Tag Archives: Richard Wright

RASHID JOHNSON’S NATIVE SON

For his directorial debut, Rashid Johnson has shot an update of Richard Wright’s controversial 1940 novel about Bigger Thomas’ seemingly irrevocable slide into the void. The screenplay by Suzan Lori-Parks changes some of the novel’s key plot points—”It’s not the book,” Elvis Mitchell told a recent Film Independent audience at the Arclight screening in Hollywood—but the expendability of black lives in this new NATIVE SON is, tragically, still contemporary.

“One of the criticisms of the book—and one I share—is the character’s lack of agency. Wright wrote them as archetypes.” — Rashid Johnson, at the Film Independent screening of NATIVE SON

As Bigger, Ashton Sanders (Moonlight) gives a performance of cool hesitation that recalls the voice and armature of James Dean and a young Keanu Reeves. For a scene at the home of Bigger’s rich, art-collecting employer, Johnson—in an audacious move—places his own 2015 painting Untitled (Anxious Man) directly behind Sanders as an angel/devil-over-my-shoulder figure.

NATIVE SON—which premieres tonight on HBO—co-stars KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk), Bill Camp, Sanaa Lathan, Margaret Qualley, Nick Robinson, Elizabeth Marvel, and David Alan Grier.

NATIVE SON, on HBO

From April 6.

Film stills, from top: Ashton Sanders in Native Son (2019); Sanders and KiKi Layne; Sanders; Sanders and Nick Robinson (right); Sanders. Photographs by Matthew Libatique, images courtesy Sundance Institute and HBO.

Film Independent photos, from top: KiKi Layne and Rashid Johnson; Elvis Mitchell, Johnson, and Layne. Film Independent Presents HBO Screening Series—Native Son, March 20, 2019, Arclight Hollywood, photographs by Araya Diaz/Getty Images.

JULIANA SPAHR AND CLAUDIA RANKINE

DU BOIS’S TELEGRAM is a brilliant inquiry into the institutions—from the CIA to the foundations and literary magazines it funded—that inform and shape literary production. The promoted, the funded and heralded—from Richard Wright to Gertrude Stein to James Baldwin—do the work of the nation state under the umbrella of culture. Our complicit freedoms are brought out in the open in this thought-provoking and erudite book. This is not a book to agree or disagree with, but rather a compelling argument that brings relevant facts forward for clear-eyed consideration. One would be remiss to pass on such essential research and analysis.” — Claudia Rankine

Juliana Spahr—author of DU BOIS’S TELEGRAM —will be joined by Rankine for a discussion about the book, which takes as its impetus the telegram W.E.B. Du Bois sent when he was denied a passport to attend the 1956 Présence Africaine Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Paris:

“Any Negro-American who travels abroad today must either not discuss race conditions in the United States or say the sort of thing which our State Department wishes the world to believe.” — W.E.B. Du Bois

 

CLAUDINE RANKINE AND JULIANA SPAHR

Thursday, December 13, at 7:30 pm.

92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue, New York City.

 

DUBOIS’S TELEGRAM—LITERARY RESISTANCE AND STATE CONTAINMENT, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018).

Above: Claudia Rankine.

Below: Juliana Spahr.