Monday, March 27, 2006

this is an audio post - click to play

The Secret To Success.

Got your attention with that title, didn't I?

Welcome to Hollywood.

You know by now that everyonce and awhile I like to talk about the state of Hollywood, media in general. But first, let me give you an update on our current projects..

Its been a crazy last few days. INSIDE MAN opened this past week, and it made good money. I predicted the range it would make at the box-office and I was correct. I optioned (acquired the rights to make it into a movie) the book “MONKOLOGY” by Gary Philips several weeks ago, and now just fine-tuning the deal. It’s a great series. I’m going to workn on fining the screenplay adaptation of Tope Oluwole’s book, B.E.A.N. POLICE its a book that has technology and a good story rolled into one. It’s a great book, which I’m confident would make a good series…

The deal to option another book was dead in the water, at least it was until last week. We sent our first propels back in November of 2005 and we sent the proposal again and heard nothing. Recently the publisher of the book contacted me and I sent him another proposal which he will present to the writer. We’ll see where it goes. It’s a great project, a powerful story. Angela Basset would be good for it, Kimberly Elise would be good for it. But I would really like to use an unknown actress, I’d like to give someone the break that they’ve been working hard to get in this business. Once the book deal is closed, I’ll tell you the name of the project.

I don’t like dealing with third party members. It like negotiating sex with your wife/husband through one of their friends. Then again, the way Hollywood is, I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens. People can be freaky you know.

If you wrote the project I want to talk to you, and you, if you want to do the project, tell your representatives that you want to do it and to make the deal happen. Too many people in this business want an agent or manager just so they can say, “talk to my representation.”

Its like you see one of our casting notice, the role matches your qualifications. So you put your headshot into an envelope, walk to the post office, buy a stamp, place the stamp on the envelope and mail it to our Casting Director.

We receive the envelope, we open it, pull out you headshot and on the back we see a note that says, “I’m applying for the role of Susan. Please call my agent/manager.”

Call her agent?

Why do you want us to call your agent? Your agent/manager didn’t submit you. Your agent didn’t walk to the post office. Your agent (if they saw the role listed) didn't think that you weren’t good enough for the role (or thatthey weren't paying enough). You do all the work and you want us to call your agent /manager so that they can get 15% of the money we pay you for work that they didn’t get for you? That is crazy. I wouldn’t. I understand why agent/manager are needed, but they need to earn their percentage. Don't allow your agent or manager to sit in the big house overseeing the plantation doing nothing while you sweat to death in the field picking cotton and grapes.

A friend in Florida described to me the scenario of the moment on Ophra’s show the day after the Oscars when she was interviewing Morgan Freeman. They were soon joined by, Terrence Howard, Don Cheadle, Denzal Washington, Will Smith, and Jamie Fox , all wanting to show appreciation to Morgan freeman. I said to my friend to imagine this picture; George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Francis Copolla, James Cameron, and David Geffen sitting together on the otherside of the red carpet.

Which group would you want to be a part of? Lets put it like this; which group has the Oscars real power, and a Billionaire and which group has the Oscars adn perceived power? That’s the power balance in Hollywood, and its something we can change if we pool our resources.

When told of the Morgan Freeman gathering, my first words were, “They won’t work together.” And that’s the microcosm of Hollywood.

Its not a “black thing” either. Its not like Jennifer Lopez has been (currently lobbying to work with Eva Longoria for a project aside) galvanizing the Latino talent pool either. Its funny that the only time Jennifer Lopez got the chance to play a Latino since SELENA, is when she played a maid in MAID IN MANHATTAN.

Imagine if you will if Morgan Freeman’s crew decided to pool their resources like George Lucas and his friends do, and produce serious work?

Imagine if Morgan’s crew decided to support Tim Reid’s New Millennium Studios by filming parts if not all of their movies there. Tim Reid has been having a hard time getting people to film as his studio. Tim Reid owns a studio lot, c’mon now.

Imagine if Morgan’s crew decided to release their film for a one week run at the Chicago-based, black-owned movie theater chain owned and run by a black couple?

Won’t happen anytime soon. There’s a few reasons, a few theories, but I would say its this: too many people have the “look for work” and not enough of the “create the work” mentality…

Which leads me to another part about Hollywood. Its run by fear. Why do you think all these acting classes and “How to break into Hollywood” classes take place so often? Because everyone is willing (if not desperate) to pay money to hear words that are already here for free on an everyday basis. They are looking for that secret to make it in this business, to strike it rich. They’ll pay $200.00 to sit in a room with 300 other people who are there to find out “the secret”.

Well shoot, I’ll tell you what the secret is and it won’t cost you a thing. Next time its going to cost you. Okay, are you ready? This is the secret to being successful in the entertainment industry: there is no secret.

You need to work smart, work with commitment, work with a vision, work with desire, and work with respect, and work for no money to make your dreams come true in whatever field you operate in.

There. How much did it cost you in money? That’s what you hear everyday. Why are you going to pay $200 dollars to hear that? You lost $200.00 to hear something that you hear for free? You can find the advice your looking for on the Internet. Why are you paying all that money?!?!?!?

Okay, let me calm down. Breathe, breathe.

Now the next time a “talent agent” from “John Robert Powers” “Casablanca Models” walks up to you in a parking lot and says, “For x amount of dollars”…I want you to remember this equation:

Looking for Work” mentality = $200.00 taken out of your pocket to attend "Secrets to break into Hollywood" conference..

