Yoruba Richen has taken on what would be an ambitious task for any filmmaker by turning her lens on examining the presence of homophobia in the Black community and marriage equality. Her latest documentary, The New Black, opened Wednesday (February 12) at the Film Forum in New York, and she spoke at length about what she hopes to unveil with her film.
Richen sat with Gawker ahead of a public chat with the site’s readers regarding the themes presented in The New Black. Inspired by the historic 2008 election of President Barack Obama and the passing of California’s controversial Proposition 8 law that banned gay marriage in the state. Gawker has more.
Gawker: Why did you make this movie?
Yoruba Richen: I started conceiving of this film the night of the election of 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president and Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, was passed. It was a feeling of great elation with the election of the first African American president, and then this huge defeat at the same time. What started to happen pretty much immediately was that African Americans started to be blamed for its passage and I was kind of confused and shocked why that was happening. It turns out there was an erroneous poll that said 70 percent of blacks voted for the referendum and that turned out not to be the case. But the narrative of black homophobia took hold in the media and I wanted to see why these groups were being pitted against each other. Of course black LGBT voices were completely left out of that conversation.
Richen stages a portion of the film in the state of Maryland, which in 2012 was embroiled in a heated clash in the Black community between pro-equality and anti-equality advocates ahead of a vote on same sex marriage.
Richen is aware that her film is stirring up controversy and doesn’t shy away from acknowledging her support of marriage equality. But Richen did say in the interview that she did her best in showing both sides of the debate fairly and honestly.
To learn more about Yoruba Richen and her film, The New Black, click here.
Photo: Luke Rattray