Author: graceanjela

When the Levees Broke Film Critique

As I mentioned in my last blog, I really wanted to do a film analysis of When the Levees Broke, but since I wasn’t sure how to go about it, I looked up some guidelines from a few websites. This film analysis website had the easiest step-by-step guideline, so I’ll be using it for my blog, but I’ll skip the parts that I’ve already done with my two previous blogs, and I’ll only focus on the film techniques.

Film Techniques that I liked About the film:

  1. Shot angles:
    • The zoom shots, and the extreme close-ups

  2. Editing:
    • Flashforward and flashbacks: The integration of clips from news footage, and other recordings, was consistent throughout the film, and executed really well. These clips provided the audience with a sense of how it felt to live during the time of the hurricane. They also granted the audience an understanding of the past.
    • Diegetic Sounds: The synchronous sounds from the music within the film intensified the emotional atmosphere of the film, such as the jazz music played at the end.


5 College Digital Humanities Showcase

On April 30th, I had the opportunity to attend the DH showcase in the Center for Humanistic Inquiry, and I will be highlighting a few of the things I learned. If you are confused about what Digital Humanities is, you can check out my previous blog about it here.

Professor Parham, whose also the director of the Five College Digital Humanities, introduced the showcase by stating the necessity of having such an event. She mentioned how creating informal settings where individuals can comfortably share their works, generates better conversations and encourages people to be more involved in DH projects. She also emphasized the power of social media in establishing connections within the DH arena.

Unfortunately, I was only able to stay for two of the presentations, but I thought that the works done by these two speakers was really cool. The first was Professor Martin Norden, who is a film historian and a professor of communications at Umass. He teaches an interesting film course that utilizes multitudes of digital, online historical newspapers to convey to his students how history is ever changing. In the course syllabus, students are required to engage with past films in conjunction with articles that were produced at the time. It seemed like a really fascinating course, and I might even take it some time before I graduate.

The second speaker was Alana Kumbier, a librarian for the Social Sciences and Digital Pedagogy at Hampshire College. She has been leading a DH project known as Zine Scenes, which will be offered as a course in the upcoming fall semester. Zine Scenes “evoke[s] the relational, highly interpersonal modes and cultures of zine dissemination and to help ‘digital natives’ understand what it was like to encounter and participate in communities of zine makers and readers before the spread of email, online social networks, and digitized collections.” Hampshire students have actually contributed to a lot of the project’s success, and the lead student, Norah, even got to present her piece in the beginning of the day. You can access the project here if you want to find out more.

Why is Spike Lee not listed? | Film Analysis | When The Levees Broke

When The Levees Broke is by far the best documentary I have ever seen. So, when Professor Drabinski mentioned that Lee was regarded as one of the best documentary directors, I thought that he made perfect sense! But,I guess IMDB, Taste of Cinema, and even Documentary.Org don’t agree. Paste Magazine even has When The Levees Broke listed as number 61 on the top 100 documentaries. Seriously, SIXTY ONE?!? That’s just ridiculous. So, over the next few days, I’ll conduct a film analysis of When The Levees Broke to prove why it should be highly revered among the best!

It’s despicable how representations of race and gender are still problematic issues in the film industry. Why do you guys think that Spike Lee doesn’t appear in the list of documentary directors below, which was produced by IMDB?


One to FiveNine to Ten

Spike Lee’s Voice | When The Levees Broke

This will probably be my shortest blog post, but I just wanted to talk about my personal experience with watching When The Levees Broke. I’m a big fan of documentaries, so I’ve watched about fifty or so. But none have ever affected me as much as When The Levees Broke. In fact, I don’t think that I’ve ever experienced such an intense emotional connection with any other film, regardless of genre. This documentary was truly exceptional, because it didn’t leave any questions unanswered. In addition, I found myself experiencing an unusual reaction to the brief moments when Spike Lee allowed his voice to be heard on screen.

