Monday, January 31, 2011

Film Review-Takers

Film Review-Takers

Michael Mann’s “Heat” cast a heavy influence over many heist movies that came after it. “Takers" referenced this in the first 15 minutes by having the ski-masked, body armor equipped, assault rifle wielding robbers take down a bank and get away clean.  “Takers” features a multi-racial group of robbers and this could have been an interesting part of the story.  However the film, directed by John Luessenhop, mostly sticks to genre conventions.
I didn't care about the characters until the last 20 minutes or so. The movie doesn’t succeed in making you care about them.
The robbery team is composed of Idris Elba (the leader), Paul Walker (the quietly efficient and dangerous second-in-command), Hayden Christensen (a blues piano playing front man who is tougher than he looks), and Michael Ealy and Chris Brown (who play brothers who are quite protective of each other)

An imprisoned crew member (T.I.) is released early and comes to the crew with a BIG job that must be done right away. This violates their rules as Idris prefers to plan out jobs to the last detail.  He also likes to take at least a year between heists.  But the money is too good to miss and so the big job is undertaken. T.I. apparently holds no resentment for the fact that Michael Ealy is marrying T.I.'s former girlfriend (Zoe Saldana), or the fact that he’s been in prison for the past few years. 
Matt Dillon and Jay Hernandez star as cops that are on the crew's trail. Dillon’s character is a somewhat nicer version of the cop he played in “Crash”. Steve Harris and Glynn Turman play the police bosses who do the usual yelling and blustering about the rules and lawsuits. Nick Turtorro plays a stereotypical Italian lowlife who knows a guy who knows a guy…

This is an ensemble cast but Idris is the lead and doesn't have enough to do. The movie gives him a subplot with a problematic older sister but it falls flat.  Elba has no romantic tension to drive the story. There is no man meets woman, man loses woman etc. The film sets this up with Ealy but he's not the lead and Saldana isn’t given anywhere near enough screen time. We simply don't care about her. She barely has lines or scenes with Ealy.

T.I. does a good job playing an intelligent man who is always two steps ahead of everyone else and whose smiling face doesn't tell you what he's thinking.  The final 20 minutes were predictable and stretch the bounds of the movie's PG-13 rating. This movie should have taken more chances. It should have gone for the R rating.  It also would have helped immensely if we had more information on how such a diverse crew had hooked up and stayed together. We have nothing to explain the crew’s motivations, history or loyalty to one another.  I did like seeing a group of black men on screen with different personalities. I don't know if this was Chris Brown's first film role or not but he didn’t embarrass himself.
I give this movie 5/10 stars. It had style but not quite enough meat. This film doesn’t compare well with the similar movie “The Town”. It was shot well and looked good but the story just wasn’t strong enough to fully recommend.  When a director can make Elba and Saldana forgettable, he’s doing something wrong.  My verdict is this film was generic.
If you saw this film, what did you think?  (No spoilers please) If you didn’t see this film would you rent it?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Power to the People

They know we’re not satisfied, so we begin to holler
They make us a promise and throw in a few more dollars
There’s no price for happiness, there’s no price for love
 Up goes the price of living, and you’re right back where you was
“(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People"- The Chi-Lites

