Appellate Judge Tom Becker wishes you a merry...whatever you celebrate.
Umoja (Unity); Kujichagulia (Self-Determination); Ujima (Collective Work and
Responsibility); Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba
(Creativity); Imani (Faith)
Running from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, Kwanzaa is a celebration of African American heritage, culture, and family. The holiday was created in 1966 by Malauna Karenga (nee Ron Everett). The Black Candle: A Kwanzaa Celebration offers up a history of Kwanzaa and some commentary on its significance in the black community.
Narrated by author Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings), The Black Candle features mostly non-celebrity interviews (although a few famous people, like Jim Brown and Chuck D, weigh in) of people talking about what Kwanzaa means to them. These are strong and wonderful moments, particularly when the film focuses on families showing and sharing their celebrations. We also get archival footage of the civil rights movement and scenes of Kwanzaa being celebrated in France.
Each of the seven principles of Kwanzaa gets its own chapter, and we get a number of stop-offs along the way for things like Hurricane Katrina and "The Black Power Era." The approach is a little scattershot; the 71-minute film has 20 chapters, which means each chapter runs a little over three minutes. The stream of consciousness approach isn't necessarily bad, it's just not as cohesive as it could be.
The history of Kwanzaa is given a far more inclusive spin than how the holiday was, apparently, originally intended. At one point, what seems to be a newscaster soundbite states emphatically that Kwanzaa is not to be seen as alternative to "traditional" holiday celebrations like Christmas or Chanukah, but evidently, this was Karenga's intent in creating it. While many people, including some interviewed here, seem to believe that Kwanzaa originated in Africa, it is noted at around mid-point that this isn't the case. Kwanzaa is an African American celebration, co-opted with bits of African culture. Any controversies surrounding Karenga—including his felony conviction in 1971 for torturing two women—or his group, US Organization, are ignored.
The Kwanzaa presented here, then, is less about how it started and more about what it's evolved into. Historically, it's a bit Kwanzaa-lite, but it's still an effective cultural document.
The disc: decent picture (it was shot on video and looks a little home made, which is fine), good audio, with a trailer for an extra.
Not guilty. If you're interested in this holiday, you'll find this of interest.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Asante Filmworx
Review content copyright © 2009 Tom Becker; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.