Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Precious" at the Opera House

Many questions can be raised about our showing of the film "Precious: based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire" at the Opera House as part of our Alt-Movie Series this week. Why show a film about inner-city tragedy and dysfunction in our rural hamlet? Why show a film which could possibly further negative stereotypes of African-Americans in the nation's whitest state, where few have access to everyday encounters with racial and ethnic minorities? Why show films which detail poverty, abuse and their effects at all?

Because "Precious" is a complicated, beautifully made film which shows the potential impacts of poverty and abuse in ALL of our communities. It is a story which must be told--as Sapphire knew when she published the book on which it is based, "Push," in 1996. “Ralph Ellison spoke of an invisible man, but girls like Precious are our invisible young women—not seen by their own people let alone white society,” says Sapphire.

The character of Claireece “Precious Jones” Sapphire created and whom director Lee Daniels, along with producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, faithfully renders is so deeply human and fully realized, not only in her misery but in her imaginative, thoughtful processes, that it is impossible for any but the most pessimistic and politically orthodox critics (of which there have been many, both of the book and now of the film) to not be dumb-struck with empathy and compassion for her story. As Sapphire says, her story and this film are "for all the precious girls" in all of our communities. Let's make them visible, and let's all care enough to take action--as so many do in this film, from school principals to teachers to social workers--to offer them the love they deserve and need to chart their own courses from misery.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Choreographer--or I think I'd better say movement artist--Elizabeth Streb was one of three panelists on the opening plenary, facilitated by OHA's "our own" critic-in-residence Alicia Anstead, for APAP 2010. Presenting between our lugubrious new NEA chairman, Rocco Landesmann, whose comments re support for artists waxed so spurious one could only yawn; and my fellow Bowdoin College grad Paul Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky (download his app for your iPhone and become your own DJ), Streb--ice-pick thin with a stand-up shock of died black hair at 59--brought the session to life with her remarks on the importance of--well, yeah--movement.

Streb showed a video message she had created when asked if she would send a message to newly-elected President Obama last year. After some hesitation, she did it. Her message is: there is one simple solution to solving the problems you face--war in Afghanistan, an economic recession, a need to overhaul our country's health and education systems. That solution is movement. If you, Mr. President, insist that every American must jump up and down three times every morning, turn around, and throw their arms up in a giant X--slowly but surely our problems would be solved.

It's a dramatic way to make an important point: the human body is a kinetic (i.e., movement) machine, and we as Americans simply don't move enough to function as well intellectually, emotionally, economically, and politically as we need to to face the current challenges the world presents to us. And moving with consciousness through the artistic discipline of dance--and Streb might argue, especially highly physical dance of the type she practices, which can veer toward the NFL--might take us to places we never before knew to be possible.

So, people, let's do it! Stand up and jump up and down three times, now and every morning. Spin around and throw your arms up into the air in a giant X! Let's move it. The new decade is on. -- Linda