Tag Archives: movie

Alex Haley Fooled Us All

s-roots-film-large300Most of us thought the miniseries “Roots” was a remarkable and important piece of television, but the book on which it was based has now been widely exposed as a historical hoax. What is unfortunately is that the general public is largely unaware of how Haley’s monumental family autobiography, stretching back to 18th-century Africa, has been discredited. This has caused Haley’s work to be banned by many U.S. television networks – especially PBS, which would normally welcome such a program.

I know this is shocking, I am sure, but coincidentally the scandal over disclosures of historian Stephen Ambrose’s multiple incidents of plagiarism. Haley himself was forced to acknowledge, a large section of his book – including the plot, main character, and scores of whole passages was lifted from “The African,” a 1967 novel by white author Harold Courlander.

But plagiarism is the least of the problems with “Roots.” This information would likely have remained largely unknown had journalist Philip Nobile not undertaken a remarkable study of Haley’s private papers shortly before they were auctioned off. The results were featured in a devastating 1993 cover piece in the Village Voice. It confirmed from Haley’s own notes that the alleged history of the book was a near total invention.

“Virtually every genealogical claim in Haley’s story was false,” Nobile has written. None of Haley’s early writing contains any reference to his mythic ancestor. A long-suppressed tape of the famous session in which Haley “found” Kunta Kinte through the recitation of an African “Griot” proves, as BBC producer James Kent noted, “the villagers [were] threatened by members of Haley’s party. Haley, “Specifically asks for a story that will fit his predetermined American narrative.”

Historical experts who checked Haley’s genealogical research discovered that, as one put it, “Haley got everything wrong in his pre-Civil War lineage, and none of his plantation ancestors existed; 182 pages have no basis in fact.” Given this damning evidence, he remains a literary icon. As one authority put it, Haley never wrote anything and this is to include “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”!!!

The judge who presided over Haley’s plagiarism case admitted that “I did not want to destroy him” and so allowed him to settle quietly – even though, he acknowledged, Haley had repeatedly perjured himself in court.

The uniqueness of “Roots” is that it was presented as factual history, albeit with fictional embellishments. Haley himself stressed that the details came from his family’s oral history and had been corroborated by outside documents. But Professor Henry Louis Gates of Harvard, a Haley friend, concedes that it’s time to “speak candidly,” adding that “most of us feel it’s highly unlikely that Alex actually found the village from whence his ancestors came.

It was proven in court that Harold Courlander wrote seven novels, his most famous being The African, published in 1967. The novel was the story of a slave’s capture in Africa, his experiences aboard a Slave ship, and his struggle to retain his native culture in a hostile new world. In 1978, Courlander filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, charging that Alex Haley, the author of Roots, had copied 81 passages from his novel. Courlander’s pre-trial memorandum in the copyright infringement lawsuit claimed:

“Defendant Haley had access to and substantially copied from The African. Without The African, Roots would have been a very different and less successful novel, and indeed, it is doubtful that Mr. Haley could have written Roots without “The African”…. Mr. Haley copied language, thoughts, attitudes, incidents, situations, plot and character.”

The lawsuit did not allege that The African’s plot was copied in its entirety, as the two novels differ in several plot points. In his Expert Witness Report submitted to federal court, Professor of English Michael Wood of Columbia University stated:

“The evidence of copying from The African in both the novel and the television dramatization of Roots is clear and irrefutable. The copying is significant and extensive. … Roots… plainly uses The African as a model: as something to be copied at sometimes, and at other times to be modified, but always it seems, to be consulted. … Roots takes from The African phrases, situations, ideas, aspects of style and plot. Roots finds in The African essential elements for its depiction of such things as a slave’s thoughts of escape, the psychology of an old slave, the habits of mind of the hero, and the whole sense of life on an infamous slave ship. Such things are the life of a novel; and when they appear in Roots, they are the life of someone else’s novel.”

