VIDEO: “Dark Girls” (Trailer)

Dark Girls: Preview from Bradinn French on Vimeo.

Skin tone remains a major issue around the world, where if you are not an “accepted” norm, you are looked down upon. Dark Girls is a documentary directed by Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry that looks at this topic by interviewing dark-skinned women on their views of not only how others view them, but how they view themselves, and how many have had to live under a mentality they did not create. Self-acceptance is difficult when it feels that people are condemning you for who you are, and while it may be expected from those of other ethnicities, it’s a low-blow when that condemnation comes from those within.

Dark Girls explores this by citing people and events throughout history and moves up to the present day, opening up a wound that will not heal. With luck, a documentary like this will open up the discussion on why this matter, why some of these perceptions exists, and how all of us, of any and all ethnicities and skin tones, have to examine these views.

For more information on the film, you can read the full press release here. Co-director D. Channsin Berry can also be reached via

VIDEO: “9 Weeks” looks at the Olympia, Washington punk scene

Two years ago, a few movie and music festivals on the West Coast presented a film created by Stefan Simikich & Kanako Wynkoop called 9 Weeks, which was a look at the diversity of the Olympia, Washington punk, artist, and creative scene. The angle? “Individuals fighting to keep their community alive: performers, radicals, and artists barely getting by.” While Oly has has great music for years, it is not a metropolitan area like L.A., San Francisco, or NYC, but its independent spirit, and support for one another to keep things active, is what has kept it going.

While documentaries like these used to be difficult to find if they were only screened for a limited time, the digital world makes it possible to see it at any time. The movie can now be accessed via Amazon Instant Video, where you are able to rent it (you have 7 days to view it before the file expires and is automatically deleted from your hard drive) or purchase it. It can play in a number of ways and platforms, so click for more information and take a look.

VIDEO: Wreckage Of My Past (trailer)

MTV turned an Ozzy Osbourne interview into a running joke which helped put him in the spotlight to an audience who knew nothing about his work with Black Sabbath and his solo career. There is much more to the man than the reality show he was a part of, and this forthcoming documentary is an attempt to show him in a different light.

It’s called Wreckage Of My Past, directed by Mike Piscitelli. Older Ozzy fans may have felt his journey into reality TV was an unusual one, so if Ozzy was once proud to sing “Mama I’m Coming Home”, maybe this is his homecoming.


REVIEW: Copyright Criminals (PBS’ Independent Lens)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
This week, PBS affiliates throughout North America are showing a documentary called Copyright Criminals, as apart of PBS’ Independent Lens series covering works by independent filmakers. The film takes a look specificially at the world of music where samples have become something of value.

If you’re a regular visitor of my website, you should know what a sample is. If you came here from a Google search and somehow stumbled onto my page, here it is. The word “sample” is described in the film as “to use a segment of another’s musical recording as part of one’s own recording”. In the early days of digital sampling, and I’m specifically talking about early 1980’s when Art Of Noise were some of the pioneers in taking other previously recorded sounds and rhythmically turning it into something else, it wasn’t even called “sampling”, or the act of using a “sample”. Remember this, as I will bring it up again.

The documentary primarily focuses on hip-hop music, since it is a music that became a billion dollar industry by making music from other people’s music. The documentary, directed by Benjamin Franzen and Kembrew McLeod interviews various hip-hop DJ’s and producers, along with lawyers and “music industry insiders” looking at both sides of the sampling equation. While it does describe what sampling is and how creators and fans of hip-hop music and production have turned it into a form of art in comparison to other forms of art, it didn’t take on a cratedigger mentality to dig deeper. In other words, it only scratched the surface. Producers such as El-P and Shock G. talked about their craft, George Clinton spoke on how it felt to create music that would become a huge influence, while Clyde Stubblefield talked about he simply wants to be recognized as the man behind his beat. Sure, he’d love the money too, but he knows the logistics of the music industry and the legal system, and it’s humbling because if he was ruthless, he would make huge demands. It’s almost as if he still senses James Brown lurking in the distance, leery of taking any legal action against the Godfather of Soul.

