Have you been following our recommendations in PBS’ special Black History Month series?
First: We told you about the heroic Daisy Bates.
Then: We reviewed Black Power Mixtape.
The final PBS documentary is More Than a Month.
Want to check local airtimes?
Here’s the filmmaker’s main website for his film.
Visit that site and click on the Independent Lens logo to check out PBS schedules nationwide.
More Than a Month debuts on Thursday Feb. 16, but many PBS affiliates air shows at other times.
Debuting on PBS, Feb. 16, 2012:
‘More Than a Month’
by Shukree Hassan Tilghman
Young filmmaker Shukree Hassan Tilghman tells us up front that his own parents are uncomfortable with his nationwide campaign to end Black History Month. Never heard of the campaign? Well, this hour-long film is Tilghman’s “campaign.” It’s really a satirical and provocative look at how Americans like to neatly package—and quickly dismiss—African-American history by assigning it to one month each year.
How is it satirical? At one point, for example, Tilghman jokes that his documentary is causing many older black adults so much discomfort that … Ooops! And, there’s a quick cut in the film! Suddenly, a fictious agent dressed like the famous Men In Black characters shows up at his door to demand that he give up his official Black Identity Card. Such brief moments of Saturday-Night-Live-style humor, sprinkled throughout the documentary, keep this argument from becoming an oppressive diatribe. It’s actually a fun film to watch. In another instance, Tilghman borrows a page from Michael Moore’s handbook and crashes a major conference to ambush a famous black educator who has been avoiding him. Will anyone catch him invading this inner sanctum? The scene makes us smile. At other points, we see brief Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert clips on Black History Month. All in all, there’s a real sting to Tilghman’s argument—but he zings us with a sly grin that makes it all easier to take.
Is he nuts? Is he serious? To put it simply, that’s the real question as More Than a Month unfolds. Our own longtime ReadTheSpirit readers generally rank among the champions of cultural diversity in their communities. Tilghman deliberately wants to unsettle our assumptions. And, viewers do realize that this young man is not kidding. In fact, Tilghman is so serious about his critique that he hauls out a giant of African-American culture—the actor Morgan Freeman. Like a trump card played at a strategic moment, Freeman appears on screen to say that he shares this same concern. Talking to 60 Minutes’ Mike Wallace, Freeman says: “You’re going to relegate my history to one month? Which month is white history month?” Wallace doesn’t know quite how to respond to this and says that, hey, he’s Jewish. So, Freeman pushes Wallace further: Does Wallace want a Jewish history month? Wallace replies: Absolutely not. Well, then, Freeman concludes, “I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.”
Teachers and small-group leaders: Take note of this film! More Than a Month is a terrific—and entertaining—way to spark serious conversation about America’s future as a diverse nation.
Reviewed by ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm.
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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.