During a five-week trial in federal district court, presiding U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Ward stated, “Copying there is, period.” In a later interview with BBC Television, Judge Ward stated, “Alex Haley perpetrated a hoax on the public. Passages from The African were found stapled to a manuscript page from Roots. However, Alex Haley maintained throughout the trial that he had not even heard of The African until the year after Roots was published, and speculated that someone else had given him the photocopied passages. After the trial, Joseph Bruchac, an instructor in black and African history at Skidmore College, stated that he had recommended Courlander’s novel to Haley when he visited Skidmore in 1970. Bruchac remembered driving home three miles to fetch his own copy of The African and give it to Haley, who promised to read it “on the plane.”

Courlander and Haley settled the case out of court for $650,000 and a statement that “Alex Haley acknowledges and regrets that various materials from The African by Harold Courlander found their way into his book, Roots.” WOW! This just proves nothing is as it seems. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

Aaliyah’s Biopic: The Princess of R&B

007_1000I rarely comment on movies but this weekend I fell for the hype and watched “Aaliyah” the Lifetime biopic produced by Wendy Williams. The rising star, Aaliyah, tragically died in a plane crash in 2001. The debut movie was not over before the singers fans lite up social media to voice their displeasure. See for yourself; #Aaliyah is still trending across social media. Their reactions to the movie was more entertaining than the movie.

Before I begin, from the moment the news of this movie being made Aaliyah’s family made it clear that they wanted nothing to do with it. This was a good sign that the movie project was in trouble. Aaliyah: Princess of R&B starred Alexandra Shipp in the titular role along with a host of other sub-par actors and actresses; who portrayed Aaliyah’s family members and the celebrities that played pivotal roles in the success of her blossoming music and film career. If you did not get a chance to see the movie, DON’T – THIS MOVIE WAS HORRIBLE!!!

The casting selections and choices were terrible. It was like someone randomly went down a list of unknown black actors and actresses and made their selections while wearing a blindfold. In most biopics, the casting team at least comes somewhat close to matching the look of the actor/actress with the celebrity that they are portraying. With the exception of casting Alexandra Shipp as Aaliyah, every other casting choice was horrible.

If that was not bad enough, this movie presented the worst acting I’ve seen – very close to a home movie. Think about successful biopics of the past that did not quite hit the mark when it came to finding the right look but they surpassed expectations when it came to the acting. This biopic was definitely not one of those movies. All of the blame cannot be placed on the laps of the actors – it can be placed on everyone involved, and they should be ashamed of themselves for disrespecting the late star.

I am not done! The singing was horrible. Alexandra Shipp stated in a recent interview with Hollywood Life that she did all of her own singing in the movie. All of the songs were mediocre at best. Bad idea – she definitely missed the mark when it came to the singing. They should have just used lip syncing or dubbed her voice over with someone else’s so she could focused more on improving her acting. This is especially necessary when the biopic is about a singer or a musician since it is their music that defines them and made them famous. That is not what happened at all.

Lastly, the movie was poorly written! Frankly, other than the drama of the relationship between Aaliyah and R. Kelly, the rest of the movie drastically missed the mark. The entire movie felt like the writers checked out Aaliyah’s Wikipedia page and made a script based on what they found. I’ll tell you I will be watching The Wendy Williams Show today! She is known for slamming others; I want to see what she has to say about her foray into movie making. What did you think about the movie?

The real personalities are on the right and the cast on the left.


Standoff In The Desert

2I am always amazed when people speak of freedom and their reaction to it. Recently in Nevada, a group of white right-wing American’s faced down the Federal government – armed! Now let me be clear, these so called patriots not only showed up in support of a man named Bundy who is a rancher that does not believe the government has any authority over him nor his enterprise.

So group(s) came from all over the country in support of his cause – I did say armed and trained their weapons on government agents in tactical positions. In the days leading up to the government’s withdrawal, the movement had reportedly grown to 600 men, women and children, although conflicting counts emerged from the two sides. Demonstrators rallied together, bonding by campfires at night, while local protest leaders warned people not to wear camouflage and to keep their weapons inside their vehicles.