I think as a surface, slap-butter-on-the-roof-until-it-falls type of documentary, it’s okay. However, one can easily find old archival news footage of some of the artists interviewed in this doc and discover much more informative information. Matt Black of Coldcut was briefly seen here, and yet he was a major part of an MTV news story that also covered De La Soul. As for De La, they did mention their use of “You Showed Me” by The Turtles and how that made a huge impact on their career, for better or worse. While the group and producer Prince Paul did have to give a list of samples used, they only submitted the obvious ones. The Turtles sample was taken from the 45, played at 33, and it became a not-so-obvious one. That is, until a daughter of one of the Turtles (not sure if it was Howard Kaylan or Mark Volman heard the song, played it to his father, and he knew exactly what it was. That trippy, Beatlesque sample was just a Turtles song slowed down. All of this information was not mentioned in the film. The doc did cover the Biz Markie/Gilbert O’Sullivan case, but again, very briefly.

It did touch on the fact that you cannot, under any circumstance, sample any Beatles songs. Yet if you weren’t paying attention, you might have missed the reference to The Betales being a group who also included “found sounds” in their works. I would have loved to have known more about this, but it’s barely a nick.

What was also omitted was earlier examples of sampling, they made reference to blues and jazz often paying “homage”, but they never used the word “homage”. It also focused on black artists, which almost suggested that black artists were the only ones who had taken and delivered, as if they could not come up with things on their own. While Led Zeppelin were seen and heard as part of a video collage, no one mentioned how Led Zeppelin were huge musical thieves.

What exists on Copyright Criminals is good, but it was like grabbing a rock, allowing it to skim the surface of the water, and saying “is that it?” An extra half hour could have been spent on digging deeper, and maybe there’s extra footage on the festival edit of the film or on the DVD version, since PBS does have regulations as to how long their documentaries can be. If anything, perhaps it will encourage more people to discover what sampling is all about. I felt Jeff Chang was someone who revealed an incredible amount of information, coming off as a historian and in truth just a fan of the sounds within the grooves. Yet with Chang throughout the film, I thought it was somewhat funny that some of his closest friends, arguably what we’d call true “copyright criminals”, were not in the film. Then again, if one needs to know more, then can be like Latimore and dig a little deeper.

(Copyright Criminals is a part of PBS’ Independent Lens series, which is being shown on PBS throughout the week, check for air times in your city/region.)

DVD News: The Numero Group to release retrospective and documentary DVD on filmmaker Al Jarnow

As the promotional material indicates, for years a lot of us who grew up watching films at school or watching PBS have seen these mini-films but had no idea who made them. Now, with the help of The Numero Group (a record label known for their incredible compilations, and a label I wish I was working for), they are presenting Celestial Navigations, a collection of all 45 films made by Al Jarnow. These short films may look experimental and very trippy, but they were a bit of guidance for us kids who weren’t sure what the big world had in store for us. In other words, through art and film, Jarnow was able to drop some hints and as adults we’re now able to re-discover his greatness. If you are a fan of some of Stan Brakhage‘s works (check out his 2 DVD retrospective of films on Criterion), you will appreciate Jarnow’s work.

Each film was restored and color corrected to original 16mm prints with remastered audio in Dolby Digital, and put together in a great looking DVD package. The DVD also has a 30 minute documentary on Jarnow and his work. A deluxe edition package will be made that will contain a 60-page book with essays, random photos and scans, photographs, storyboards, and a complete filmography.

This is The Numero Group’s first jump into films and DVD’s, and if it’s anything like their CD compilations, then this will be incredible not only to view, but to have at home in your video collection. Celestial Navigations will be released in February.

