Brothers and Mommas

Public Enemy and Big Momma's House take radically different approaches to African-American nostalgia

Has such nostalgia also sunk to the depths of neocon revisionism? When Malcolm and Sherry finally come together, the nuclear family is restored--it's a love story, what do you expect? But why to the strains of "Oh Happy Day"? In church? In Georgia? Here's a longing for an old South that's worthy of Stephen Foster's "Old Folks at Home": Small-town black folks are gossipy, a little foolish, and a little oversexed, but still more honest than those Northern city slickers. In this particular pastorale, even the cops are black, but there's still nothing a bigoted white separatist couldn't endorse: If we can't send 'em back to Africa, the film seems to say, maybe we can migrate 'em back south. Manipulating images is a tricky business. At least the Panthers were up-front about their motives. Pop culture isn't always so forthcoming.


Seizing the time: Bobby Seale in Public Enemy
Seizing the time: Bobby Seale in Public Enemy

Public Enemy screens at Walker Art Center on Wednesday, June 14 at 7:00 p.m. as part of the 2000 Juneteenth Film Festival, the first week of which also includes a program of shorts by African-American filmmakers (The Short and the Long of It), and weekend screenings of the original Shaft trilogy; for more information call (612) 375-7622. Big Momma's House is playing at area theaters.

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