English department sponsors film series

Photo by: Marina D'Souza

Jasmine Moultrie, Staff Writer

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Francis Marion’s English Department sponsored the showing of the black and white film “Young Man with a Horn” on Sept. 28 in Lowrimore Auditorium.

Assistant Professor of English Dr. Shawn Smolen-Morton said he chose the 1950 drama because “it illustrates the difficulties that African American actors faced in the classical Hollywood period to overcome racial stereotypes” and ties into his African American film genres course.

Smolen-Morton said he also wanted to screen “Young Man with a Horn” because “it is a film that film scholars point out that a few actors were able to avoid or criticize racial stereotypes.”

Smolen-Morton explained that racial stereotypical roles were developed in the 1800s in theater. These roles included mammies, Toms, coons, mulattoes and bucks.

“All five of these stereotypes were presented in a sort of solidified film ‘Birth of a Nation,’ by D.W. Griffith in 1915,” Smolen-Morton said. “This film is what launched African American Cinema. A lot of people were upset with this film, and it made film companies respond to it.”

Playing Art Hazard, a jazz trumpeter, Juano Hernandez avoids racial stereotypes as a confident professional black man during segregation.

“The stereotype he should have been playing was the Uncle Tom,” Smolen-Morton said. “The Uncle Tom is the loyal servant who protects the servant’s property, who enjoys being a slave, who protects the master’s children, raises them and sacrifices himself for the children.”

“Art hazard does not do that; he becomes Rick’s father. The film is saying something with the images that it cannot say with our mouths,” Smolen-Morton said. “If we overcome racism, a black man can become a loving caring and successful father of a white boy who will, in return, be a loving and caring son, and they can have a good relationship.”

The English Department offered two different showings of the movie: one at 3:30 p.m. and the other at 7 p.m. Smolen-Morton said the movie attracted approximately 42 viewers; some of the viewers were a part of the African American film studies course. Audiences usually range from 40 to 200 viewers.

“The duty of the film series is to bring students into contact with films that they would not normally see on their own or films that have cultural significance, and a lot of students shy away from that,” Smolen-Morton said. “They want to see a popcorn movie.”

The English Film Series was shown the latest Star Wars film last fall. The movie required very little promotion and had a large attendance.

“There is no reason for us to show people what they will already watch all of the time,” Smolen-Morton said. “We are also trying to show things that will expose them to different cultures, different thinking, different ideas different images, different ways of seeing the world and they are not going to get that watching Star Wars or Star Trek all of the time.”

Sophomore Colby Hancok enjoyed the watching the black and white film, and appreciated some of the issues that the movie portrayed because some issues are still relevant today.

“At first I kind of thought it was going to be a boring black and white, [but] the more I watched it I thought that it was a really good movie,” Hancock said. “I personally enjoyed it. I thought the movie was fantastic.”

The English Film Series will be showing “Killer of Sheep” on Oct. 27. This film depicts the lives of average working class African American with realistic acting, without Hollywood melodrama.

On Nov. 16, “Precious” will be showing. This film explores the influence of race, gender and poverty on domestic abuse in contemporary America.

All showings are free and open to the public.

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