SOME STUFFS: Award winning documentary “The Hip-Hop Project” to be released on DVD in January

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Hip-hop music has been clouded in mystery over the years due to tastemakers molding it into something that it isn’t. But at its core is not only a need to make music and entertain people, but an urge to make it, whether it’s the improvement of one’s life, to help the family, or the community they will always call home. A lot of times we hear about rappers and producers getting shot or being arrested at their “old” neighborhoods. Suddenly the discussion of “why didn’t they leave? Aren’t they rich?” comes up, but for the most part, hip-hop music is not about money, even though many of its songs talk about the concept and power of it.

The people in The Hip-Hop Project see the music as one of the few ways of not only surviving, but making it, whatever “making it” means in the modern world. It focuses on a group of young men and women from New York, the city that gave birth to the music and community, and followers their path not only to want to make music, but to make “real world moves” in a world that once had discarded them as less than human. The odds may be there, but they want to look past the odds and just go for theirs.

The film, directed by Matt Ruskin, was executive produced by Queen Latifah and Bruce Willis, so while Willis’ hip-hop credentials may be questionable, his name makes it possible for people outside of the hip-hop fan base to understand things outside of the mainstream context. It will be released on DVD on January 5, 2010, you can pre-order your copy at the Amazon box below.

SOME STUFFS/TV News: Latin Music USA 4-part PBS documentary begins tonight

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Even though it may be in a different language, or at least “non-English”, Latin music in the United States is American music as much of it comes from the American experience. Beginning tonight, October 12th, PBS is presenting a 4-part documentary called Latin Music USA, exploring the roots of the music as it goes through and mixes up with country, rock, jazz, gospel, and R&B, perhaps reflecting not only its creators but maybe a true look at the evolving fabric of a nation. If music opens the heart and spirit of a people, then people by default unite while retaining its core for all to see.

You can check out the schedule for the series by clicking here. The entire series will be released on DVD on November 24th, along with a soundtrack CD that is in truth a sampler of the vast world of music that is out there. You can pre-order the DVD, CD, or a combo of both by heading to

SOME STUFFS: “Speaking In Code” documentary trailer

How can you be addicted to something that is so stupid and simple… like love?

Speaking In Code is a documentary film about various techno scenes around the world, and what these people will do for the love of music. It is a true passion for sound and the community who create and react to the music, and it’s a unique look at the techno music scene that isn’t stereotypical, as it gets to the heart of the matter. It is being promoted as a film about people “who are completely lost in music”, but again it’s about “speaking in code”, so you get to understand the real reason why people get lost.

Speaking In Code has been making the festival rounds, and should have a formal release soon. You can find out more by clicking to

SOME STUFFS: Burn To Shine project celebrates destruction through music

free image hosting
Photo ©Jim Saah

This is a really cool project. Someone finds out about a home in a city that is about to be destroyed. That someone gets a bunch of bands to perform at that home. They can only play one song, but perform it twice. The performances and any actions in and around the home are recorded, audio and video. The performances are preserved as is, warts and all. When the performances are over, the home is destroyed as scheduled.

This is the result of a project called Burn To Shine, where the performances/home demolition was taken to five cities. The city with the best results? Seattle, where Eddie Vedder, Jesse Sykes, and Blue Scholars had taken part. Each city are now represented by their own individual DVD, the Portland and Seattle editions are still available by going here (nicely priced too). You can watch highlights from each of the five cities by clicking there.

SOME STUFFS: Raiatea Helm to document her trip to Tahiti

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Hawaiian musician/singer/songwriter Raiatea Helm has taken the hearts of many fans of Hawaiian music, and now she has decided to discover her own roots by going to Tahiti to perform and discover ohana.

It will be part of an online adventure to be shot by director Edgy Lee, with two concerts planned. According to an article by Zenaida Serrano in today’s Honolulu Advertiser, Helm will also be looking for her ties to the island of Tahiti, where she has some roots. Elements of her trip to Tahiti will be documented by Helm in blog form, and with Lee involved in the project, most likely a DVD will be made in the future.

You can read the full article here. Here’s a brief look at what it will look like:

You can follow her path through video by heading to, a website that is called The Native Hawaiian Portal To The World.