10 Hardly Black and White

In Dan Flory & Mary Bloodsworth-Lugo (eds.), Race, Philosophy, and Film. Routledge. pp. 50--166 (2013)


The cinematographic successes of Craig Brewer’s Black Snake Moan and Lars Von Trier's Manderlay are contingent upon the palpability of tension and attraction created by their respective, many racial and sexual relations, thus both films aggressively bring them to the fore by excessively rehearsing old stereotypes and taboos, and inverting the expected agents therein, to reveal their persistent, still-relevant power. Both films similarly test our convictions and squeamishness, but do so from entirely different moral stances. Brewer explores how an act of charity and humanitarian openness can save lives, literally and spiritually. Von Trier explores how similar acts of openness can smother appreciation of the other and reenact the worst oppression. The former tells a persuasive story with wide appeal, while the latter tells a story that will make even the most desensitized viewers cringe. Using these pictures as paradigms, is either approach better for bringing prejudice into the light for thought and film?

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