"This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
-Frederick Douglass
 “I would not refer to him as a dictator” 
-Joe Biden speaking of Hosni Mubarak who has ruled for thirty years, uses emergency decree as a normal state of affairs and exiles, imprisons or tortures political opponents.
At the time of this posting Hosni Mubarak is still the dictator of Egypt.  He has shut down the internet and phone service in an attempt to stop protesters from communicating.  The Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei was placed under house arrest. The state has placed tanks in the streets of Cairo and the police are in full attack mode –water hoses, beatings, tear gas, the works. There are differing reports on how many have been killed so far but one thing seems to be safe to say : the protesters don’t want reform-they want revolution. On MSNBC last night one protester was helpful enough to carry a sign that read “GET OUT” in English, French, Arabic, German and what looked like Spanish.
 Although Mubarak is talking of forming a new government and our President is trying to walk a fine line by talking of reform I think it’s fair to say that reform would not be welcomed by anyone.
The ironic thing in all this is that it was just recently that Secretary of State Clinton chided the “Arab World” for not having greater democratic freedoms.
Of course the US doesn’t really give a damn about democratic freedoms in the Arab world as witnessed by the tepid US response to the overthrow of the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali, the US endorsement of the undemocratic Palestinian Authority, the Saudi and Jordanian monarchies, the Gulf States and the hostility to votes that go the wrong way in Gaza, Turkey or Lebanon. Always judge by a government’s actions, not its words.
We will see how this Egyptian situation turns out. It really does come down to how brutal the regime wishes to be in holding on to power against how much can the people truly endure in their quest for freedom. Much of the time state brutality wins. That’s just how it is. But not always….
The other great irony about all this is that if it were Arabs in the West Bank protesting conditions that are just as bad if not worse than those in Egypt the US would not even feel compelled to try to pretend to stand with the protesters. These events should if nothing else caution people who think that some basic universal rights are not desired by all.

QUESTION: What should the US be doing, if anything? Why does the US support so many dictators? Are you disappointed that the US President, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, did not mention that another Nobel Peace Prize winner is under house arrest? Will Mubarak be forced to step down?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Still wrong after all these years

Walter Williams
A physicist, biologist, and economist are shipwrecked on an island with no food except canned goods. They have no can opener. They soberly consider their dilemma. Each professor presents a plan to the others.
The physicist has identified some coral reef. He proposes that at low tide he carefully wade out to the reef, break off some coral, attach it to a stone and use that tool to open the cans. The biologist disagrees. She states that because this island is known for inedible and highly acidic snails they should dig for those snails and express their acid to cut through the can lids.
The two scholars look expectantly at the economist. He says "Let's assume we have a can opener".
Walter Williams is an economist.  Much like the economist in the story, he is prone to making useless assumptions. Williams was the subject of a recent WSJ column
As a right wing libertarian Williams has a blind spot to free market inefficiencies and immoralities. He assumes morality. Williams thinks the majority of issues which impact black people are either their own fault or caused by the government.

Today just 17% of construction workers are unionized, but Democratic politicians, in deference to the AFL-CIO, have kept Davis-Bacon in place to protect them. Because most black construction workers aren't union members, however, the law has the effect of freezing them out of jobs. It also serves to significantly increase the costs of government projects, since there are fewer contractors to bid on them than there would be without Davis-Bacon.

Analysis of this issue launched Mr. Williams' career as a public intellectual, and in 1982 he published his first book, "The State Against Blacks," arguing that laws regulating economic activity are far larger impediments to black progress than racial bigotry and discrimination. Nearly 30 years later, he stands by that premise.

"Racial discrimination is not the problem of black people that it used to be" in his youth, says Mr. Williams. "Today I doubt you could find any significant problem that blacks face that is caused by racial discrimination. The 70% illegitimacy rate is a devastating problem, but it doesn't have a damn thing to do with racism. The fact that in some areas black people are huddled in their homes at night, sometimes serving meals on the floor so they don't get hit by a stray bullet—that's not because the Klan is riding through the neighborhood."

Williams glosses over a few things.

The bloodiest war in this nation's history was fought because a group of slave owners were worried that the Federal government might interfere in the private marketplace and limit or end slavery. Afterwards the partisans and descendants of the losing side set up a formalized system of apartheid while those of the winning side, who generally eschewed most of the Southern Jim Crow system, still practiced what amounted to informal segregation. Each system also featured semi-regular outbursts of public or private violence should any Black person ignore certain barriers.
These systems finally broke down post-WW2 for a variety of reasons, free market capitalism not being the most prominent. In fact the general arc of the US political economy from 1910-1970 was away from free market capitalism. The most effective tool used to dismantle these structures was government action to limit the choices of private individuals and companies.
This is anathema to libertarians. Fundamentalist free market libertarians don't accept the government’s right to interfere in the private marketplace. They believe that the market will work it all out and if it doesn't why then it's up to the individual to shop, work or move somewhere else. So food safety laws, anti-discrimination laws, environmental protections, workplace safety regulations, child labor laws, medical licensing, unions, fair housing laws, affirmative action, taxes etc are all bad things under this point of view - very bad things indeed.
Williams ignores current studies which show that all else equal, race is still a major factor in who gets hired, who gets promoted, who even has the opportunity to interview in the first place (Helpful hint -try not to have a “black sounding” name on your resume.)
Black people don't get the same benefit (income) from education. 
Private decisions in aggregate can have a negative effect on a black person's ability to buy a home of his/her choosing. This also impacts future inherited wealth. (subject of a future post)
So is government always the solution? Are Black people perpetual victims? Does this mean that there aren't some Black people who need to get their behind in gear and get in the game?

