Archive for the ‘movies’ Category

Something Within Beah

Friday, June 20th, 2008

A few years back a dear friend sent me a gift in the mail. It was a dvd documentary, BEAH: A BLACK WOMAN SPEAKS. Having grown up watching Beah Richards in film and on television, I knew I was in for a treat. Looking at Richards with her strong African features I’d always wondered how she survived in a place like Hollywood where  women are valued less for their talent and more for their camera friendly European beauty. I didn’t know how much the story of Beah Richards’ life would come to mean to me. The documentary saved my life. It arrived at just the right moment. The student was ready.


And then one day I lost it. That’s right. I laid the dvd down and couldn’t remember where I put it. You know how you lay something down and can’t recall for the life of you where you put it? For a a year, every time I thought about the dvd, I’d tear the house apart all over again looking for BEAH, but it was nowhere to be found. I grieved. I felt like the woman whom Jesus spoke of in Luke 15:8-10 who upon discovering she’s lost a coin that’s dear to her survival sweeps and searches her house from top to bottom until she finds it.

And then one day, this week in fact, it reappeared. As strangely as it disappeared, BEAH: A BLACK WOMAN SPEAKS reappeared. Just like that. Stuck there between some papers I’d rummaged through dozens of times. There must be a moral to this tale of losing and finding this dvd, I tell myself. There has to be. When I figure it out I’ll share it with you.

Right now I’m just happy to have found BEAH. If you don’t have a copy, get one. Every woman should have a copy of this documentary. It’s the story of a woman’s life, a thinking woman, a fierce woman, an unconventional woman, a woman who stared back with determination when the face across the desk looked up indifferently at her. And it’s the story of the young black woman who stumbled upon her story.

While working with Beah Richards on the film BELOVED,  LisaGay Hamilton was mesmerized by the older woman’s talent and inspired by her wisdom. Two years after completing BELOVED, Hamilton heard that Beah Richards was low sick (as they say in the south) and phoned to ask if she could visit. That one visit stretched out over a year and marked the beginning of life-saving relationship for both women and became the basis for this remarkable documentary. Over the next year (which would be the last year of Beah’s life), Richards shared with the young actress LisaGay Hamilton the insights and truths she’d gained during her celebrated, sometimes controversial career. The exclusive documentary BEAH: A BLACK WOMAN SPEAKS presents the hard-earned wisdom of this remarkable artist and activist, and explores the deep and tender relationship that developed between the two women.

BEAH: A BLACK WOMAN SPEAKS is the kind of movie you dress up for and watch along with your girlfriends. You’ll be talking into the night about the lessons of Beah Richards’ life.

Pass the Tissues!

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Once a year, usually around the holidays, I clear the house of husband and child and spend the day on the couch watching old movies. With butter popcorn and plenty of Kleenex tissues nearby, along with my favorite throw blanket across my legs, I’m in my pajamas or old sweat pants, popping in old movies I got from the rental store or flipping to the classic movie channel for ones I couldn’t find in the store. It’s going to be a long day, and I’m usually in the mood for a good tearjerker. I like old movies, especially the ones with strong or disturbing female characters.

It’s been years since I was anyone’s “chick,” so you can imagine that I’m not fond of terms like “chick flick” or “chick lit” to describe books and movies that are, according to the stereotype, sappy, emotional, soap-opera-ish, cliched, melodramatic, and weepy — in a word, movies for women. But I do admit that several of the movies in my stack will be those too melodramatic for my husband’s patriarchal tastes (translated: no one’s blood, guts, or brains are getting splattered across the screen).

Despite my feminist/womanist rants, when it comes to movies, tearjerkers and gal-pal films, movies about family crises and emotional catharsis, fantasy-action adventures with tongue-lashing, empowered females, and female bonding stories involving families, mothers, daughters and children are the movies I pop in the DVD player when I have the house to myself during the holidays. (I’m a real sucker for a “two boxes of tissues” mother-daughter story.)

Now, I’m no cult movie junkie like my friend in Seattle who can beat you at any trivia game that calls for identifying Sidney Poitier’s memorable quote from “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” or those of Katharine Hepburn in “The African Queen” or Clark Gable in “Gone With The Wind” or Humphrey Bogart in “Casablanca.” But I do have a couple of favorite quotes that never fail to deliver the punch I need when I’m doing one of my workshops on women and self-esteem. Like the one where Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) stands up and puts a curse on “Mister” (Danny Glover) with that two finger move saying, “Until you do right by me everything you think about is gonna fail” or that famous diner scene in “When Harry Met Sallie” in which Sallie (Meg Ryan) throws her head back there at the table and moans and pants, to prove to Harry that women are notorious for faking orgasms. (Yeah, yeah, a curse scene and a fake orgasm scene aren’t exactly the sort of examples you’d expect a minister to draw on when she’s out reminding women how “fearfully and wonderfully made” they are. But believe me, those scenes work. Oh well, you just gotta be there.)

I’ve decided already on a date for when I intend to shoo folks out my house so I can plant myself in front of the flat screen to watch my movies. I’ve even gone online to order a few hard-to-find movies just so I won’t be disappointed at the movie rental store. Maybe I’ll invite over a few girlfriends who don’t mind dialogue-laden, melodramatic, sappy movies to join me on the couch. Of course, they’ll have to bring their own popcorn – and tissue.

Here are five on my list this year.

  1. “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”
  2. “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte”
  3. “The Three Faces of Eve”
  4. “The Bridges of Madison County” (not a classic, but it’s one of my favorites. “Go ahead, get out the truck!!!”)
  5. “The Imitation of Life” (”What you crying for now? Your mama can’t hear you!”)