By Tod Roulette
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“Take everyone to see this movie…Every mean mother, June Bug, every church member to support this film. This is an important moment and movie for black gay people.” says founder of DBQ magazine, David Bridgeforth on the stage at the Schomburg Center Thursday April 22nd for the premiere of “Blackbird” an updated retelling of Larry Duplechan’s commerical first- a black gay novel published in 1986 for St. Martin’s Press. Its filmmaker is Patrick Ian Polk who himself is a groundbreaker. In 2004 he produced a movie “Noah’s Arc” about 4 gay men in L.A. intent on making it in the film industry it went on to be a television series on the newly launched LOGO t.v. cable station in 2005.
The Harlem Pride event was a standing room only movie premiere complete with LGBT celebrities and activists and two “Blackbird” Hollywood royalty marquee personas, Mo’Nique and Isaiah Washington. The movie was directed by Mo’Nique’s husband, Sidney Hicks and backed by Richard Johnson, who with his former wife Sheila Johnson founded BET. Carmen Neely, director of Harlem Pride stated the importance of the movie and what it can offer families and inspire LGBT youth. “Blackbird” takes on a big themes-a black gay teenager struggling with his religious conviction conflict, a youth dealing with their parents’ marriage falling apart, a run away sister and his mother’s devout Baptist condemnation of her son’s sexuality.
Polk retells Duplechan’s story about a black gay youth in high school who falls in love with his peer has some changes such as it is set in Polk’s own home state of Mississippi rather than California. It all swirls around the high school students’ production of Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” while at home there is just as much drama happening in Ray Rousseau’s life. He dreams constantly about what he hopes might be—sexual escapades, Jesus and salvation and much more.
Blackbird has a freshness and quirkiness that viewers are bound to sit back and enjoy every minute because it has an authenticity and hope delivered by much of the cast. Julian Walker is the main character, whose life on screen spins in so many directions, does a bang-up job capturing what it means to fall in love for the first time. A film student in real life who graduates this May, Walker’s performance in “Blackbird” is his first feature length movie. See the movie at Magic Johnson’s theater on 125th Street and look for Itunes sound track release of the inspiring mostly religious songs sung by Walker throughout the movie.
Photo credit: 1) Richard E. Pelzer II & Ulysses Williams of Global Network of Black Pride with Camille Evans of CME Group were honored to produce and manage the red carpet presentations for the evening. 2) Photos Courtesy of Ronnie Wright.