OF COURSE NOT! No intelligent person argues that.
What's past is past and can't be changed. But the past has an impact on the present. Additionally some bad things are still occurring today.
Pretending that most problems arise from government intervention in the marketplace is just silly. It fits what I consider a loony libertarian view of the world but it doesn't match reality. It's a straw man which Williams has constructed in order to avoid confronting the limits of his ideology. Unsurprisingly he's no fan of Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, viewing it as unconstitutional and unnecessary.
So what's your take? Do you think the challenges black people face were primarily created or aggravated by government actions?  Does the federal government (or any arm of government) have the constitutional right to ban private discrimination?  Did the Great Society destroy the Black family? Is racism a thing of the past?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Book Review-From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain

From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain 
by Minister Faust.

Minister Faust is the pen name of Black Canadian politician/writer/activist/teacher Malcolm Azania.
I don't quite know how to describe this book. I liked it a LOT, I can say that. It's a satire that works on at least three different levels, maybe more, not all of which may be immediately obvious. It's definitely the sort of work that bears reading twice. The closest comparison would probably be "Watchmen" but this book is a LOT funnier, covers more subjects and moves more quickly. Imagine if Phillip Dick, Tim Dorsey, Ishamel Reed, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Kurt Vonnegut, Baraka and Kevin Smith all got together in one person to do a bit of writing.

It's definitely the FUNNIEST thing I've read in a long time. This has more jokes per line than any book I can think of.
The surface story is that in current day America, all of the costumed superheroes have apparently defeated, killed or imprisoned all of their bad guy counterparts. Unfortunately instead of ushering in an era of peace, there is more conflict, deadly office politics, sniping and profiteering than ever before. So the most prestigious umbrella superhero organization, the Fantastic Order of Justice (or F.O.O.J-it used to be the Fraternal Order of Justice before an equal opportunity lawsuit by a lesbian superheroine) has decided that its six most notable members need to undergo psychological counseling or be thrown out of the organization completely.
These members are:

X-Man-a former member of the League of Angry Blackmen –he can make words into reality.
Omnipotent Man –an extraterrestrial "man of steel" he is the last survivor of the planet Argon and a mild mannered moron.
The Flying Squirrel-an elderly billionaire industrialist, right-wing angry white man and self-proclaimed "World's Greatest Detective".
The Iron Lass-a Norse lesser goddess and first female member of the F.O.O.J. She led the war to wipe out the supervillains. That she did this after her bitter divorce is a pure coincidence...
BrotherFly-a wall crawling jokester who has the proportionate strength and speed of a fly after having been bitten in high school by a radioactive fly.
Power Grrl-a defiantly narcissistic third wave feminist superheroine and recording artist who can't decide whether to fight crime or promote her latest sexual exploits and digital downloads.

Reluctantly, all of these people are forced, singly and en masse, to undergo therapy sessions with Dr. Brain, a woman psychologist who intends to help them deal with their issues, whether they like it or not. And of course most of them don't think THEY have any issues, although they certainly know their co-workers do.
The author obviously has a very deep understanding of and love for comic book culture and his book works very well as simply a parody of comic books/graphic novels. The more you know about classic Marvel and DC storylines, the more you will get out of this book. It's also a deconstruction of comic book tropes and an examination of what it would mean to the world for there to be people that by definition were greater than human or as Dr. Brain puts it "Hyper-hominids".
However you needn't be a comic book nerd to enjoy this book. Faust's book goes into pretty serious examinations of racism, homophobia, greed, feminism, 60's style protest, conspiracy theories, capitalism, identity politics, DuBois' theory of double consciousness, post 9-11 politics, dysfunctional families, US foreign policy, socialism and many other things. This is all held together by the humor-which really is non-stop. The humor makes it VERY easy to overlook the other things going on if one is not careful or if one disagrees with the author's take. Some themes I didn't see the first time through and had to go back and read very carefully. The author treats his readers as adults and doesn't beat you over the head with interpretations.

