D. Channsin Berry’s The Black Line Leads to Hollywood Panel Tonight At DuSable Museum
By Ken Hare
Chicago Defender Staff Writer
From the Producer/director that brought you The Church House and Dark Girls comes D. Channsin Berry’s latest project; The Black Line, which examines some of the joys and pains of being a Black woman. Screened last night at Chicago’s DuSable Museum to a virtually a full house of beautiful Black women, in all shapes, sizes and colors it was clear that Mr. Berry’s reputation (as producer/director) preceded itself. The audience was quite true-to-life as to what we were about to witness on-screen as The Black Line opened with a provocative and emotional scene.
In the opening scene, a young Black woman emerges from the sea obviously battle weary from an exhaustive journey from the motherland. As she emerges from the water, we see the heavy chains that are still bound to her body that held her captive in her seabound journey. Yet somehow, she has inexplicably managed to escape and make it to the shore alive. The scene cuts to Dr. Melina Abdulah who lays out the premise of the documentary where she articulates – Black women came from a highly civilized culture, Mother Africa, and are carriers of the culture even to this day.
The rest of the 75 minute documentary takes the audience on a personal journey through the lives of Black women across the country who fill in the details of the premise, telling their stories individually, and collectively sharing the ebb and flows of life. Producer, director Berry uses a series of cinematic and story telling techniques to deliver his message, although, at times the techniques interrupted the flow of the stories being told.
One such example was when the mother of Kenwood High School student, Larry Elizalde, 18, recounted how he and his friend Babatundo Kaffo, were both shot outside of Kenwood in 1991. As his mother walks you through the events that led up to his untimely and premature death; the audience could feel the tears welling up inside them. The story is riveting as she retraces the killer’s steps of how he started leaving the scene and looked back to see her son struggling to get up off the ground after being shot twice in the chest. The shooter, 21-year-old reported gang member, Reginald Bell went back to the scene and emptied his clip into Larry’s back. It was a lot of raw emotion to process.
However, the very next scene was one of merriment and laughter but felt contrived and manipulated as though Berry had not considered the impact of the previous scene upon the audience and failed to allow for a more transition from one heart wrenching emotion packed moment to one of joy. To bring more of a balance , Berry did have some good moments with juxtaposing, like when the former Christian sister turned Muslim, wrapped elegantly in a hijab talks about how she caught the Holy Ghost and took pride in her new faith and how it changed her life. As she told her story, Berry inserted some less pious, lee modest Black women on screen in micro-daisy dukes in the background.
At the end of the movie, during the Q& A session, Producer Berry informed the audience that it took him four years to put this documentary together. He confessed that when he began the process, he thought he knew about women but the journey informed him that he knew very little.
Overall, the documentary is decent and worth seeing. On the other hand, the narrative doesn’t reveal anything new about Black women that hasn’t already been said. Further, it was not clear whether or not Berry intended to present the noted disparity between the socio economic class distinctions based on what questions were asked of each. It appeared that the less educated and socio economically successful were asked questions that the more educated were not. This could appear that the producer thought the educated women were above reproach on the subject.
It is suggested that you check it out and decide for yourself. In fact ask Mr. Berry.
Berry has organized a conversation with Hollywood–An “all star” panel of Black filmmakers, actors, screenwriters and musician about Race & The Media. The Hollywood celebrities assemble for this groundbreaking event.
Titled, “Hollywood Comes to the Du” the event is designed to capture the attention of a wide audience, and will travel to cities in addition to Chicago. The panel and presentation will be followed by a discussion with the public with the goal to begin a meaningful dialogue on this increasingly important debate about the current state of the performing arts, not to mention the controversy regarding inclusion for all races.
Immediately following the presentation; panel participants will take questions from the audience, which will include young writers, performers and students as well as other creatives members of Chicago’s entertainment community
The panel includes the following special guests in attendance:
Richard Roundtree, Actor
Dawnn Lewis, Actor/Composer/Musician/Writer
Najee, Musician/Grammy Award Nominee
D.Channsin Berry, Documentary Filmmaker
Rodney Barnes, Screenwriter
Margaret Avery, Actress/Academy Award Nominee
And other invited guests.
The DuSable Musuem is located in Washington Park, at 57th Street and Cottage Grove Ave.. Chicago, IL. Screening starts at 7PM, doors open at 6PM.
Tickets are $25 per person, for reservations please visit https://www.dusablemuseum.org/events/details/hollywood-comes-to-the-du
Or you can call 773.947.0600 for more information.