The final film by Emmy and Peabody Award winning filmmaker Marlon Riggs, Black Is...Black Ain't, opens for a two-week theatrical run in Manhattan at the Film Forum beginning Wednesday, October 11, 1995. And on Thursday, October 12, 1995, it starts playing for two weeks at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts theater. If the film does well, especially in New York, say industry insiders, it stands a good chance of being picked up by other theaters across the country.

White Americans have long stereotyped African Americans. But definitions of "blackness" which African Americans impose on each other, Riggs claims, have also been devastating. Is there an essential black identity? Is there a litmus test defining the real black man and true black women?

Black Is...Black Ain't jumps right into the middle of these explosive African American conflicts over identity and has been praised as a film every American should see and discuss.

Riggs' uses his grandmother's gumbo as a metaphor for the rich diversity of black identities. His camera criss-crosses the country bringing us face-to-face with black folks young and old, rich and poor, rural and urban, gay and straight, grappling with the paradox of numerous, often contested definitions of blackness. Riggs then mixes performances by choreographer Bill T. Jones and poet Essex Hemphill and commentary by noted cultural critics Angela Davis, bell hooks, Cornell West, Michele Wallace, Barbara Smith, and Maulana Karenga into this flavorful stew of personal testimony, music, and history.

Riggs' own urgent quest for meaning and self-definition as a black, gay man dying from AIDS ties the multiple perspectives together. Hooked up to an IV in his hospital bed, Riggs compares his struggle against AIDS to the resilience of the black community in the face of overwhelming oppression.

But while Black Is...Black Ain't rejoices in the many flavors of what black is, it also brings us the pain of those who have felt silenced and excluded because their complexion, class, sexual orientation, gender, or speech has rendered them "not black enough," or conversely, "too black." Black Is...Black Ain't marshalls a powerful critique of sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, colorism and cultural nationalism in the black family, church and other black institutions.

Cornel West says, "We've got to conceive of new forms of community. We each have multiple identities and we're moving in and out of various communities at the same time. There is no one grand black community." As Riggs' death nears, Black Is...Black Ain't conjures up an image of a nurturing black community which embraces and celebrates the difference and creativity in each of us.

For more information on Black Is...Black Ain't, including how to purchase video cassettes for your institution, contact California Newsreel, 149 9th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103; tel: 415-621-6196; fax: 415-621-6522; E-mail: Newsreel@ix.netcom. com.


"Like Marlon himself, Black Is... is brilliant, thoughtful,
undaunted by anticipated criticism, and profoundly salutary to our
health. It's a powerful, interesting, riveting film."
Alice Walker

"****! A dense, sizzling, stimulating gumbo of thought and
emotion...A fascinating, challenging film."
San Francisco Chronicle

"Riggs' eye turns pain into poetry, ordinary people into prophets.
To put it simply: Black Is...Black Ain't is moving and brilliant."
Gloria Naylor

"Riggs couldn't have left a more effective or challenging legacy to
the black community...Not just an insightful discussion of black
consciousness, but a major contribution to the exploration of how
we develop our identities."

"Riggs slices through decades of mire and confusion with
cauterizing truth. This is a brilliant, stunning, illuminating
journey. Sometimes I laughed - and then too, there are tears for
the pain of traveling a way strewn with bias, bigotry and narrow-
mindedness. An absolute must as we make our way to the close of
this century."
Bernice Johnson Reagon

"A complex and personal exploration of the mulitplicity of black
identity. Riggs himself vibrantly addresses the camera from his
hospital bed as he is dying of AIDS."
David Ansen

"Black Is...Black Ain't is a lovesong and a challenge to African
American, Black, Negro, Colored people. It made me smile, squirm,
sway with the music, and suck my teeth."
Julianne Malveaux

"A remarkably courageous work of art...Riggs shows us a rare type
of black heroism and it is profoundly moving."
Houston A. Baker, Jr.
University of Pennsylvania

"Black Is...Black Ain't is a layered, haunting meditation, filled
with quiet voices, deep intelligence, unsettling visions,
remarkable kindness. This gentle epitaph of a film is...a generous
legacy Riggs leaves to us as our own."
Patricia Williams
Columbia University Law School


Cornelius Moore

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