The majority of the book is told from the standpoint of Dr. Brain, who is writing a book on how to deal with the psychological needs of "hyper-hominids" and speaks in an insane parody of the self-help lingo made popular by people like Oprah, Tony Robbins and Dr. Phil. As is made increasingly clear by reading her internal book, she is not necessarily without her own biases and isn't the most reliable narrator. She tells one agitated hero that racist words are just sticks and stones and he responds "The police have sticks, doctor! What the hell do you think they were beating me with?"
One character grudgingly admits of another one, "I'll tell you one thing, that Australopithecus is smarter than he smells". Similarly this book is a lot deeper than one might think by looking at the cover.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Are Chinese Mothers Superior?

Are Chinese Mothers Superior?
The Wall Street Journal recently published an excerpt from a new book  (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) by Amy Chua, (Yale Law Professor, Harvard Law grad (cum laude), writer and apparently a very intelligent person) that seemed to answer yes to that question.  When I read the article I thought it was a satire but it wasn’t.  I couldn’t imagine the Wall Street Journal or any other mainstream publication publishing anything that apparently endorsed the superiority of Caucasian/Black/Latino mothers.

To be fair both in the article and especially after publication Chua was careful to parse her words just enough to not endorse a generalized belief in the absolute superiority of every Chinese mother or suggest that there weren’t demanding no-nonsense mothers to be found in every group. She stated that she would not have chosen the title for the Wall Street Journal excerpt and that her book details a journey from one place to another, where she becomes a different kind of parent.  Chua explains

Still there is more than a hint of ethnic chauvinism or to be more precise, gender based ethnic chauvinism that runs throughout the excerpts shown.

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.

Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.

If a Chinese child gets a B—which would never happen—there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. The devastated Chinese mother would then get dozens, maybe hundreds of practice tests and work through them with her child for as long as it takes to get the grade up to an A.

There are stereotypes about every group on the planet.  Is it acceptable if one group endorses the positive stereotypes about itself?  Honestly I think everyone does that in private sometimes.
What was not mentioned in the piece but does deserve some scrutiny is the higher than average suicide rates of Asian-Americans, Chinese-Americans and Chinese in general. Asian American women age 15-24 have the highest suicide rate  among all ethnic groups. Not surprisingly there are also higher rates of depression among both Chinese Americans and Asian Americans.
Still there is no direct causal evidence that the extreme parenting styles used at one time by Chua are behind those somber statistics. It’s just conjecture on my part.  I can’t imagine growing up with a parent who would never let me choose my own activities or who forced me to play the piano or violin (and only the piano or violin).  I’m not sure Chua is typical even among Chinese mothers.  I do like the idea of demanding the best from your children. I don’t think you do that by tyrannizing them, threatening to throw away or burn their toys or insisting that they only play a particular Western instrument and a particular Western music style.  

Is this sort of style one that you could use if you are or intend to become a parent?  Do the higher academic achievement rates of Chinese-Americans justify the Chua tactics? If your parent never allowed you to attend a sleepover or choose your own activities would you harbor any resentment?  Is this no big deal as every group is secretly convinced they are superior in some fashion or another?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Politics of Repealing Health Care

Back in November we ran a piece on the mechanics of Repealing Health Care Reform which basically concluded that there are only 3 ways to repeal this new law:  (i) Congress can pass a bill which repeals this bill (in part or in whole); (ii) the Courts can declare the law unconstitutional; or (iii) Congress can "starve" the law by refusing to vote for its funding.  Of the three, we figured that the most realistic form of actions for Republicans determined to "repeal" the law would be #3 - starve it - as they likely do not have the votes in either house to actually do a flat out repeal of the law.  But now that the New Republican-lead Congress is in session, a new question is being posed by the American public with respect to repealing the Health Care Reform law - "Why?"  As in, remind us why are we repealing these new-found benefits exactly?  And with the President's numbers back on the rise (currently standing at about 53% give or take) the Republicans are having an increasingly hard time making the sale to the American public that we should forgo these new health care benefits simply because Obama created them.