Bundy’s long standing problem with the government is that he owes reportedly a million dollars to the government for using federal land and refusing to pay the grazing fee as require. Wait, he has owed these fee’s that accumulated for about twenty years, all while continuing to make money for himself from the results of the beef he sold. Both Bundy and his co-conspirators call this freedom, and they came to Bundy’s aid in support of “liberty”. This is the abbreviated version of the back story.

I have had the government come after me for unpaid parking tickets. The law, meaning the police, often times come with guns drawn when they pull black people over for a traffic ticket. Every day in this country the government comes down heavy handed on the least of thee and when they come; the police always come with guns. In addition, most people are not afforded the luxury of not paying a government debt for twenty-years.

What if the Bundy’s were black and the ranch was owned by a black rancher? I’ll answer that; they would have been called terrorist and shot down like dogs and everything they own would have been confiscated. In fact, there are hundreds of cases where the cops will fire on black people based on the perception of their being armed.

I saw a congresswoman being interviewed, and she asked, when has the government ever come armed to arrest an American citizen? How about everyday and all the time! Let me remind this excuse for a leader that there was a black group in Philadelphia – MOVE – who saw things differently that the government and had guns. Guess what? The government stormed the group held-up in a row house and in the attack they dropped a bombed the building that killed all, but one or two of its occupants to include five children.

This is just one example, and there are many, yet I have not mentioned the assaults of the civil rights movement. This speaks to privilege and the actions of the militia are nothing more than terrorism. If the script were reversed and the group(s) where of people of color, the history of race in America demands that hostile actions would certainly be present during the actions of law enforcement.

You may believe the opposite or lie to yourself – if you will – but the fact remains, this would never have ended this way if the people pointing guns at the cops would be alive today. Let’s put it this way, Bundy is simply a modern version of George Wallace standing in the doorway of the schoolhouse. Except these folks are armed and dangerous. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

A Rerun Of An Old “B” Movie

main_midrightThe Republicans are always talking about a mandate. Well, the first thing I want to say is…”Mandate my ass!” I say that because we have been somehow convinced that that 26% of the registered voters form a mandate. They have not won a presidential election in over twenty years, at least fairly anyway!

What we can expect in the next presidential election is someone far more extreme than Ronald the Reagan who acted like a liberal. Acted like General Franco when he acted like governor of California, then he acted like a republican. Then he acted like somebody was going to vote for him for president. So whichever clown that runs for president will go back to the old Reagan and the Nixon play book to bring in a gang of thugs like George W. did.

What has happened is that in the last 20 years, America has changed from a producer to a consumer. And all consumers know that when the producer names the tune…the consumer has got to dance. That’s the way it is. America used to be a producer? Very inflexible at that, and now we are consumers and, finding it difficult to understand. Natural resources and minerals have changed your world.

The Arabs used to be in the 3rd World. They have bought the 2nd World and put a firm down payment on the 1st one. Controlling your resources will control your world. This country has been surprised by the way the world looks now turning more black and brown every day. They don’t know if they want to be Matt Dillon or Bob Dylan. They don’t know if they want to be diplomats or continue the same policy – of nuclear nightmare diplomacy. From the days of John Foster Dulles his name is nothing but an airport now.

The idea concerns the fact that this country wants nostalgia. They want to go back as far as they can and the next republican may want to go as far back as slavery. As they say, they want their country back! Not to face now or tomorrow, but to face backwards. And yesterday was the day of our cinema heroes riding to the rescue at the last possible moment. The day of the man in the white hat or the man on the white horse – or the man who always came to save America at the last moment! Someone always came to save America at the last moment – especially in “B” movies.

