Race & Hollywood

May 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Out of all the special programming that Turner Classic Movies does–Summer Under the Stars, 31 Days of Oscar, war movies over the Memorial Day weekend, Silent Sundays–their annual Race & Hollywood feature has always been my favorite. The channel picks one particular racial or ethnic group to focus on, devotes blocks of programming to both positive and negative portrayals of that race throughout film history, and frames the films with interviews, discussions and documentaries about race. Since I’m both a classic film fan and a history geek, Race & Hollywood is my perfect intersection of the two–and more importantly, the speakers that TCM invites to introduce each movie often have things to say about their culture that normally don’t get heard in mainstream film media. Last year, watching Hanay Geiogamah speak, I realized that that was the first time I’d ever heard a Native American speak about film. Ever. And I wouldn’t have gotten that chance if it weren’t for TCM.

So when May came and went with no sign of Race & Hollywood on the schedule, I was first worried, then annoyed. I tried to figure out why they weren’t doing it this year–I couldn’t be the only one that was interested! Maybe, I decided, after doing blacks, Asians, Latinos and Native Americans, they’d decided they’d run out of races. But that was ridiculous. They could just start over again with blacks–there had to be plenty more performances to discuss, or new things to say about ones that had already aired. Or they could get more specific–I’m certainly not the only one who would be interested in seeing how Afro-Caribbeans had been portrayed in Hollywood, or Polynesians, or the Romani? Or, especially timely, what about Arabs?

It seems TCM has read my mind, because Race & Hollywood has appeared on the schedule again–slated for July, rather than May–with a focus on Arab images. I’m especially looking forward to this installment of Race & Hollywood. The One Thousand and One Nights-inspired film has long been a favorite of mine, and it’ll be interesting to see that deconstructed. Lawrence of Arabia, The Sheik, and The Thief of Bagdad were some of the earliest movies I ever added to my Netflix queue. I’ve been dying to see Kismet for years. And I’ll finally have my chance, because it’s one of the films TCM will be showing in July! A full schedule can be found here.

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