Why a podcast to celebrate the history of Black film?
Why a podcast to celebrate the history of Black film?
Vince here: I think what really drew us to this topic was, frankly, no one was really critiquing Black film. Generally, the film podcast community tends to be, well, pretty white. There might be a glancing bit on the "big" films like Do The Right Thing but, for the most part, there were no deep dives into the depth and breadth of Black movies. We thought we could do a good job and, almost three years later, here we are.
I loved this article about how each of you live and breathe culture, and congratulations on The Micheaux Mission’s success! The podcast is named after Oscar Micheaux (1884-1951), the most successful African-American filmmaker from the early 20th Century. Reading about Oscar’s story, it’s absolutely incredible: Oscar was an author, film director and independent producer of more than 44 films, and even had his own film studio at one point. How did his story inspire you both?
Len here - I honestly was introduced to his story via Vince's pick of 'MICHEAUX MISSION' as the name for the podcast. But learning about his fight for creative freedom and Independence have me a better appreciation of those that followed on his wake, like Spike Lee, Maya Angelou and others. That through line made me want to revisit this art and give it it's just due critically and culturally.
Plus, I hadn't seen most of it. What better way to do it than for a podcast. The discipline of the weekly schedule keeps me honest, on task and diligent.
On your show, you discuss a wide variety of Black films - from HOUSE PARTY to I, ROBOT. How you decide what titles to watch, and when? Do you get suggestions from listeners or fans?
Vince: It's a combination. For the most part, Len and I tag team and go back and forth but we do take suggestions from the Missionaries and, a few times a year, we have thematic months like Mother, May I Have Another? when we watch bad films or October which is always supernatural/Halloween themed.
Len - I try to pick films from yesterday's yesterday, like the 40s to 60s, when Black Cinema was rare, often from very biased perspectives or dangerous because it was creatives daring to break out. Plus Vince has 70s blinders for Pam Grier and Tamra Dobson.
There are a wide variety of genres that you discuss on the show - horror, science fiction, historic drama, action, comedy and so many more - as well as decades. Have you noticed recurring themes that seem to percolate to the top? What’s been the oldest film you’ve done?
...because they're awesome.
Len here: There are a lot of Black people in the movies we review.
Vince: Unless, of course, there aren't a lot Black people. Something like Imitation of Life doesn't have many at all. We just watched a version of Othello with only one main character. Actually, that's the most recurring theme of all: What makes a Black film?
Len talking now - 70s Black movies have a definitive 'fight the power' aesthetic. 80s and 90s try to portray real life while being aspirational at the same time.
You’ve done more than 170 episodes, which is incredible - and with the amount of Black Film that’s out there, you have so many more episodes to do. Part of your investigation, of your mission is to scrutinize - what IS a Black film. Can you share more on that constitutes with us?
Vince: My short and sweet critieria is-would this film change if the characters weren't Black? If so, I usually default to, this is a Black film. Ironically, this takes a bunch of work by the biggest Black performers like Will Smith or Denzel Washington off the table because they tend to make, "color blind" work.
Len - If the lead character or protagonist is another race or ethic upbringing and it fundamentally changes the film, then what you're watching is more than likely a 'Black film'. But in the end, it's all subjective and open to your interpretation. That's why discussing what is or isn't a Black film is a lasting component of the show.
I love film discussion podcasts, so I’ve been enjoying the energy you bring to the films you analyze - for example, disagreeing about Philip Glass’ soundtrack in CANDYMAN! How do you define what’s up for discussion?
Vince: It's all up for discussion! It's VERY organic!
Len here - it's organic. I turn on the microphones and we go.
Also, because we’re on Cake - the Cake vs Pie debate - who won, in your opinion?
Vince is Team Pie! You can go sweet or savory!
Len: IF IT'S CHOCOLATE, it don't even matter.
What have been some of your favorite episodes that you’d suggest new listeners check out and why?
Vince: I'm a big fan of some of the more serious episodes; Moonlight, Daughters of the Dust, Nothing But A Man, etc. because it really shows how passionate we are about the subject matter...but the Tyler Perry episodes (Why Did I Get Married?, Acrimony, Tyler Perry's Temptation) are magnificent spectacles of hilarity!
Len - Everyone loves our Driving Miss Daisy debate and it was fun. But I most enjoyed talking Dolomite with Dorian Missick and Omar Dorsey; just fun energy. Same for our recent conversation with Tia Whitfield on The Best Man. Honestly though, my favorites are ones when Vince hates a movie but says 'it's interesting'. That means we're in for some real good BS, folks. Wear your boots.
Some questions from a colleague: “A perhaps obvious question that’s been on my mind a lot this year, with GREEN BOOK and all, is…to what extent should white people be making movies about black stories? It seems complicated. On the one hand, it would be good to see more movies about black people and their stories. On the other, if white people are telling those stories, aren’t they telling them from a white perspective? Is that more harmful than helpful? Also what is Quentin Tarantino’s best film and why is it JACKIE BROWN?”