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by Cynthia Fuchs

17 Feb 2012

“My partners and I are always searching for Dr. King’s perspective,” says Tavis Smiley during the first minutes of his documentary, Stand. In 2008, Smiley wonders, “How did we arrive at this critical place in our history?” And so, as Barack Obama is running for president, poverty growing, the US is engaged in two wars, and more black men are incarcerated than ever before, Smiley and a group including Michael Eric Dyson, Wren Brown, and Cornel West (“Definitely,” he says, “not your typical black men”) take off on a bus trip to look for Martin Luther King Jr.‘s perspective. Screening on the Documentary Channel this month, the documentary is comprised of footage by Smiley’s professional crew and also by two teens from Memphis, Robert Smith and Daron Keith Boyce, who wield their digital camera with a mix of enthusiasm and awe.

Much like the ride in Spike Lee’s Get on the Bus, this one alternates betweens on the bus (the space tight and the conversation lively) sand setting down the passengers in a series of locations (though here, they always have places to stay and eat). It also provides multiple occasions for sharing stories and some wisdom too (Dyson: “It’s hard sometimes when you’re in the parade to see what’s on the float” or again, West: “Don’t confuse your voice with an echo”). When a new partner joins in, like Dick Gregory, Smiley uses the opportunity to historicize: “Comedy has been important for black folk,” he asserts, “Things have been so challenging and bleak for us at times,” that it’s helped to have artists who “say stuff on stage that we can’t say, who are willing to check America, check white folk.” What the riders say here—and they can claim a large stage, to be sure—is less directed at white folk than black men, words of encouragement and direction, exhortations to excellence and consciousness. They’re a small, atypical group, and they listen to one another. 

by John Garratt

16 Feb 2012

Anthony Braxton, prodigal son of the AACM movement and MacArthur grant recipient, has just released his very first recorded opera, Trillium E, in the form of a four-disc box set. He seems to understand the financial, as well as mental, undertaking customers require when encountering works like this, so he has decided to release a free career sampler. Composition, Improvisation, Synthesis: Selections from the Tri-Centric Foundation Archives runs the gamut of his numerous instrumental works (identified only by number) as well as an improvisational piece and excerpt from Trillium E itself. All it will cost you is a little bit of personal information, and all 79-plus minutes of this wonderful, wild music is yours.

An NPR story mentioning both Trillium E and Composition, Improvisation, Synthesis: Selections from the Tri-Centric Foundation Archives can be read or downloaded here.

by Comfort Clinton

16 Feb 2012

Baron Von Luxxury, known to friends as Blake Robin, is a man of many talents. He wears the hats of producer, songwriter, blogger, DJ, vocalist and, having recently signed with Manimal Vinyl, the artist can now add another creative endeavor to his resume: a debut album, out 14 February, entitled The Last Seduction. Renowned for his funky electro-disco remixes of songs by artists like Hilary Duff and Dirty Sanchez, Baron Von Luxxury also operates a popular music blog called Disco Workout. He has written songs with talents like Little Boots and Bonnie McKee (who penned Katy Perry’s megahit “California Gurls”), and his work has recently been featured on a variety of TV shows, such as The Hills and CSI: Miami.

by Comfort Clinton

15 Feb 2012

The True/False Film Festival will see it’s ninth year of operation this year when it showcases new films in its Columbus, Missouri home base between March 1st and 4th. The Festival, which features a wide range of films, many of which are fresh off tours at other Festivals like Sundance, Toronto and Berlin, has become recognized in recent years as a center for good film, good music and good fun.

One aspect that truly sets the True/False Film Festival apart from others like it, however, is The True Life Fund. Reaching its sixth year of highlighting documentary filmmakers and their pursuits, The True Life Fund selects a documentary of particular note, and channels fundraising efforts in the film’s direction. According to, The True Life Fund was established in order “to demonstrate that documentaries can create change by offering tangible assistance to the real-life subjects of a new non-fiction film”. Each year, the Fund, which aims to raise money through donations from True/False festival-goers and the local community, partners with an organization that promises to match its donation amount. This year, The Bertha Foundation has pledged to match up to $15,000 in donations.

by Comfort Clinton

15 Feb 2012

Steve Carell’s latest foray into the world of the dramedy comes in the form of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. The newly released trailer for the film, out 22 June, introduces us to a world that knows it is going to end. Similar in premise to Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, the film deals with how people react to the knowledge that their time on earth is coming to an unexpected end.

Carell plays a man in the middle of life, whose wife leaves him after the pair hear on their car radio that an asteroid is headed for earth, leaving human kind just three weeks to live. In the midst of watching his friends and co-workers deal with the impending doom in a variety of ways—everything from throwing a party every night to auctioning off the coveted position of CFO—Carell finds respite in his charming neighbor, played by Keira Knightley. Before long, the two decide to band together to help each other fulfill their last wishes—his to reunite with “the one that got away” and hers to see her family one last time. From the looks of the trailer, it seems that the pair encounter quite the adventure along the way, and that the impending asteroid might not be the only thing that’s falling hard…

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