Sunday, July 31, 2011


In the riveting short film Change, directed by Melissa Osborne and Jeff McCutcheon, we are brought into the world of Jamie (Sean McClam), a black teenager in Los Angeles struggling with his sexuality.   The film documents a 24 hour period from November 4, to November 5, 2008, when the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first black president and the passing of California’s controversial Proposition 8 was impending.  For Jamie, who is black and gay, it’s a very important day.   The film opens in a history class where he and his classmates give speeches about who they would vote for in the election if they were eligible (since they are in high school and under 18) and some creative extras give wonderful off the cuff speeches, one girl even does an impromptu rap.  After class we see Jamie with a group of his friends who want to tag the home of a gay student (Jesse James Rice) in their class in anticipation of Prop 8 passing, but he persuades them to put it off until after the election thinking that it wouldn't pass.  
The authenticity of the film was punctuated by the documentary shooting style and the partially improvised script.   The film screened at Outfest where I was able to not only attend a Q &A with one of the directors (Osborne) afterwards, but actually speak to her personally about the film.  She said that the day was so ironic to her because she has a black mother and a gay brother, (she looked by all accounts to be white and had what sounded like an English accent) so the mixed emotions experienced by her family was what compelled her to tell the story.  I was personally glad that someone had addressed the issue.  At the time, I remembered being astounded that in a country where we could elect a president that was a product of a union that was illegal in most states at the time of his birth, we would still be too prejudiced to understand how big a step backwards this was.  
The film did an excellent job of showing the dichotomy within the black community regarding race and sexuality and how someone like Jamie gets caught in the crossfire and is marginalized within his own community.   At one point in the film Jamie’s dad tells him, “Change takes time, don’t take it for granted,” and succinctly sums up the theme of the film.  Alongside the numerous shorts and features about sex and sexual identity it was nice to see something that really asked provocative questions about where we are as a society.

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