Toronto Black 2020
Bentonville, American Black, Montreal Black, Chagrin Falls Doc
An exploration of the stacked deck against black boys in American society.
Loosely split into four titled chapters, filmmaker Sonia Lowman’s well-intentioned film attempts to explore the way black males are stereotyped and perceived in American society and the detriment this has on the self-image and aspirations of black boys. The film covers an expansive range of topics – from the objectification of the black male body and the double consciousness black boys develop in order to navigate a white society that fears them, to the negative and traumatic history they are taught about black history and the disproportionate treatment they are subjected to in school – but takes a survey approach that results in a talking heads fest. Despite the importance and timeliness of the topic, however, the film is fundamentally flawed. Lowman, who is white, is not the right filmmaker to be telling this story. While she appears on camera to acknowledge her privilege and to try to justify her perspective, it remains an awkward and ill fit. Yes, white people need to question their biases and implicit racism, but the power dynamic in having a white filmmaker take the lead here remains problematic and ultimately undermines the project as a whole.