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Re: “For Colored Girls

I can't remember when I've been more outraged by a film review than I am of this one by Jacquie Allen. I wonder if she has any understanding of the history of the original musical by Ntozake Shange or the power of its poetry in the lives of women (especially African American women), from 1974 when it was first presented until today (a revival will be on Broadway next spring). If Allen is aware of the significance of this artistic creation, she gives no evidence of it in her review.

For Allen to say that this film is a "despicable, depressing, frightening waste of time" and that the violence and abuse these women suffer "is thrown into this movie for the shock value, without any real substance" is utterly contemptible. This was written by Ntozake Shange to express in poetry the unspoken agony of women's particular kinds of suffering -- not at the hands of all men, but at the hands of some men. Its fundamental purpose is not to shock (although what they suffer is shocking) but to give women voice -- to give African American women voice. Did Allen even hear the line at the beginning: "who will sing a black girl's song?"

I could write more, but Allen and the readers of her review need to see what Allison Samuels said of it in Newsweek (as part of a story about how much acting in this film meant to Janet Jackson and her own self-healing). Samuels calls it a "beautiful and haunting play" that is, admitedly, an "un-film-friendly work." The transference to film is not without problems, but "[Tyler] Perry has deftly updated [the characters'] situations to feel more true to 21-st century Harlem." Maybe this is what Jacquie Allen doesn't get: real women still live like this and still need artistic vehicles that give them voice and power. I hate to think what she might have thought and written about "Precious" last year!

Tyler Perry was aware of the challenges in making a film of this play, since he knew "that some women really consider it the black woman's bible." He understood the historical importance of this project, and he even posted a letter on his web site, assuring viewers that he would treat the play with respect. I was extremely disappointed that Jacquie Allen did not review the film with a similar respect.

I remember seeing "For Colored Girls..." when it first went on tour in the 1970s, and I was stunned by its raw truth-telling about the violence and duplicity that women experience, along with the message of redemption and love to be found in the "laying on of hands" by women who have lived through their own pain and suffering. Shange gave women one of the most inspiring, memorable lines that has come out of the 20th century women's movement: "I found god in myself, and I loved her -- I loved her fiercely."

It is despicable that the history and meaning of this film were completely missed in Jacquie Allen's review.

Posted by RetiredProf on 11/16/2010 at 2:49 PM

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