Creating Your Own Work” mentality = $60,000.00 put into the pocket of the person that you and 300 other people paid to hear someone tell you the secret of breaking into the entertainment industry.

You are now $200 short on your rent. The producer just paid his $1000.00 monthly home mortgage for the next five years.

Get the picture? Which mentality do you have? I'm gone, Said

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The tree branch and Faith

You’re walking down the street (with the exception to you the reader in a wheelchair) and you see a large branch laying across the sidewalk. What do you do?

1) Step over the branch and keep walking


2) Move the branch to the side of the sidewalk, creating a clear path

Move people choose #2.

I always do #1.

Why? Because you don’t know if a person in wheelchair is going to come around the corner behind you or from down the street and come to that branch and have no way to get over the branch or around the branch, unless someone comes and helps them.

So many of us get caught up in our own little world and don’t think about anybody else. Hi Hollywood!!!!!

Kristie hears me complian about this all the time. When I go to her house, I always see a car or truck parked in a parking garage driveway in a way that blocks the entire sidewalk.

Selfish bastards.

Moreover, the driver will leave the car and go inside the building. This usually happens at night.

Selfish, selfish bastards.

Now what happens when a person in a wheelchair comes down the street, what is the person in the wheelchair supposed to do? Roll into the street and get hit by a car?

One night, a car blocked the sidewalk by parking a parking garages driveway. I said to the driver that she needs to move the car, that she’s blocking the sidewalk. She had an attitude and moved the car a few inches. Well I’m not a cop, so I can’t order the person to move, so I continued towards Kristie’s house. I didn’t get 15 feet and when I saw a woman in a wheelchair coming down the street in a motor-powered wheelchair, and she had a small dog on a leash that was following her.

You guessed it, when she got to the car that was parked across the sidewalk she had to go around it by going into the street, but when she did that the dogs leash got caught on the back bumper of he car, so the lady in the wheelchair couldn’t go anywhere. The lady in the wheelchair was swearing at the driver, and the driver came out and helped get the leash off the car and the lady in the wheelchair continued on her way, still swearing at the woman in the car.

The woman with the car moved the car a bit further into the driveway, but the damage was done.

This is what just irritates me. Its like the driver that blocks the sidewalk, waiting for traffic to clear-up so they can enter the street, but by doing that you have to go around the car by either the back of the truck, risking that the person may back-up and hit me, or you walk around the front and risk getting hit by a bus.

Selfish bastards.

Sometimes the driver will reverse their vehicle and when they do, I wave at them and say “thank-you”…

Phil Nelson, Solange Mukuana, Doctor Lorraine Thompson, and Joyce Lang are not selfish bastards. They’re good friend so of mine. Recently, I sent a movie-proposal out to my friends because I needed money to shoot a short movie. Phil, Joyce, Solange, Lorraine, and Joyce each kicked in money; they became producers for my project. They had the faith in what I as doing because I have a strong faith in my project. That says a lot. Off course I have to make sure they get their money back, but you understand what I am saying.


People can tell when you have faith, when you have conviction in your project; they can feel it. They can feel it when you have that deep, convictional faith. I have to have the faith that my projects will happen, even when things look bleak, when things aren’t going good, when it seems like everyone is passing me by, I have to have faith that my vision will become a reality. It was said in the movie Shaka Zulu that “the empire that Shaka created already existed in his mind.” That’s faith.

How strong is your faith? If you do not know, you will find out. Trust me, your faith will get tested.

Talk to you later…!


Monday, March 20, 2006

Life! Liberty! "9 to 5"????

Sometime we don’t understand the oppourtunities we have to make a difference.

I watched ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT a few minutes ago where they talked about this young kid named Matt who had a physical affliction that confined him to a wheel chair. They showed video of him doing a martial arts routine where he was qualifying to receive his next ranking belt. He had a oxygen tube attached to his body. That still didn’t stop him. He also wrote a book with former US President and peanut farmer Jimmy Carter. There’s the blind man who climbed Mount Everest, there’s the lady who is a quadriplegic who wrote a prize-winning book. There’s the young man in Boston who was using a broom that was bigger than the wheelchair that he was sitting in as he struggled to sweep trash a part of a “Roxbury Clean Up” day. There’s the man who ran a recent marathon, even though his legs were deformed. So many of us convince ourselves out of doing something great because we let negative thoughts into our minds.

Its extremely difficult to do a movie, its difficult working in this industry. You’re often dealing with different personalities and huge egos. You’re dealing with people who are in it only for the money and people who are in it because they share your vision. You deal with people who don’t really have a reason for why they’re in this industry. You’re dealing actors who think they are the reasons movies exist. I have met actors that haven’t been in any movies, not even as an extra, and they want to know if they will be paid to be in your film. I’ve had actor friends that would call and visit and hang-out with me, but as soon as they found out that I wasn’t going to film for at least 6 months, they disappeared.

Let me explain something here; if it wasn’t for writers that write the movies and producers that produce the movies there wouldn’t be any movies for actors to act in. Some actors and their entourage may think its because of them that these movies exist. Its not. Some actors may not like that statement, but it’s the truth and I’m sticking with it.

