national hero. According to Britannica, he combined kicking power and accuracy with a remarkable ability to anticipate other players’ moves. 

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Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Três Corações, Brazil, on Oct. 23, 1940, Pelé became soccer’s first superstar.
Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Três Corações, Brazil, on Oct. 23, 1940, Pelé became soccer’s first superstar.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Pelé, the international star who was instrumental in three World Cup championships with Brazil across three decades and who energized U.S. soccer with the New York Cosmos in the 1970s, has died.

The 82-year-old legend had been hospitalized since November, and his doctors reported that Pelé’s cancer had advanced, requiring care related to renal and cardiac dysfunction.

He has been receiving regular treatment since doctors removed a tumor from his colon in 2021.

“Father. My strength is yours,” the international star’s son, Edinho, posted on social media.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in Três Corações, Brazil, on Oct. 23, 1940, Pelé became soccer’s first superstar.

He led the Brazilian national teams to World Cup glory in 1958, 1962, and 1970.

In 1956, he joined the Santos Football Club, where he played inside left forward, winning nine São Paulo league championships and, in 1962 and 1963, the Libertadores Cup and the Intercontinental Club Cup.

Sometimes called “Pérola Negra” (“Black Pearl”), Pelé became a Brazilian national hero. According to Britannica, he combined kicking power and accuracy with a remarkable ability to anticipate other players’ moves.

“After the 1958 World Cup, Pelé was declared a national treasure by the Brazilian government to ward off large offers from European clubs and ensure that he would remain in Brazil,” Britannica researchers wrote.

On Nov. 19, 1969, in his 909th first-class match, he scored his 1,000th goal.

Pelé made his international debut in 1957 at age 16 and played his first game in the World Cup finals in Sweden the following year.

The Brazilian manager was initially hesitant to play his young star. But, according to Britannica, when Pelé finally reached the field, he had an immediate impact, rattling the post with one shot and collecting an assist.

He had a hat trick in the semifinal against France and two goals in the championship game, where Brazil defeated Sweden 5–2. At the 1962 World Cup finals, Pelé tore a thigh muscle in the second match and had to sit out the remainder of the tournament.

Nonetheless, Brazil went on to claim its second World Cup title.

Researchers said rough play and injuries turned the 1966 World Cup into a disaster for Brazil and Pelé, as the team went out in the first round, and he contemplated retiring from World Cup play.

Returning in 1970 for one more World Cup tournament, he teamed with young stars Jairzinho and Rivelino to claim Brazil’s third title and permanent ownership of the Jules Rimet Trophy. Pelé finished his World Cup career, scoring 12 goals in 14 games.

Pelé’s electrifying play and penchant for spectacular goals made him a worldwide star.

His team Santos toured internationally to take full advantage of his popularity. For example, in 1967, he and his team traveled to Nigeria, where a 48-hour cease-fire in that nation’s civil war was called to allow all to watch the great player.

Pelé announced his retirement in 1974 but, in 1975, agreed to a three-year $7 million contract with the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League and to promote the game in the United States. He retired after leading the Cosmos to the league championship in 1977.

Pelé was the recipient of the International Peace Award in 1978. In 1980 he was named Athlete of the Century by the French sports publication L’Equipe, and he received the same honor in 1999 from the International Olympic Committee. In 2014 the Pelé Museum opened in Santos, Brazil.

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COMMENTARY: Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin: Avoid Burnout with These Simple Tips

THE AFRO — Although it cannot be medically diagnosed, burnout can lead people to lose their sense of self and feel as if they are not accomplishing enough. Since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Psychological Association found that the risk of burnout has increased for workers due to extra stress, increased household demands and longer working hours. 
The post COMMENTARY: Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin: Avoid Burnout with These Simple Tips first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Megan Sayles | AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
msayles@afro.com

We’ve all heard the age-old saying that “hard work pays off.”  But, sometimes, working too hard can do more harm than good.

“Burnout” is a form of work-related stress in which an individual experiences physical, emotional or mental exhaustion caused by their job’s demands. It can also make workers feel distanced from their jobs and engender negative feelings about them, according to the World Health Organization.

Although it cannot be medically diagnosed, burnout can lead people to lose their sense of self and feel as if they are not accomplishing enough. Since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Psychological Association found that the risk of burnout has increased for workers due to extra stress, increased household demands and longer working hours.

