HPPUB MOVIE REVIEWs of Cord, Byerace, The Unapologetic Life of Margaret Randall, Hollywood Go Home


Title: Cord

Release Date:  1999

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: about 40 minutes

MPAA Rating:  not given (suggest  R for language)

Distributor and Production Company:   Imaginary Worlds (no connection to Imagine)

Director; Writer: Ayesha Adu  (web reference)

Producer: Ayesha Adu

Cast:   Frances - Trena L. Bolden
Margot - Marie Francoise Theodore
Kris - Ron Alois
Pam - Tezra Bryant

Technical: MiniDV

Relevance to HPPUB site:

Review: This film was shown by Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis for Black History Month in February 2002. The film has the form of a real-time play, a series of confrontations between mother and daughter, where the daughter is almost in the ironic role of “husband.” The confrontations go into touchy areas. For example: the idea that an “artist” (the daughter) feels that her art makes her “better” than ordinary people. Or later, after the medical revelations (remember Terms of Endearment (1982)) the idea that a person is no longer sexually attractive after cancer treatments. The intensity of the screenplay reminds one of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf (1966), and, in some ways, Life as a House (2001).


The filmmaker describes the filmmaking technique as “Dogma 95,” which requires strict real-time presentation with no flashbacks or quick cuts, everything on location, and no camera filters. The film appears to be an extremely authentic, personal view of angry family dynamics, perhaps autobiographical.  The filmmaker has really put herself into this film (something a literary agent recommended to me) and turned experience into real art.


Here is a good place to mention three short films previewed by IPF North in Vebruary 2002, in celebration of Black History Month..


BYERACE Produced and Co-Written by Steven Foley, directed by Tony Agnew, about 35 minutes. This black-and-white film presents an African-American writer, Fritz Brightstone, living with a white girl.  But that is not so important; it is the attempts of both characters to free themselves.  The girl friend gets a job as an administrative assistant and then has to deal with an intrusive boss who may be prone to sexual harassment. Fritz, very much needing someone to “help him out” takes a “work for free” job as an intern but is quizzed about what third parties have published him – just other African-American journals or mainstream publications. Brightstone is writing a book about controversial subject matter (race, class, discrimination, identity) that “no one wants to talk about.” It’s unusual to find the subject of “promoting oneself” through controversial writing taken up in film. The National Anthem plays during the closing credits, and it comes across as a “cry freedom.”


Checks & Balances by Aaron V. Smith, chronicles a young black man in the Twin Citie suburbs who finds his bank account cleaned out after his checkbook is stolen, just before vacation: how could this happen?


Blood Memory  by Marie-Françoise Theodore, is a short atream-of-consciouness experimental film mixing poetry with on-the-trail hiking scenes. 


The Minneapolis Intermedia Arts and then the Walked Art Center The Unapologetic Life of Margaret Randall  in March 2002, with Randall, producer Pame;a Coly and director Lu Lippold present for discussion.,  A web link that covers the life of this American-born writer-photographer is  http://www.hrcr.org/ccr/randall.html.  Randall wrote over 80 books and numerous poems, dating back to the 50s, and these were considered “radical.”  In the 1960s she renounced her American citizenship to work in Mexico, then traveled to Cuba and Nicaragua. In the 1980s the INS first refused to giver her citizenship back, under the McCarren Act, and tried to deport her. The legal reason may have been her renunciation of citizenship and association with “communists,” but the psychological reason seemed to be her radical writings (or a “socialist” nature) and her refusal to recant them or apologize for them.  She, according to her own statements in the film, always did exactly what she wanted, a trait that seems to contradict socialism, which demands that the individual accommodate her goals to the needs of the group. Yet, she always treasured family life, even more so after took on a same-sex partner in the 1980s. (Homosexuality was also a reason for deportation under McCarren, which was repealed in the 1990s.)  But some people (columnist George Will included) would claim that she had renounced her country and consorted with (communist or drug-dealing) enemies. (This sounds like what is said about John Walker Lindh and the Taliban.)  Her story sounds like an odyssey of self-determination and recognition through controversial free speech, inviting the rebuke and disapproval of others, which only turns out to give her expressions more power.


The Walker show also contained the short, Footage, by Emily Goldberg. Thank god, the boys legs and girls legs are not the same (as they would be with cyclists).


Ted Dewberry has a short film, Hollywood Go Home, about the arrest of pamphleteers at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, when they violated local ordinances about handing out tracts or even approaching film presenters in many public areas.  The implication is that Sundance has gradually evolved into a vehicle for “corporate” indie films (larger films that “pretend” to be like independent) and as another part of the turf of A-list actors and directors. (Are In the Bedroom or Virgin Suicides really independent?)  This trend would follow the purchase of many formerly “independent” film companies by large public conglomerates, with the extra focus on the bottom line. There is probably more than one side to this story, however. To the extent that this portrays a genuine free speech issue, the solution may be even more “capitalism” and even freer markets.



Related reviews: http://www.citypages.com/filmreviews/detail.asp?MID=3235



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