Many people think this business is what they see on Entertainment Tonight” or "EXTRA". What they don’t show you is the stars who think they’re bigger than the industry, the people that treat these people like they are bigger than the industry, the nastiness of this business. Tell me: do you really care if Paris Hilton was seen buying her underwear at an expensive store? Do you really care if Anjelina Jolie and Brad Pit ate at a restaurant last night? Somebody does, or there weren’t be all these programs that report news like that…

Why do I do this? Why do I deal with this to make my movies? Because I have something to say. Hollywood isn’t my life, its not my reason for existing. I have something to say, I have to speak for those in my country whose voice were silenced. That’s why I do this.

Why do you do what you do? What motivates you? Money? Fame? Prestige? Woman? Men? A picture of me? Only you have the answer to that. But be true to what you do and don’t let negative thoughts hold you back. If your mother let her thoughts and feelings of pain stop her from giving birth to you , you wouldn’t be here right now.

So whatever your dream is, whatever you want to do, go do it! If you saw the movie The Matrix you’ll remember that Neo was a “Temp” (a temporary employee) when he was discovered by Morpheus. With Morpheus trainings, Neo realized that the had the power to be great.

I still wonder why Morpheus wasn’t “The One”. If you can teach “The One”, can't you be “The One”.

Are you waiting for someone to discover you? You’ll be waiting for along time. Do what you do, do what you love and do what you were wired to do. That is what life is about. God put you here for a reason; wasting away each day doing what you don’t like isn’t why you’re here. If you’re going to suffer, suffer to make sacrifices to achieve your goals. More and more millionaires and billionaires are being created each day. Obviously, the well of goal achievement isn’t empty. So what are you waiting for? Your destiny is waiting for you, go towards it, no one is going to bring it to you!

I’m going to create a Podcast in the near future. I haven’t found any that talks about the issues that I want to know about so like they say, “if you want it done, do it yourself.” Things have been cool as of late, right now I’m storyboarding (illustrations that show what will be filmed) a scene that I want do involving the characters Mulele and Patrice at the grave of Patrice’s sister Kita. Kita was Mulele’s wife. Its an emotional scene, lots of issues are exposed that exist between Mulele and Patrice. Bibi, the one playing Kita is so perfect for the role. So far the cast is tight; everyone has the skills to really elevate this project. I’ve been in negotiations with this LA-Based author to produce his book as a Podacst and a film. We’ve had great discussions, and the deal is basically finalized, just need to work out the paperwork. Its a great series.

Today I just had a meeting with out Associate Producer Jamie Burke. She’s an actress, and I had met her at an audition for one of our films. She’s really professional, and I make sure to be available for her to answer questions that she has about this entertainment industry. We had a meeting about one of our films, 9 DAYS OF RAIN. 9 Days Of Rain is like a NINE 1/2 WEEKS meets Boiler Room with House music and Reggae. Jamie’s a great asset and she’s really learning and seeing what it takes to put a production together. She’s going to be dangerous in this business because she’ll know the secrets of the industry from the eyes of a producer. When you meet her you would be surprised to find out that she’s an Electrical Engineer. She told me that she became an engineer so that she could show little black girls that they can do anything they want, they don’t have to dream of being in a music video.

Okay, that’s it for today, and thanks for your company…


Friday, March 17, 2006

Update and the Sudanese protestors

Hello fans!

Thing shave been crazy the last few days…I had to finalize a budget for a potential investor. God-willing that it comes together, it’ll be a great achievement, but it will only be the beginning of a long journey. We sent the script out to Sanaa Hamri and her manager. She would be my first choice to work to lens (direct) the project. We’ll see what happens. I also have it out to a DP (Director of Photography) here in LA, Johnny Demp. He’s from Senegal, and he’s really good. So you see how I want to structure the team behind the camera. John was the DP on the upcoming film PHAT GIRLZ that stars the comedian MONIQUE.

There’s another project, actually a few that I am working on, but that will stay undercover…I get this on done, everything else will follow…

We still haven’t found a Sierra Leone actress to play the wife of Mulele. We’ve interviewed a few, so the casting directors want to bring them in, but we may have to search nation-wide…If you know any have them email me at

Turns out that University of California, LA (UCLA) is going to divest from companies that are doing business in Sudan because of what is happening in Darfur. I’m happy that the organizers of the divest campaign got what they fought for. I am dismayed because these same people don’t seem to care or are oblivious about what’s happening in DRCongo. That’s just my opinion. They’ll play their videogames and use their cellphone, both of which use minerals that come from DRCongo. But the Sudanese protestors won’t get rid of those products, or at least use products that aren’t helping to kill thousands in Eastern Congo with the help of Rwanda and Uganda. That’s why I’m doing the movie, to show what’s going on in DRCongo, raise awareness and give muscle to those that are fighting to change what’s happening in Congo, the core of this movie is for humanitarian reasons. The other script that I’m working on is about the actual war itself. That movie, God willing we film it, will erase all doubt about what really has been happening in Central Africa.

Okay folks, God bless and talk to you later!


Saturday, March 11, 2006

A day on the set of Prince's "Musicology" music video

Okay, here’s the Prince video that Sanaa Hamri directed after the Sting Video. Let me tell you, security was TIGHT in this place. Now mind you, I am a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE Prince fan…did I tell you that I am a HUGE Prince fan?

So during the playbacks (playback is when the director looks at the footage just was just shot) I’m standing next to Sanaa. She is the coolest of the cool, she never seemed stress. Well she’s in her directors chair to my right. Prince is sitting too her right. It was all that I could do not to say anything to him. He did this song Pheramone that I wan to use in Les Femmes. But I just stayed cool about his presence and focused on what Sanaa needed me to do. I respected Sanaa’s work space, I as there for a job, I didn’t want to do anything that would make her look bad or have Prince say to her something along the line of “Man, what are all these fans boys doing on the set?”

