Home » The legacy of Gen-X black filmmakers | Black Writers Week

The legacy of Gen-X black filmmakers | Black Writers Week

The moment of reassessment and inventory has arrived for my generation, which has been known by the unusually durable designation for Generation X. Months ago, I was asked by Melissa Tamminga, the program director of the venerable Bellingham, Washington community arthouse the Pickford Film Center, if I would guest program a monthly series. The first thing I thought of was the work of African-American Gen-X filmmakers. And since then, the talk of Gen-X has exploded. Just a few weeks ago, the Los Angeles Philharmonic announced a program featuring all Gen-X orchestral composers.

The timing makes sense. The term “Generation X”, as used about people born between the mid-1960s and late 1970s (later, generation creeps would move the border to 1982), originated in 1991 when Canadian author Douglas Coupland published the novel Generation X: Tales of an Accelerated Culture about the young people who come of age in the wake of the Go-Go Eighties and the Mig decade before that.

And just as the term was taking root (after mercilessly plundering the sobriety of the previous generation, which was “The MTV Generation”), African-American Generation X filmmakers made their debut. Everything started with John Singleton and his landmark debut “Boyz N the Hood“Which was released in July 1991 to great acclaim and made Singleton the youngest person to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director at the age of 24.

Just before Singleton, Matty Rich (b. 1971) appeared with his debut film “Just out of Brooklyn, ”Made with stiffness, determination, $ 450,000 and a month of film school. One film was independent, the other was a studio film, but they both signaled the same thing: Gen-X African-American auteur had arrived.

Of course, these films were forged by many social forces and the reverberation of historical shifts. First, Generation X itself was famously summed up as the children of Watergate, Vietnam, the aftermath of the civil rights / black liberation movements, the beginnings of the gay rights movement, second wave feminism, and divorce. We were a significantly smaller generation than the baby boomers who had come before us. And in many ways, we had to fend for ourselves. We were Latchkey Kids, who usually came home to an empty house and let the television watch over us until a parent arrived. Over time, we would find that we were dwarfed on both sides as the Millennials came to overtake us by significant margins. The Boomer experience of the 60s had a double impact on us: it provided an almost unattainable standard of social activism, and it also gave us a post-60s cynicism that defines us to this day. Utopianism, we were taught in both tacit and explicit ways, was a fool’s preoccupation. This is as good as it can get, and if you do not accept it and come up with the program, you are a bigger fool than the aging hippy burnouts held to mockery in so much of pop culture.

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