Now that white America finds itself having a hard time facing the future, they looked for people like John Wayne. But since John Wayne is dead and so is Reagan whatever will they do? This situation has placed us in a situation that we can only look at like a rerun of an old “B” movie. Well America spends billions each day in its space programs searching for a new place to go while the rest of use starve here on earth. They they’re going to leave us ya’ll.

let’s revisit those inglorious days when heroes weren’t zeros; before fair was square. When the cavalry came straight away and all-American men were like Hemingway to the days of the wondrous “B” movie. The producer underwritten by all the billionaire Koch Brothers with no more animated choice is available. The president will be Ted Cruz, running around frantically declaring himself in control and in charge while his VP Scott Walker pushes the slavery issue. This is the ultimate realization of the inmates taking over at the asylum.

The screenplay will be adapted by Paul Ryan from the old book called “Voodoo Economics”. Music by the very military “Macho Man”, John McCain, whose theme song for saber-rallying and selling wars door-to-door Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. Cliches like, “itchy trigger finger” and “tall in the saddle” and “riding off or on into the sunset.” Remember, we’re looking for the closest thing we can find to John Wayne who was suppose to be Marine tough. Clichés abound like kangaroos courts courtesy of some spaced out Supreme Court. Clichés like “Get off of my planet by sundown!” Bogart tough the man is. Cagney tough the man is. Hollywood tough the man is. Cheap steak tough. And Bonzo’s substantial. The ultimate in synthetic selling: A Wall Street masterpiece, miracle, a cotton-candy politician…Presto! Macho!

Put your orders in America for your hero. Just as quick as Kodak your new leaders duplicate with the accent being on the dupe – cause all of a sudden we have fallen prey to selective amnesia – remembering what they want to remember and forgetting what they choose to forget. And yes, the return of slavery is on the agenda! All of a sudden, the man who called for a blood bath in the streets and on our college campuses is supposed to be Dudley “God-damn” Do-Right?

“You go give them liberal’s hell for Obamacare.” That was the mandate to the new “Captain Bly” on the new ship of fools. It will doubtlessly be based on his chameleon performance that will be called compassion from he who might well be the Anti-Christ.  When other celluloid saviors were cringing in terror from the McCarthy like Issa. It may go way back to the Hollywood hillbilly libelous Mr. Paul or from “Bonzo” to Birch idol…born again. Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights…it’s all wrong. Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild. God damn it…first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom.

Nostalgia, that’s what the Tea Party want…the good ol’ days…when we gave’em hell. When the buck stopped somewhere and you could still buy something with it. To a time when movies were in black and white and so was everything else. Even if we go back to the campaign trail, before the clown car took off and developed hoof-in-mouth. Before the free press went down before full-court press and were reluctant to review the menu because they knew the only thing available was war.

As Wall Street goes, so goes the nation and we saw it come close in 2008 when Bush and company got the check. And here’s a look at the closing numbers; racism’s up, human rights is down, peace is shaky, war items are hot – the House claims all ties. Jobs are down, money is scarce and common sense is at an all-time low with heavy trading. Movies were looking better than ever and now no one is looking because, we’re starring in a “B” movie. And they would rather have John Wayne but the Duke has ridden off into the sunset…

This ain’t really your life, its going to be a “B’ Movie Rerun and Ain’t really nothing but a rerun of a “B” Movie. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

This post was inspired by the late Gil Scott Heron’s hit “B’ Movie and the use of his projection from the 70’s.

My Sympathy For The Victims

This is a short post to send my thoughts and prayers to the victims of the tragedy at the movie theater in Colorado who lost there lives as a result of a mad man. I have a question for NRA, Tea-Party, the GOP, and you. Isn’t it time to do something about the availability and easy access to weapons of Mass Destruction? And that’s My Thought Provoking Perspectives…


Legacy – A New Season the sequel is now available on Kindle with the hard copy released July 20th.http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008HJRPE0

A Powerful Must See Video


A War For Your Soul-regular version from Erisai Films on Vimeo.

A War For Your Soul : Image Control from Erisai Films on Vimeo.


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