Movies Are My Wife

Married to the Movies — Mdino's Blog

Janks Morton’s MEN TO BOYS (2009)

Filmmaker Janks Morton begins his new film MEN TO BOYS with a single question: Can a woman teach a boy to be a man?  As he encounters people of color, male and female, his voice on the soundtrack serves as a melancholy echo of similar questions posed in the past.  But this is a film about hope.  Never has so much artistic integrity gone into finding the solution to a major problem facing the black community.  Inspired by Lamarr Darnell Shields book 101 THINGS EVERY BOY OF COLOR SHOULD KNOW, the film is the second in a series that began with WHAT BLACK MEN THINK (2007).  This new film is as politically brave and stylistically mature as the first.  Both of these characteristics are evident in the haunting “March Of Cries” segment, featuring young African-American boys marching down a school hallway as if in a funeral procession, accompanied by captions such as “69.7 % out of wedlock birth rate”. 

It can get you into trouble just bringing up some of the trials facing young men of color, but Morton and his team at IYAGO Entertainment Group face the issues head on.  The main problem according to the filmmakers is the disconnect between black men and the sons they help bring into the world.  The aforementioned birth rate and a divorce rate higher than the national average, have a large percentage of black children growing up without a father, and the situation is especially damaging for male children.  The possible reasons for these statistics were explored in WHAT BLACK MEN THINK.  The focus this time is on the solution.  But the conclusion is clear: every boy needs a father.  The film as well as a lecture series featuring Morton and Shields aim at getting black men involved in the lives of their sons.  Any man, whatever his race, will be moved to hold his sons a little closer after what Morton, Shields and the men appearing in this film have to say. 

MEN TO BOYS is less reliant on celebrity interviews than WHAT BLACK MEN THINK, but the notables here have some poignant stories to tell.  The most memorable is from Congressmen Elijah Cummings, who touches us with a Christmas recollection about his father and the neccessity of simply being there for one’s family. 

There are three interview techniques used in the film: Man on the street interviews are shot from low angles.  The young black men are bundled up against the cold-a striking visual metaphor.  The low angles make the speaker’s statements resonate with great power.  In another technique Morton photographs ordinary men against a neutral background addressing male youths, as they look directly into the camera.  The interviews of notable personalities are shot in the men’s homes and offices.

This new film has me looking forward to a third installment in the series.  Janks Morton releases one film every two years, and it is always worth the wait.

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February 12, 2010 Posted by | documentary, film directors, independent film, Janks Morton, Lamarr Darnell Shields | , , , , , | 1 Comment