I've meant to watch this documentary for quite some time, primarily because Spike Lee cited it as a major influence on his own narrative film, Bamboozled. Classified X is good, especially in its presentation of 100 years of movie representation of African Americans. I especially like its useful designation of periods in film history (the decades of independent black cinema, the "new Negro" period, the "no Negro" period, etc.).
There are a few times when I wish the film provided more careful explanation of how the discrimination against African Americans generally and African American films specifically happens. For example, near the end of the film, Van Peebles says that, with movies like Malcolm X and Panther, theaters siphon off the profits at the box office. I'd like to know what that means. Is it a problem of how many screens the movies are shown on? Or how many screens are hogged up by movies that the studios support more wholeheartedly?
I plan to use this movie in a college course about race in the mass media, and I think it will be provocative and educational, but the occasional lack of detailed explanation will be a slight stumbling block for my mostly white, mostly middle class students (as it is at least a minor disappointment for white, middle class me!). Perhaps this movie will simply be a bold starting point for a longer and sometimes difficult learning journey.
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