So I just chilled and talked to her about Les Femmes and how I wanted to do a few of the shots in Cabo Verde (Cape Verde, off the coast of Western Africa)…after that I went to my spot for the next video shoot…

Now about the shoot. I was really something. So much went into it. Fatima Robinson did some serious choreography. When the tap dancers came out and did their routine I was stunned They were awesome. The lady standing on the stage behind Prince wearing the red dress is Nigerian. She studies at that time) at the University of Southern California. I got her contact number but misplaced it. I wanted here for this Sci-Fi thriller I wrote called Ghost Forest. LA is a small town I’m sure I’ll bump into her again. I appear in the scene where these two guys try to get into the club but aren't properly dressed. The doorman pushes them to the side to allow well dressed group of people into the club. After the man (holding money) and woman walks past the two guys, behind the couple you will see me wearing a dark-blue suit with a white shirt and tie. I have my hands on my chest. You next see me from behind looking at the two guys who are trying to get into the club. Its not a long shot but you can make me out..The guy behind me in the Bollo hat is my friend Heath Gunn. He also plays one of the security guards that is taking people off the stage…That shoot was fun, but again I learned a lot by watching Sanaa. Enjoy! Here’s the links: ( Musicology ( –has 16 second commercial – no need to register) Musicology

A day on the set of Stings "Send Your Love " music video.

I've received a lot of emails asking me about a Sting video directed by Moroccon-born Sanaa Hamri that I appeared in a little over a year ago. Well here is the link to it. Her first feature film “Something New” was released a few weeks ago. The young boy in the video, who I hear is now taller than me (I’m 5’11), is also from the DRCongo. He had know idea that the video was going to be on worldwide television. He thought that it was a home video and that Sting was a wrestler, and wanted to leave so that he could go home and do his homework…He was sooooo spoiled that day! I’m the guy in the blue suit that hugs on the street…we shot that scene several times because he wouldn’t let go of me, he was supposed to act like he didn’t know me, but he did and I would hold him because I knew that he was nervous…He did great…

Enjoy the video! Here’s the video:

(in Realplayer)“Send Your Love (in Quicktime) "Send Your Love"

For some reason, the Quicktime is clearer and crisper then the RealPlayer..!

I look forward to the day when Sanaa and I work together on one of my films. I’d love for her to direct the Congo film, I sent the script to her. We’ll see what happens. She is a true professional and represents the North African community with class and grace…the production closed down a few city blocks but she was so calm through the shoot. I watched her as she moved between shoots, always planning and the funny thing is that I was looking for her for over a year before we finally meet because I wanted her to direct my female-led action film, Les Femmes. She’s great.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Stupidity inside "Hollywood"

Y’know. How do I say this nicely? There are to many people l in this Entertainment business that don’t need to be!

Last week I'm on the phone with the management company for Halle Berry, Vincent Cirrincione Associates. I have no idea how I ended up on the phone with them. I’m not interested in Halle being a part of this particular project. She does not speak Lingala, KiSwahili, Tshiluba or French. I don't think she'd be interested in a film like this. It wold help raise awareness of the issues illustrated within the movie, but I don't think she cares or even knows about those issues. I could be wong, but Halle and I have never sat down and spoke over fufu. I think her agencythey submitted (sent) an actors package to me. Anyways, this woman named Shana answers the phone. We have a pleasant conversation, and I tell her that she’s in an important position because she’s in the phone all day playing gatekeeper.

During the conversation (remember that I don’t know this woman) I mention that that we’re looking for French speaking French speakers for this project in the near future. She says that she has some friends that can speak the language. I ask her where are they from? She says Rwanda.

I think to myself, "Oh really?"

I ask her if they speak KinyaRwandan which is one of Rwanda’s national languages. She’s not sure so she calls them, then emails me that they do speak the that language (she spells it Kenya/Rwandan). She asks me to email her the script and that she is going to have her “friend” call me. I said that if everything worked out I will give Shana a credit for helping to cast Rwandans. Common protocol is that she would look at the script and tell me if she feels her “friend” can do the part.

So I send her the script. A week passes by without my getting a phone call from Shana’s “friend”. So yesterday I called Shana and tell her that I didn’t hear from this person that she was supposed to have call me.

The following is the conversation that then took place between Shana and I.

Said: I didn’t hear from your friend.

Shana: What? She’s supposed to call you.

Said: Yeah, but I haven’t heard from her.

Shana: She should have called you, I sent her the screenplay.

Said: You sent her what script?

Shana: The script you sent to me.

Said: You shouldn’t have sent it to her.

Shana: She needed to know what the project is about.

Said: No she didn’t, not at this stage. We first need to know if she can speak the language. You should not have done that.

Shana: Its no big deal, I didn’t send it to everybody.

Said: It is. The script said “confidential. It says on the cover that the script can’t be passed out without my permission.

Shana: Trust me its not a big deal.

(“It’s no big deal” to her probably because she’s never written a script that was worth making confidential.)

Said: Where does your freind live?

Shana: In Houston.

Said: Houston? What does she do in Houston?

Shana: She’s an electrical engineer. She has a cousin that lives here in LA and is an actress.