Case in point, watch Republican Congressman Connie Mack (FL) struggle with Mike Barnicle on yesterday's  Morning Joe when Barnicle asks him, point blank, whether (a) the fact that his 25 year-old son can now stay on his health care coverage until age 26 and (b) the fact that his son cannot be excluded from coverage due to pre-existing conditions should actually be repealed:  (watch from 07:16 to 08:30)

Many agree that the Republicans' attempt to repeal "Obama-Care" was purely political, but given that an increasing number of Americans actually don't want to see it repealed, is it good politics for the Republicans to continue down this road?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Is Leon Walker a Criminal?

If I call from work and the phone is busy
I never, never, never, never, never ask who was on the line (oh no)
If I get home late she don’t ask any questions (no she don’t, you know why)
Cause she’s got her thing going and you know I’ve got mine
-Isaac Hayes “One Big Unhappy Family”

Married people lose some freedom of action and privacy. That’s life. A marriage where one spouse is constantly telling the other one to mind his or her own business is one that probably won’t last. Her business becomes his business and vice versa. On the other hand married or not, people still are individuals and have some expectation of privacy, don’t they?

Leon Walker worried that his wife Clara was cheating on him with her allegedly abusive second husband. He decided to check her email accounts. He found proof of her affair and notified her first ex-husband, who decided to use this information in a custody dispute. Ex #1 was supposedly concerned that his child was being exposed to possible abuse by Ex #2. Leon was also allegedly apprehensive about his own child's safety.

So what right? This is nothing new. Some happy or trusting spouses have joint email accounts which either may use. They sometimes share their passwords with each other. Less trusting or more private spouses often keep an eye on each other and may even occasionally surreptitiously check emails, text messages, voicemails, etc. Morally such actions may be somewhat dubious but it’s not like the police are going to arrest you or the local prosecutor will try to convict you of hacking or spying or anything like that. Well not usually anyway….  


Free Press Article 

Legal experts say it's the first time the statute has been used in a domestic case, and it might be hard to prove. "It's going to be interesting because there are no clear legal answers here," said Frederick Lane, a Vermont attorney and nationally recognized expert who has published five books on electronic privacy. The fact that the two still were living together, and that Leon Walker had routine access to the computer, may help him, Lane said.
"I would guess there is enough gray area to suggest that she could not have an absolute expectation of privacy," he said.
About 45% of divorce cases involve some snooping -- and gathering -- of e-mail, Facebook and other online material, Lane said. But he added that those are generally used by the warring parties for civil reasons -- not for criminal prosecution.

I would think similar actions could take place in almost any breakup as people seek information that they can use for greater leverage in divorce or custody hearings. Both men and women have been known to lie. What was sharing a password two years ago when the marriage was happy could become an invasion of privacy when the couple decides to divorce. It appears to me that the prosecutor is using the law incorrectly here. So far judges have refused to throw out the charges.
I don’t understand how a man can be charged with hacking into a computer that was either paid for by him or may be joint marital property. The computer also exists in a location that is either his or jointly owned/rented.  This criminal case could make divorces even more contentious than they already are since the option of jailing someone along with divorcing them would be incredibly tempting for many people who aren’t saints. And I don’t know too many saints.

But the prosecutor has not charged the woman with the crime of adultery.

Is this an appropriate application of the Michigan computer crime law? Does this man deserve five years in prison? Would you change your opinion if the genders were reversed and the woman was facing possible incarceration for snooping? Does a spouse have a right (legal or moral) to know if his or her partner is cheating? Should the woman be charged with adultery?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Film Review-Night Catches Us

Night Catches Us

It is a cliché in some progressive circles to dismiss the Black Panthers as sexist, misogynist, misguided brutes.  Many reactionaries regard them as dangerous racist thugs. One must remember that whatever small truths may be found in those stereotypes (Eldridge Cleaver anyone?), the Black Panther Party started as the next step in the struggle for Black self-determination and self-love. The members were in many cases little more than youth who had the audacity to believe that the Constitution applied to black citizens and intended to do their best to make that belief a reality.

