Reel Girl Talk x Dear White People
Dear all who came to our *bonus* Reel Girl Talk event honouring Dear White People and black women creatives, THANK YOU!
ICYMI, we added an extra Reel Girl Talk event to our already stacked February MUFF schedule (yay, Buffy and Women in Horror Month!) in honour of Black History Month. On February 22, we hosted a screening of Dear White People (no, not the upcoming Netflix series that has already caused ALL THE DRAMA with ignorant racists, but the 2014 film that inspired it!) and a follow-up discussion featuring Great Black North co-host Devon M.D. Jones and filmmaker Alicia Harris.
The evening started off in traditional MUFF x RGT fashion, with a half-hour of photobooth fun. And can we just say MUFFian and HER-Story producer Jenn made some primo themed props just for the occasion??? We’re talking a sparkly microphone (like Tessa Thompson’s character, film student Sam White, uses on her radio show in the film!) and a giant “ON AIR” sign, which everyone posed with as MUFF programmer Andrea’s INCREDIBLE MUFFMix set the scene?
After everyone had snapped a few pics and grabbed their tix, we headed to the theatre, where RGT producer Emily provided some background on the film and why we chose to screen it (ahem, a production team lead by inspiring black women like Stephanie Allain, Effie Brown, Lena Waithe and Mel Jones, and a lead character that’s also a black female filmmaker). We also gave away two awesome prizes: two passes to an upcoming MUFF screening, and a three-month subscription to Netflix Canada.
After the film wrapped, we got to talking. Or rather, we invited Devon and Alicia to the stage. In their half-hour Reel Girl Talk, they spoke candidly about how film depicts racism in modern, “post-racial” (ha!) North America, as well as the shadeism that can occur within the black community. For example, they brought up the film’s portrayal of the discrimination black folks experience in response to their hair and how this can affect the ways in which they present themselves personally and professionally.
Alicia, for one, revealed that she is currently working on a short film (Pick) to specifically speak to that struggle. “It’s about a girl who wears her afro to school on picture day and has to deal with microaggressions similar to this [film], but in a less overt way,” she explained.
“Every time I’ve explained this story to a woman of colour, they’re just like ‘Yeah.’ They just get it because it is such a common feeling … a feeling that you have to straighten your hair so you look more like the Euro-centric idea of what is beautiful.”
Devon went on to detail a recent experience she had when wearing her natural hair at work.
“I remember one lady was like, ‘Oh, I like your hair!’ and I was ready to be like, ‘Oh, thank you!’ Then she said, ‘It’s really cool.’ That kind of took it down a notch because she’s reminding me that it’s different, it’s an other.”
As the discussion wrapped up, both women spoke about the need to listen to people of colour, particularly women of colour, when they speak about an issue that affects them, whether on screen or off. To quote Alicia, “Unless you acknowledge there’s a problem, how can you fix it?”
(We’re looking at you, folks who are boycotting the Dear White People series after that 15-second preview because it apparently encourages “white genocide”, instead of taking a second to hear what the characters and creator are actually trying to say about the ways people are still being oppressed, overtly and inadvertently, based on race.)
We thank both women for sharing their time and stories with us, and encourage you to continue to follow their incredible work. The Great Black North is posting new episodes regularly and can be found on SoundCloud, iTunes and Stitcher. And if you'd like to donate to Alicia’s film, you can do so through PayPal, or directly through e-transfer (email@example.com).
And once again, big thank you to all who came out to RGT x Dear White People and stayed for this incredible discussion! We’ll be back with a new Reel Girl Talk event in May, when we screen Girl, Interrupted and follow with a talk on mental health on film. In the meantime, don’t miss our other spring MUFF events, including HER-Story presents: Migrant Dreams (March 15) and Half Baked (April 13).
All photos by the amazing Joshua Korngut!