American film critic Elvis Mitchell’s documentary Is That Black Enough For You?!? examines the history of Black representation in cinema during the 60s and 70s. He also debunks the notion that Black cinema in that period only meant Blaxploitation films.
“Black film reintroduced the ideals of glamour and heroism to the medium. And that one failure became a convenient excuse to ignore Black film and give short shrift to Black audiences,” Mitchell said in a statement. “I fear that we’re perhaps a couple of box office misfires from such a reversion happening again.”
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Mitchell wrote, directed, and narrates Is That Black Enough For You?!? which was 23 years in the making and that it was originally going to be a book, but Mitchell says it was “turned down by every publisher you can think of — and probably several you couldn’t — even with an introduction that Toni Morrison offered to write.”
The film examines the craft and power of cinema from a perspective often overlooked: the African American contribution to films released from the landmark era of the 70s. It is a deep dive into the impact that point of view had on movies, as well as popular culture. A love letter to film, it poses questions that have never been asked, let alone answered.
“As a Black viewer, I found myself confronted with what wasn’t being voiced about my people, and wondered why the movies were so slow to respond to Black audiences — who were paying good money to see movies — and even social shifts brought about by the civil rights movement,” Mitchell told Variety.
“When Black films from the late ’60s and the ’70s come up, they’re dismissed with the term ‘Blaxploitation’. I have nothing against that word, but any era that includes ‘Killer of Sheep’, ‘Lady Sings the Blues’, ‘Blazing Saddles’ and ‘Symbiopsychotaxiplasm’ can’t be disregarded with that phrase.”
Harry Belafonte, Samuel L. Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Laurence Fishburne, Zendaya and more are featured in the documentary. They offer commentary on the creatives and films that inspired them. They also give insight into the history of Black representation going back to the earliest days of cinema, and the cultural impact of witnessing unapologetic Blackness.
Steven Soderbergh and David Fincher both serve as producers on the documentary.
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Netflix released the trailer ahead of its debut at the New York Film Festival this weekend before it premieres on Netflix, Nov. 11. Watch the trailer below.