The Party was destroyed from without and within. Internal rivalries, gangsterism, gun worship, immaturity, COINTELPRO, police brutality and murder, prison, etc all played a part. We all know the story even though it really hasn't been told on screen the way it should be.

This is not that movie. This is a much smaller, more focused tale.  Night Catches Us is a story of the human costs of activism. It's really almost a Sophie's Choice type of film for the generation that made up much of the Panther's membership/ leadership. How do people move forward from the heady days of the sixties/early seventies when the movement was strong?

This movie was the big screen debut of writer/director Tanya Hamilton. It takes place in 1976 Philadelphia.

Anthony Mackie plays Marcus Washington, a former Panther who returns to his Germantown home for his father's funeral. Marcus has been away for a long time (it's strongly hinted that he's been on the run but he also may have been imprisoned-this is not really resolved and for my purposes here doesn't need to be).

Marcus finds that his brother Bostic (Black Thought) isn't really all that delighted to see him. Bostic has already made plans for the house and his father's estate-plans that don't include Marcus.  One person who is both happy and confused about seeing Marcus is Patricia Wilson (Kerry Washington), a former Panther who now works as a defense attorney. Marcus always had a thing for "Patty" as he calls her but never acted on it because he was best friends with her deceased husband and former leader of the local Panther chapter, Neil (Tariq Rasheed). Neil was killed by the police in suspicious circumstances. Many people think Marcus was the informer who betrayed Neil.  The most vociferous accuser is the current leader of the remaining Panthers, Do-Right (Jamie Hector), who has started a gun selling business and is not particular about the age of his customers.

Subplots swirl around Patricia's current boyfriend Carey Ford (Ron Simons) a rather self-satisfied bougie lawyer who wants to move out of the neighborhood, a black detective, Gordon (Wendell Pierce), who has some scores of his own to settle with Marcus and Patricia, and Patricia's cousin Jimmy (Amari Cheatom), a disturbed young man that was born too late to be a Panther and deeply resents it.

But what really drives the film and holds all the plots together is the quiet persistent questioning of Patricia's daughter Iris (Jamara Griffin), who wants to know who killed her father and why no one wants to talk about it. Iris has an ineffable sadness which is woven throughout the film.

I liked this movie. It was shot and scored exceedingly well. The locations are beautiful. The writing was realistic. Mackie and Washington have great scenes and good chemistry together.  The film includes archival footage of Panther rallies and speeches as well as the police response. It also features some of the work of noted artist Emory Douglas. In the year 2011 it is quite easy to look back and sneer at some of the choices that Black people have made to survive in this country.  We can speak loudly about what we would have done.  Among other things this film asks the viewer not to judge people so harshly because most were doing the best they could.  I have much respect for any Black person born say before 1955 or so. I can't imagine going through some of what they experienced and coming out with an intact sense of humanity. The casual contempt and racism of the police is depicted accurately.

Some alums from The Wire (Pierce and Hector) have a chance to stretch their acting chops. (Well Hector got that chance; Pierce was playing NATURAL PO-LICE in a very familiar manner)  The best thing about this film was to see black people playing a variety of roles in a very humanistic manner. Most of the characters are neither heroes nor villains.  The film is occasionally quiet but doesn't drag.  I would give it a seven out of ten. I'd like to see what Ms. Hamilton could do with a bigger budget and more experience. I look forward to her next work. The Roots did the music for this film.  Urban bluesman Syl Johnson "Is it because I'm Black?" is also featured. If you can find it, this is a worthwhile watch.

Is this the sort of movie you'd watch? If you saw it, what did you think? (No spoilers please!!!) 
Can predominantly black movies not directed by Tyler Perry find a market niche? Why aren't there more independent black filmmakers?