This makes it even more important for people to know the signs of burnout and the strategies to combat it.

Natasha Charles is the founder and CEO of Intuitive Coaching with Natasha Charles, a comprehensive life coaching and consulting firm. She created the business after gaining 20 years in senior administration roles.

Charles was motivated to open the firm in 2018 out of a desire to create a business focused on inspiring continuous improvement. There, she works with individuals and executives to create lives that they love and offers them personalized solutions to address critical work and business challenges.

“It’s really about thinking about you, the person, and all that you are,” Charles said. “People tend to be very focused on one aspect of their life, and a lot of times, it’s about their career, so it’s really about making space for all of your goals and all of your dreams.”

When someone experiences burnout, Charles said they could be actively doing their job while simultaneously worrying about their other responsibilities and priorities, whether personal or work-related. She also stressed that burnout can be experienced no matter what profession you are in and what you are being paid.

Aside from the physical and mental impacts of stress, burnout can impact finances if it causes an employee to take extended periods of time off or miss work, according to Charles. It can also reduce their productivity.

In the beginning of 2022, the term “quiet quitting” emerged, and for some, it’s being used as a method to avoid burnout. It involves individuals meeting the minimum requirements of their job descriptions, investing no extra time or effort than what is mandatory.

For Charles, quiet quitting is a signal that a person is not fulfilled by their job and may need to think about changing workplaces or careers.

“I get that people are not always able to up and quit, and it can take time to find what that next role is,” Charles said. “I would come from a space of encouraging the person to start thinking about what that is. What is it that you ultimately desire to be doing in your life and seeing your work?”

One of the most important steps in reducing and preventing burnout is educating yourself about the syndrome, so you can be aware of the warning signs, according to Charles. She also said it was crucial for employers to talk to their employees about it.

Awareness can help prevent the shame and guilt that comes with burnout and allow people to give themselves grace.

After a person has weighed whether they are experiencing burnout or not, they should think about how they want to confront it. This could include engaging in self-care, asking for extra support at work or home, and creating stronger boundaries between their personal and professional lives.

When burnout is impacting your performance, it’s time to consider making a career change, Charles said.

To ensure your work life does not invade your personal life, Charles said people need to assess the goals they have for all areas of their life. Once you’ve set goals, it’s easier to devise a plan and set the necessary boundaries to achieve them.

Charles also said it’s important to carve out time for yourself where you’re not constantly checking your phone or email for work reasons.

“There is life beyond your work. There is an entire world out there to be discovered,” Charles said. “There’s a world within us to be discovered as well, and I encourage everyone to invest in discovering those pieces.”

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

The post COMMENTARY: Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin: Avoid Burnout with These Simple Tips first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Tory Lanez Found Guilty in Meg Thee Stallion Shooting 

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The case fired up social media and highlighted the misogyny that still reigns in hip hop. Many on Twitter routinely attacked Megan, accusing her of lying among other vicious vitriolic comments.
The post Tory Lanez Found Guilty in Meg Thee Stallion Shooting  first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Canadian rapper Tory Lanez faces more than 20 years in prison and deportation after a jury in Los Angeles found him guilty in the 2020 shooting of hip hop star Megan Thee Stallion.

Lane, 30, was found guilty of three felony counts, including assault with an unregistered semiautomatic weapon, carrying a loaded gun, and discharging a firearm in a vehicle with gross negligence.

The case fired up social media and highlighted the misogyny that still reigns in hip hop. Many on Twitter routinely attacked Megan, accusing her of lying among other vicious vitriolic comments.

The 27-year-old Megan, whose real name is Megan Pete, testified that Lanez offered her hush money and didn’t care about her injuries and pain suffered because he shot her.

Lanez, who declined to testify, claimed there was another shooter, Pete’s friend who was also arguing with the hit maker as they drove home from a party.

“[Lanez] told me to dance,” Pete told the jury, adding that he also cursed at her following the shooting.

Sentencing for Lanez is scheduled for Jan. 27.

“You showed incredible courage and vulnerability with your testimony despite repeated and grotesque attacks that you did not deserve,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon said, referring to Pete.

“You faced unjust and despicable scrutiny that no woman should ever face, and you have been an inspiration to others across LA County and the nation.”

The post Tory Lanez Found Guilty in Meg Thee Stallion Shooting  first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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