Filmmaker Korey Green of The Blackness Project, which deputs Fridat at the Burchfield Penney Art Center.

The Blackness Project

[DOCUMENTARY] In 2014, documentary filmmaker Whitney Dow’s first installment of The Whiteness Project, comprising 21 interviews filmed in Buffalo, was aired on PBS. The interviewees were all white people, asked to talk about race—specifically, about how they viewed their whiteness. The frank racism and resentment Dow captured was, says Buffalo filmmaker Korey Green (The Forgotten City, The Experience, The Romans), “a little jarring.”

“It was so bold,” Green told The Public in a phone interview this week. ”It really took a stand for white people to get things off their chest that bothered them…At first I was, like, ‘Okay, here’s another racist piece’—something that alienates everyone, that separates white people from everyone else. But the more I watched it, I had a better understanding of things that white Americans deal with. I thought it was cleverly done. It opened my eyes to a different spectrum.”

And it inspired Green, with his frequent collaborator Pete Johnson, to fashion a response, The Blackness Project, for which the filmmakers interviewed African Americans, mostly from Buffalo, about their experience of race. The hour-long film makes its debut this Friday, February 9 at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. It’s an engaging film always, and at turns funny, infuriating, and heartbreaking. For audiences of color, it offers an affirmation of shared experiences; for white audiences, it’s a confrontation with an experience of American society that white people are seldom required to confront honestly and intently.

The film’s interviewees include such well known Buffalonians as Mayor Byron Brown, Ujima Theatre’s Lorna Hill, actors Willie Judson and Stephen McKinley Henderson, and UB professor Henry Louis Taylor, who also provides copntextual narration. But the film has no star characters: That distinction belongs to the subject matter and the candor with which it’s addressed.

Friday’s screening will be followed by a panel discussion. The panelists include Taylor; Buffalo school board member Larry Quinn; Jamil Crews, president of the Buffalo Urban League Young Professionals; Peggy Bertram, CEO of Jehudi Educational Services; and developer Carl Paladino. The promise of Paladino and Taylor on stage together is worth the price of admission by itself: Come early if you hope to get a seat.

And what did Green learn himself while conducting the interviews and editing the film?

“That nobody likes anybody,” Green says, laughing. Not, really, he adds quickly: Go see the film and find out.



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