Said: (really calm) She’s an electrical engineer living in Huston? How is she going to be in a film that is being shot in LA when she works in Houston fulltime? You send it someone in Houston that’s not an actress, but you don’t send it to the actress that lives her in Los Angeles.

Shana: Well I’m really busy right now

(she says that because she’s’ not woman enough to say that she screwed up.)

Shana: Its no big deal.

Said: I’m going to hear form my producers.

Shana: Just don’t tell them.

(Obviously Ms. Shana doesn’t respect people that invest in projects. Do you think that she’ll tell her boss Mister Vincent that she just screwed up? No she won’t. But I will when he and I meet. Hollywood isn’t that big. You can bump into anyone anywhere at anytime)

Shana: Okay, I’m going to call her.

Said: Please do.

I hang up the phone and call Kristi to tell her what happened. Kristi is shocked.

You see, I don’t want that screenplay floating around the Rwandan internet community because I don’t know who will be appreciative of the story or who will hate the story because it shows a Rwandan Tutsi soldier playing a killer. . People or communities can act funny., They can even kill you if they don’t agree with your point of view. I’ve seen it happened.

So then I call Joyce in Atlanta to tell her what happened. As my executive producer, she calls Shana to find out what happened. Joyce calls me back and this is what she said Miss Shana told her about her conversation wiht me:

Shana: Said shouted at me (I didn’t)

Shana: I don’t like the way he talked to me.

Joyce asked for the information on the person that she had sent the screenplay:

Shana: We can’t give you that information. We don’t give out client information. We know that Rwandan community and was going to help Said find Rwandans.

(Now her friends a client? Uhm, I wasn’t asking for help in “finding Rwandans”. Shana volunteered that she knew some and wanted to recruit them. Shana did this of her own volition. Please, if I wanted to find a Rwandans, I’d go look in Atlanta)

Shana: We’re not going to work with Said.

(Work with me? I don’t need them to work with me. I don’t know them. Oh please.)

Shana: I don’t even want to talk to Said. If he calls I’m going to call the police.

(This Shana woman is obviously not part of this realty. She screwed up. I have a legal right to sue her and her agency for violating the written agreement on the script that says if you send the script out with out my approval, you will be sued.)

So Joyce explains to her that she needs to delete the email and that if anything happens with the script that heads will roll.

Guess what Shana says?

Shana: We’ll I’m busy right now. (Heard this before? Coward)

Joyce says a few more things and finishes the call. How Joyce handled that call, THAT’S how business needs to be done!

Now you see why I do not like Hollywood, to many people have egos that are bigger than their job description. Believe me should myself and Vincent or Halle ever meet that I’m going to tell them how Shana acted, which was very unprofessional. The person on the phone is a representative of the company no matter what field.

The stupidity within Hollywood. It can drive to drink.

And I don’t drink.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Tsotsi wins Ocsar Award so its time to move on...

You can imagine my reaction when Tsotsi won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film. I was soooo disappointed. People could not wait to call me, since they know my feelings on the film. I wrote a listserve for South African filmmakers and said that event though I feel the movie sucks, I congratulated them on the achievement.

I don’t know. So disappointed, but hey the Continental African won. Did you see how the director sat near the front but the two leads actors sat in the back by the emergency exit? I thought segregation was over. The other nominated directors were surrounded by their actors. Not in this case for the Africans. It was a disgrace.

Oh well. I have to finish two screenplays by the end of March, it more than a challenge to me, its to put pressure on myself. One is a script on a Roman Emperor, the other is a screenplay of an Ethiopian warrior…Should be fun, and I’ll keep you posted…

AND I feel that Terrence Howard should have sung the song. If you can act the role, you can go all the way. How many people can say that they sang lead on an Oscar Winning song? Taraji Henson didn’t care, she knew that last night was her moment…

There’s a lot of rumors as to why Terrence didn’t sing, and should we ever meet, I’m going to ask him why he didn’t sing…

Talk to you later!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

My Review of Tsotsi

Alright folks, I am posting here my thought on the South African Film Tsotsi. I just can't get over how poorly put-together I thought that it was. I mean, Shaka Zulu was a better picture, and it was made during apartheid! Okay, deep breath. Here's my review...Said

Review of Tsotsi

Written By Said Yenga Kakese wa Dibinga

Sunday, March 05, 2006

I respect filmmaker Gavins Hood drive to get Tsotsi to the screen. Only those in the film industry can understand a difficult task that is making a movie. Making a movie is difficult. Making a good movie is harder. Tsotsi isn’t a good movie.

As a filmgoer, I feel, along with a few other filmmakers here in Los Angeles that Tsotsi is both unoriginal and contradictory in its message of redemption. Tsotsi, “thug” in Tsotsi-tal is as stereotypical as the many products that Hollywood produces that portrays black males as criminals.

Acting wise, Tsotsi stays with one expression through the whole film.

Lets start at the beginning of this movie.

We’re on the train somewhere in the city where after we’ve seen earlier a gentleman buying a scarf, Tsotsi an is friend rob and murder him on a train.

Later at a restaurant in Soweto, Tsotsi’s friend questions him about his past, about his morals, saying that Tsotsi went too far in killing the man. I said to myself that here is where Tsotsi stands up and beats up his friend. No sooner had I finished that thought, sure enough, Tsotsi stands up and damn near murders his friend be pounding him in the face.

