I was the Community Resources Coordinator at Real Art Ways back in 1995 when we “christened” the former Society for Savings archive space in the rear of the 56 Arbor Street with a wonderful exhibit called “RAW Space.” Not long into an opening reception with 100s of people in attendance, James Montford, an African American artist from Norwich borrowed a stick of red lipstick from his date and scrawled “No Coons Here” on the southern wall of the loading dock space to point out the absence of artists of color in the 22 artists exhibit.
I remembered this incident after I was approached by a stranger in Hartford during my last trip to my hometown. This young man proceeds to point out to me that Hartford’s films in the park “don’t have any people of color.” All I could say was, “Really!?” The series that this young man referred to was the above imaged “Free Movies After Dark” movie series presented by Mayor Segarra. It’s a really cool movie in the parks concept that rotate around City parks and shows a featured movie for the evening as well as smaller live music acts and children’s activities. Generally a good night out for the family.
This person proceeded to explain to me the societal implications of young black and brown kids who don’t see representations of themselves, or their parents, in mainstream movies. I got it, but I was still trying to think of the movie list and if what this man said was true. So, I decided to go back and see for myself. This is an informal score sheet of the upcoming series that begins Friday, June 14:
- Back to the Future – Cotto Assessment: Mayor of town is black, but his representation in the past is like a bad race joke.
- Vertigo – Cotto Assessment: Credit for B&W film and a woman named Isabel Analla played an “undetermined role” #woo-hoo!!
- Princes Bride – CA: Mandy Patinkin plays a Spanish fencer Inigo Montoya.
- A League of their Own – CA: Nope, zilch, nada…
- Ghostbusters – CA: Everybody knows the “Black Ghostbuster“
- LIlo and Stitch – CA: Nothing but people of color in this one. You got Hawaiians up the ying yang and the main federal agent is a cool black guy.
- North by Northwest – CA: In the scene where Cary Grant is pulling the knife out of the guys back, you will see a photographer taking the photo of four African American men.
- The Goonies – CA: Data, the gadget obsessed kid was Vietnamese.
- McKenna – CA: This movie is based on the American Girl book series so you will most assuredly see at least one token.
- Food Stamped – CA: Oh SNAP, a documentary about food stamps. There’s gotta be some positive representation of people of color in this one.
- Birds – CA: Another Hitchcock movie. Yup, no p.o.c.
- The Muppet Movie – CA: I always thought Miss Piggy was Puerto Rican cuz she reminded me of my boy’s aunt, so this one can be hard to gauge.
- BIG – CA: Really!?
Final Cotto Assessment: Abysmal – For a City of close to 125,000 people of which only 15.8% are non-Hispanic Whites, there sure seem to be alot of non-Hispanic Whites up in there.
Further scrutiny of the series raises concerns around who the series is geared towards. Is this a City sponsored series for the benefit of its residents, or for those “Greater Hartford” peeps who love Hartford so much? Or both?
- Bushnell Park – 3 Screenings
- Riverside Park – 3 Screenings
- Elizabeth Park – 2 screenings
- Old State House Lawn – 1 Screening
- Pope Park – 1 Screening
- Colt Park – 1 Screening
- Keney Park – 1 Screening
- Goodwin Park – 1 Screening
I don’t know, you can make up your own mind, but I see four traditional community parks getting their one movie “pa que se callen” and 9 screenings in what some might consider “safer” spaces.
So, City of Hartford, thank you for making these evenings available. They are honestly awesome attempts at bringing people out of their homes to interact with their neighbors.
But you could do better.
Start with creating a selection committee made up of city residents who know and love film. They are there. I was a co-founder of the Capitol Cinema Collective. As a group we started the community filming project, Lo Res Fest, as well as the annual Hartford International Film Festival. The original committee was a wonderfully diverse crowd of Hartfordites who would be happy to help in whatever way possible.
I’ll leave everyone with this though. How friggin cool would it be to screen ‘Our Latin Thing’ at Keney Park preceeded by some Salsa classes? Now, that my friends, is community building.