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BLACK IS...BLACK AIN'T

USA, 1995 (MIFF 1995, Documentaries)

Director: Marlon T Riggs

Award-winning director of Tongues Untied (MIFF 92) and Colour Adjustment (MIFF 93) Marlon Riggs' final work is an eloquent and passionate exploration of the complex shifting nature of African-American consciousness 'What is Black?', 'Not Black Enough?' 'Too Black?', what happens to issues of culture, gender and class in the quest for unity? Sparkling with intellectual vigour, this exceptional documentary challenges the simple manifestations of identity politics, provoking rather than resolving the question of whether blackness can be reduced to a unitary core experience which all African-Americans can eagerly aspire to, if not share.

A blend of biographical profiles music and per­formance, archival images, confessions, skits, folk stories and personal narratives, Riggs likens his visual style to his grandmothers quilts, the linking thread being the director's own encounters with alienation due to colour, class, sexuality and ulti­mately HIV-positive status. Completed posthu­mously by the director's colleagues, Nicole Atkinson and Christine Badgley, the film takes on the added dimensions of a personal odyssey as Riggs becomes an onscreen character-usually seen or heard from his hospital bed.

An insightful exploration of the convoluted nature of self as well as a confronting legacy for the black communities, Black Is Black Ain't is a powerful epitaph for a life-affirming and talented filmmaker.

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