Tsotsi flees the restaurant for the hills of Soweto, where next we find Tsotsi in front of a really nice house with gated entrance. And moments later a BMW (maybe a Mercedes) pulls up and a black woman steps out of the car and speaks into the gate intercom asking (apparently her husband) to open th

Wait; are we still in South Africa? She’s not the house cleaner? She has to be the house cleaner; black people in South African don’t live like this in South Africa. That’s the thought I’m sure went through many of the people in attendance at this screening. That scene didn’t bother me because I like seeing Black people living well, but I digress.

Tsotsi runs across the street, jumps into the car, the women manages to open the door of the car, he shoots her in the chest, knocking her back into the street. She crawls to the car as Tsotsi speeds off.

Well this is obviously going to be a fresh new story.

Speeding down the highway, Tsotsi hears a baby crying in the backseat. He stops the car, looks to the backseat and sees a baby. The movie than goes as follows (maybe be a bit out of sequential order, but not too much)

He takes the baby home in a paper bag. Tsotsi’s home is about as big as the closet in the bedroom of the house form where Tsotsi stole the baby.

Tsotsi changes the babies diapers, replacing them with newspaper. Sometime later, Tsotsi sees a girl (Terry Pheto I believe, a strong actress) standing near his house with a baby strapped to her back. He asks his friend who she is and he tells her who she is, that the baby is hers. The woman used to sell jewelry that would hang from rope tied to a ceiling. However, since the death of the father of her baby, she hasn't made any new jewelry. Tsotsi and the girl stare at each other for a few moments before she walks off.

Later, with baby in hand, Tsotsi breaks into the woman’s home, and at gun point forces to woman ( who is breast feeding her own child) and demands that she breast feed the stolen child.

Visions of sexual abuse during slavery flashed through my mind. She puts her baby down and does as ordered. Initially, Tsotsi doesn’t even have the decency (then again, he did shoot the baby’s mother) to turn around to give the woman some privacy. He stares at her like she is a Fat-free milk machine.

South Africa submitted this film to the Academy awards for best foreign picture?

I digress.

When she is finished, Tsotsi takes the baby and leaves, but not before threatening to kill the women if she tells anyone.

Now we see the father in his hospital with his wife, and two detectives (one black, one white) who are questioning the husband. The husband has been asking questions and keeps getting the same answer from the Detectives, “we don’t know.” The father of the stolen child demands to know what the detectives do know.

The husband tells them, “My child better be in my wife’s bed when she regains consciousness.” That was one of the best lines in the movie.

Now this is what I want to see: a caring and loving father. Nevertheless, the audience is left wondering why does the father command such respect from the detectives? Especially the white one. Are we still in South Africa? Black people talk to white people like that? Where’s my passport.

Now back to the matter at hand.

We get flashes of Tsotsi’s oppressive childhood, requisite with Tsotsi’s mother dying of some illness (AIDS? They kept showing a poster “AIDS affects us all) and Tsotsi’s mentally abusive father who broke the back of the family dog.

So let me see if I understand this: we’re supposed to dislike the father because he crippled the dog and doesn’t care for his sick wife? Yet were supposed to care for Tsotsi, who not only forces one woman to force-feed a stolen child,

He also beat up his friend, shoots the mother, steals the car, keeps the baby, sees the mother again to force feed the child, keeps the baby in a shopping bag under his bed? This is the lead in the film?

Realizing that he has no food to feed the baby, Tsotsi goes BACK to the house with two of his friends to get the baby food. I guess they were criminal enough to think about robbing a grocery store to get the food. After arriving at the baby’s home of residence, Tsotsi and his friends watch the father pull up in a Mercedes Benz (or was it a BMW?) to the outside gate where Tsotsi had earlier shoot the mans wife.

Now, what is the story of the baby’s family? It would that be a great story to Tsotsi seeing the life he could have had. In the book that this movie is based on, Tsotsi lost his family to politics during apartheid. That would have been a good opportunity for social commentary? A great opportunity for South Africa to show the world that not all black people live in poverty. Gavin Hood, unfortunately, recently stated that poverty in South Africa isn’t about race, its about economics.

Uh, yeah, if you are a Black person in South Africa, and since the time of the Soweto uprising, you’ve been paid less then everyone else because of the color of your skin, you will be at the bottom of the economic ladder.

So Tsotsi and his friends run towards the father of the baby-in-the-shopping-bag and force him inside the house where they tie him up.

While Tsotsi stands in the bedroom deciding what food to buy, I mean steal; one of his friends finds a gun in another closet. The father of the baby manages to set off the house alarm, and just as Tsotsi’ friend is about to shoot the father; Tsotsi shoots his friend in the head and leaves him for dead as he and his other friend escapes the house.

Now back at the girl-who-is-forced to feed Tsotsi’s stolen bay at gun points house, Tsotsi has the audacity to stand in front of her house, and upon seeing her arrive late, he asks her, “Where have you been?” This brought a few chuckles from the viewing audience. Had that been some of the women I know, he would still be standing there as she walked into the house, slammed the door in his face and called the police.

Tsotsi and his friend give the car to a gang leader who in turn pays Tsotsi for the vehicle. Tsotsis’ friend wants to know when will Tsotsi kill him? Tsotsi is stunned by this question. His friend tells him, that Tsotsi beat one of their friends, and shot dead the other one. “When is it my turn?’ ask the friend.

Tsotsi gives him his cut of the money earned from selling the car and walks away.