I can’t recall the first time we heard Spike’s voice, but I distinctly remember that I broke down in tears. I was honestly crying from the very beginning of the film, but this exact moment was different, because my tears had nothing to do with what was being illustrated in the documentary. The familiarity in Spike Lee’s voice gave me an “Oh Shit” moment, because it brought me back to reality. Up until then, everything in the film seemed so surreal, because I couldn’t fathom how this could have happened in the United States of America. While growing up in Kenya, I believed that the fucked up things that my government did to us only happened in “third world” countries. But the moment I heard Spike Lee’s voice, I was awakened to the reality in the atrocities portrayed on screen. I was woke, and now I can’t go back to sleep. What did you guys think of the appearance of Spike Lee’s voice?

Black on Black Deaths|Malcolm X and Chiraq

I) What is worth dying for?

For a while, I was struggling to figure out what to say about Malcolm X, because I was incredibly moved by the movie. Days after the screening, I listened to several of Malcolm’s speeches on YouTube, and our recent class discussions enabled me to discover why I was so inspired by him.

Malcolm X knew that his activism and his statements against Elijah Muhammad heightened the arrival of his death. Yet, he never let that stop him.

“If you’re not ready to die for it, put the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary.” — Malcolm X

Freedom is what Malcolm believed in. Freedom is what pushed him to keep fighting against the injustices inflicted upon Afro Americans. He believed that freedom was worth dying for.

II)The System:

What is worth killing for?

In Malcolm X, black on black violence envelops in a completely different format from Chiraq. However, each of these forms of violence is a result of a system. In Malcolm X, the system revolves around Elijah Muhammad. The system is perpetuated by the symbol of Elijah Muhammad and his followers, but not the man himself. Since Malcolm X deviated from the system, and sought to demystify the symbol of Elijah Muhammad, he had to be “punished”. It has nothing to do with Islam, which in fact is a peaceful religion, and everything to do with the structure of that system.

In Chiraq, the system at hand is one which has existed since slavery. It is a system that seeks to oppress blacks and suppress development. A system that damages, impoverishes, takes advantage, and murders. I recommend that y’all watch Crips and Bloods: Made in America. In the documentary, there’s a part where one of the OGs mentions that a system succeeds in oppressing others, if it causes them to oppress themselves.

I’m not saying that these systems provide justifications for killing others. I don’t believe that such a justification even exists. I’m just stating that they are the root cause.

Black Hair: History and Politics| Crooklyn | Malcolm X

A fellow classmate approached me today, after class, because they were genuinely interested in learning more about black hair, in order to better understand the significance of hair in Spike Lee’s films.

I thus thought it would be interesting to do a blog on the history of black hair, the use of black hair as a political statement, the implications of black hair in both Crooklyn and Malcolm X, and a short personal narrative.

(Please bare with me. This blog might seem long, but it’s only because I have embedded a lot of really cool resources 🙂 )


Below is a video that breaks down the history of black hair from pre-to-post slavery. It also encompasses American, Caribbean and African contexts of this history.

Soul Train and Afro Sheen History

Afro History

Conk, Afro, and Jheri Curl:

Also, check out Malcolm X’s passage on the Conk, in the Implications section below!


Digital Humanities | Pinterest and Professor Johnson’s Talk

Digital Humanities

“Richard Bridgens, West India Scenery…from sketches taken during a voyage and seven years in….Trinidad (London, 1836, plate 20)”


“Digital humanities uses research and technology to create a new realm of knowledge which can allow for a different understanding of the humanities which would otherwise be inaccessible.” – Kathryn

Professor Johnson’s discussion revolved around the use of digital blackness as a resource. She focused the initial part of the conversation on the use of data in re-visualizing the modern understanding of slavery. Since digital forms have demonstrated potential for radicalization, she mentioned how there have been newly developed archives that revisit Southern texts and data, in order to produce a better perception of the day-to-day nature of black lives during slavery.

Within her presentation, Professor Johnson portrayed forms of art, from the enslavement period, such as the one on the left. I decided to do more research on that specific sketch by Richard Bridgens, and I found something even more amazing. The pictures you see below are all from Pinterest. Along with each post is a brief description of the history associated with the image.