Friday, February 22, 2008

AverageBro Goes To The Movies: What Black Men Think

[With a toddler, I don't get to go to the movies at all nowadays. Pre-AverageBaby, I didn't miss an opening weekend. Now, Netflix is my best friend. So, I don't see things in a timely manner, but when I do, you get the best review in town right here.]

If you've been anywhere around the web over the past year, chances are you've seen a clip or twelve from the documentary What Black Men Think. After much searching, I finally got ahold of a copy, and I'm happy to report that the documentary lives up to it's considerable advance billing.

The flick starts off on an ominous note by rolling out a cast of "experts" I'm not necessarily very fond of. Conservative talking heads like Armstrong Williams, Shelby Steele, Joseph C. Phillips, Jesse Lee Peterson, and Michael Steele are intermixed with a gaggle of everyday dudes, including director Janks Morton, who provides Michael Moore-ish narration throughout.

The documentary then dives headfirst into debunking some commonly held stereotypes about black men, by providing some historical reference to attempt to explain why we're in our current state. Morton deftly rolls out stat after stat about black male incarceration, college enrollment, causes of death, annual salaries, the down-low brother phenomenon, and even interracial marriages, then tells a deeper story behind the numbers. By intermixing man-on-the-street interviews with expert analysis, the movie goes a long way towards dispelling some very harmful misconceptions about the state of Black men in America, while not coming off as apologist. And in doing so, it inadvertently pulls off an amazing feat: it makes guys like Steele, Peterson, and Williams human, likeable even. That's worth the price of admission itself.

Still, the doc's not without it's flaws. A longwinded explanation of how the civil rights movement was undone by the "free love/me me me" movement of the late 60's falls a bit short of it's potential impact. A frank discussion about the role of black men in childbearing, and a deeper exploration of the 70% out of wedlock birth rate is largely sidestepped. And eventually the movie turns into an exploration of racism's effects on Black America as a whole. You get the feeling that it's about 15 minutes longer than it needs to be.

Minor criticisms aside, I'd highly recommend getting a copy of What Black Men Think. The production quality is slick and at a running time of 84 minutes, things never get dull. And who knows, you just might learn a new thing or two about the Average Brother in the process.

Final Verdict: What Black Men Think is an insightful behind the stats look at the state of black men in America. 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Just in case you haven't seen the excerpts, here's a refresher.

WBMT Trailer

Taalam Acey's Market For Ni@@as: NSFW Language

What Black Men Think [Official Website]

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