Did I forget to tell you about the other friend, the one that Tsotsi beat up in the beginning of the film? I will in a moment because now we see that the mother of the stolen child helped compile a sketch of Tsotsi for the two detectives….the hunt is on…

Tsotsi, at one point in the film goes to see the friend that he had beat up at the beginning of the film. The friends laid up in the house with the bar owner, and the bar owner (a woman) giving him medical attention.

Tsotsi proceeds to try to convince the friend to come with him. Tsotsi asks, “who found you in the street when you didn’t know your name? Who found you on the street when you were drunk from beer that she sold you? Who was there for you my brother?

Had Gavin Hood had any sense of reality, he would have had Tsotsi’s friend look Tsotsi dead in the eyes with the one good eye that Tsotsi left him with and ask him, “Who put me in this situation in the first place?” His friend would then look away.

Tsotsi would have been standing there with one of the two expressions he shows in the whole film…

So Tsotsi’s friend decides to go stay at Tsotsi’s house. The Tsotsi and his friends, when finding out that the friend he beat up is short two credits to finish a school program, Tsotsi says that they will pay for his friend to finish the program.

Tsotsi didn’t have money to buy milk for the baby who is in this scene is under-the-bed-in-a-shopping-bag. Now Tsotsi is going to get his friend a scholarship to finish school?

Tsotsi doesn’t want his friend with him because he felt bad for what he did. No. Tsotsi wanted his friend there so that he can have a babysitter to watch the child who in this scene is under-the-bed-in-a-shopping-bag.

Now Tsotsi is back inside the girl-forced-to-feed-Tsotsi’-stolen-baby-at-gun-point’s house. He sits at the table in the kitchen like he’s her husband , and she makes him some dinner. After putting a plate of food in front of him, he begins to eat. She tells him that she tells him that she knows who the baby belongs too. Tsotsi tries to act tough. She tells him that “being nice to the baby won’t give its mother back her legs.”

Tsotsi pushes back the plate in horror, realizing that he has paralyzed the baby’s mother. When Tsotsi thought that he killed her, he showed no remorse. Now he finds out that the mothers paralyzed because he shot her in the chest, and he’s in terror?

Earlier in the movie, didn’t Tsotsi go back to the baby’s house to rob the father to get food for the baby? While he was there, did he ask how the baby’s mother was doing? Did he apologize for apparently killing her? Tsotsi did neither.

The bar owner has called the police, telling them that she knows where the baby is. The two detectives storm the house and find Tsotsis’ friend in bed, but no baby.

Now here’s something that most black males that has had the unfortunate situation of being questioned by two police officers, with one cop being white and the other black. The white cop will usually do all the talking; he’ll be the rational one. The black cop has to be a little harder. The black cop must prove that he is a police officer and not a thug like the one he is threatening.

You don't believe me? See John Singletons “Boys IN The Hood”, which was done years ago. Remember that scene where the black cop has Cuba Gooding Jr., hemlocked on the car hood, and Cuba says to the black cop, “I didn’t do anything.” The black cop places his gun at Cuba’s head and says to him, “You’re nothing but a nigger.” Cuba says nothing as a tear runs down Cuba’s face. Many black males have either gone through a similar scenario or know a black male that has. I have personally experienced an encounter like this.

Tsotsi has the same thing.

The two detectives burst into Tsotsi’s room. Guess who is the aggressive one and ready to shoot the man laying in bed? You guessed it, the short black cop. The white cop is speaks calmly. Its only because the bar owner that accompanied the detectives tells the black cop that’s not Tsotsi in the bed that the black cop doesn’t shoot Tsotsi’ friend.

So now Tsotsi, I’ll skip the required flashback to his youth and get to the part where now he, wearing a clean shirt and newly pressed Armani pants is now walking through the outskirts of Soweto: a place suffering the indignity of being the setting of this movie.” He is now apparently on as spiritual journey. Why shouldn’t he be at this point?

Tsotsi killed a guy on the train, beat his friend almost to death, steals a car, shoots and paralyzes the woman driving the car, keeps the baby he finds in the back-seat of the car, force a woman at gun point to breast feed the stolen baby, goes back to the baby’s’ house to steal food from the baby’s fathers house, shoots his friend that was going to shoot the baby’s father, then cons he’s friend (that he had almost killed earlier) to provide free child care, and in the process the friend almost gets himself shot by the black cop who thinks Tsotsi’s bed-ridden friend is lying about not knowing where Tsotsi is.

Did I miss something?

Now Tsotsi and the-baby-in-the-shopping bag walk through the area where Tsotsi used to live (in cement circular shelters). On his way there he sees some missionaries worshiping in the distance.

I turned to my friend and told her, “the-baby-in-the-shopping bag has already suffered enough. Don’t give the baby to the missionaries.”

What the baby is supposed to be raised like Moses and come back a free the babies of South Africa? I can see the now foully grown baby-in-a-shopping-bag-grows coming down form the hills of Cape Town carrying to large replicas of Baby Bottles that the Burning Pamper Bush told him was behind the rock to his left. On these Baby Bottle Templates are the Ten Commandments, with the first commandment saying, “Thou Shalt Not Keep baby in shopping bag under a bed with bread crumbs so that ants may eat baby”. Thankfully, he didn’t give the baby to the missionaries

Tsotsi then speaks to the kids he meets at his old hang-out. I’m serious when I write that these kids pulled at my heart strings. After telling the children that he used to live in one of the cement tubes he offers the-bay-in-the-shopping-bag o the children. I am not sure if he was serious or joking. The kids decline the offer. I’m surprised that Tsotsi didn’t pull his gun out and force them to take the baby.

