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Page 16 American Book Review Berry and Berry devote considerable time and care to examining the lasting effects of various racisms on African American Cinema B O O K R E V I E W S The Age of African American Cinema Walter R. Jacobs Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema S. Torriano Berry and Venise T. Berry The Scarecrow Press, Inc. http://www.scarecrowpress.com 448 pages; cloth, $85.00 The Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema is volume 12 in The Scarecrow Press, Inc. “Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts” series. According to series editor Jon Woronoff, “African American cinema is in a very different category from the various ‘national cinemas’ included in this subseries. Unlike the French, Russians, or Germans, theAfricanAmericans first had to reclaim their own cinematic image before they could turn it into a thing of representation and beauty.” Indeed, the brother and sister editorial team of S. Torriano Berry and Venise T. Berry devote considerable time and care to examining the lasting effects of various racisms on African American cinema, arguing that “[t]he daunting subject of race and ethnicity permeated life in America at the turn of the 20th century and due to the effect of a certain few films, specific television images, and an often-biased news media, it still plagues us today.” Woronoff concurs: “The fact that this has been a long, hard climb from a particularly low level is shown clearly in the chronology, without which this volume might be hard to understand.” The chronology contains sixty-one entries spanning the years 1824 to 2005, including both general cinematic developments (for example, George Eastman patents Celluloid film in 1887) and specificAfricanAmerican cinematic milestones (such as a 1920–1927 comment on the production and screening of “sepia flicks,” black-themed movies shown at black-owned movie houses, colored-only “Midnight Rambles” in white theaters, or at improvised home screenings held behind Jim Crow lines). Then, an introductory chapter expands on the brief annotations of the chronology, examining the struggles African Americans have engaged in order to create their unique vision of the cinema. Beginning with “The DarkAge of African American Cinema”—which examines “the first filmed images of African Americans, visions which should have never been allowed to fade up from black”—Berry and Berry explore “The Golden Age of African American Cinema,” “The SilverAge of African American Cinema,” “The TV Age and African American Cinema,” “The Bronze Age of African American Cinema”—here we learn about blaxploitation : “To some, the glorification of pimps, hookers, and drug dealers was no better than the olden-day stereotypes of mammies, coons, bucks, brutes, and uncle toms”—“The Dawn of the Crossover Comedians,” “The New Black Film Renaissance,” and “African America [sic] Cinema: Into a New Millennium .” The introduction concludes on a message of hope: “Cinema is the youngest of all the creative arts and these new and innovative means of visual storytelling will continue to entertain, motivate, inspire, educate, and encourage not only African Americans to record and share their most intimate visions of life, but all the people of the world for many years to come.” The celebration of African American cinematic achievements against a backdrop of daunting obstacles makes the introduction a compelling read, especially when we encounter colorful phrases like the one referenced in the previous paragraph (“the first filmed images of African Americans, visions which should have never been allowed to fade up from black”), and “Hollywood turned the 1970s boom 180 degrees around when Mario Van Peebles’s New Jack City, 1991, ushered in an era where instead of kicking The Man’s butt all over the screen, black people were kicking each other’s butts all over the screen.” After the eighteen-page introduction, the bulk of the Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema is comprised of “The Dictionary,” 369 pages of entries that range from singer/actress Aaliyah to the PBS biopic Zora is My Name. I wish that The Dictionary had three parts—Actors, Films, and Other—instead of a single section. (Entries in the Other category would include listings like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences [currently appearing on page 3...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2153-4578
Print ISSN
0149-9408
Pages
p. 16
Launched on MUSE
2014-10-01
Open Access
No
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