Tsotsi’s salvation arrives in the form of the movie almost being over.

So here we are at the end of the movie that Gavin Hood recently proclaimed on NPR.ORG, that Tsotsi is going to be “one of the most important film to come of South Africa.”

Now we’re near the end of Tsotsi; both as a character and a movie. The baby’s father sits next to his wife who sits in bed. A South African police officer is stationed downstairs in the kitchen making Kenyan Tea.

The police officer sees Tsotsi standing outside the houses’ front gate as he holds the baby-in-the-shopping-bag. Apparently, the Gavin Hood ran out of things to say at this point because Tsotsi, who is the subject of a two-person manhunt just stands there. He doesn’t leave the bay at the gate, push the button and say in Tsoti-tal, “I left your baby at the front gate. Tsotsi stands there like the little kid in Close Encounter Of Third Kind when the little kid opened the door and saw the spaceships floating above the cornfield.

A true criminal, based on my research, would have left the baby at the gate with a pre-written note, and would have then ran away like he was a British colonial soldier who just received orders to go back to Shaka Zulu’s capital city “KwaBulawayo” (`the place of the murder').

So the cop in the kitchen calls the police, and he tells the father upstairs that Tsotsi is standing in front of the gate.

Now I must ask this question. When the two detectives went into Soweto to apprehend Tsotsi, didn’t they arrive in a sports utility truck? However, when the police arrive to arrest Tsotsi in front of the baby’s families home, they come with about 5 to 6 police cars, sirens wailing. Is this to say that there is more crime in the suburbs of South Africa? Well, looking at this movie you one could easily come to that conclusion because a car gets jacked in the suburbs, mother gets shot in the suburb’s, a boy gets shot in the head in the suburbs, and a guy gets stabbed to death on the train in the city. In the Soweto of the movie, the only violence that happened is Tsotsi almost beating his friend to death.

So Tsotsi leaves the bay and starts to walk, not run, walks away. He runs back to the baby when it begins to cry, where he takes it out of the bag and hold it. Do you know that feeling you get when you watch a horror movie and the college, and the teenager, upon hearing something thrown against the window, goes outside into the poring rain to investigate, when you know that there’s a killer waiting for them outside behind the sugarcane?

This film was submitted by South African to be the Best Film in the Foreign language category? That’s akin to submitting Soul Plane to the Oscars as a symbol of how far Black people have come in Hollywood.

I’m surprised that Tsotsi didn’t pull out his gun and force the baby to stop crying at gunpoint.

So the father and mother are downstairs, Tsotsi is surrounded by police, and don’t forget that black detective. Why did I bring him up? Because the father, via the white officer, orders all the police to lower their weapons. Everyone does as ordered accept the black detective, he hesitates, he is conflicted. About what, I don’t know.

Now let me juxtapose this scene in another movie: the US film “Set It Off”. If you had seen that film, you will remember that towards the end of the film, when one of the robbers is in a stand-off with the police, the white police officer orders everyone to lower their weapons. Everyone does except for the BLACK FEMALE COP STANDING BEHIND HIM. Oh no, she has an attitude, she puts her gun away with such reluctance its surprising she didn’t just shoot the suspect and say that her gun accidentally went off as she lowered it to put it in her holster. It’s happened.

Recently here in Los Angeles, and cop pulled over a speeding vehicle. The cop stood over the passenger who was outside of the car and on his knees with his hands up in the hair. The cop (this is on video and the audio is playing) orders the person to stand up. The person on his knees repeats repeatedly, “Okay, I’m standing up, I’m standing up”, and as he does so the cop shoots him three times! This is all caught on videotape. Now they want to do an investigation of what happened before and after the tape. The person who got shot lived, but you see my point?

Now, the black detective has lowered his gun, and Tsotsi stands there with tears streaming from his eyes. The father approaches Tsotsi and he hands over the baby. The father then slowly moves back behind his gate while Tsotsi gets on his knees.

I’m surprised that the director Gavin Hood, to milk this climax for all its worth, didn’t have the wheel-chair-bound mother go to Tsotsi and to get her baby.

Now let me tell you that after all Tsotsi has done, this is how it would happen. Tsotsi would have yelled, "Wait" as he reaches under shirt. The black cop would shoot Tsotsi. In slow motion Tsotsi would fall to the ground dead, landing on his side, then rolling onto his back. His life would pass before his eyes as he takes one last breath and dies. As the mother, and baby head back into her house, the cops approach Tsotsi and stand over his dead body.

In Tsotsi right hand isn’t a gun. Instead they find a little stuffed animal and a small piece of jewelry with a little string attached so that it can be hung over the baby’s crib. It’s a jewelry that the mother that Tsotsi forced to feed the stolen child used to make and sells for a living. The white cop picks the rope up, and watches the jewelry piece glitter under the lights of the street lights.

The black cop though, searches Tsotsi’s body for a gun, saying repeatedly, “I know he had a gun. I know he had a gun.”

If you never went to South Africa and saw this film, would you want to go? If this is the image that South African filmmakers want to portray to the world?

Well if the film wins the Oscar for Best Film in Foreign Language Movie, than its another accomplishment for Continental African cinema.

But at what cost?

Said Kakese Dibinga,

Said Yenga Kakese wa Dibinga, is a screenplay writer and free-lance editor based in Los Angeles California. He can be reached at