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Diary of a Tired Black Man
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by Adrian Starland

"'MAD DIARIES': they aren't just for 'Black Women' anymore!"
3 stars

After decades of blowback from black females-- whether on daytime talk/advice shows like Oprah, Tyra and Ricki; in prime time TV specials; in books by Alice Walker & Toni Morrison; in movies & stage plays by Tyler Perry; in articles in magazines like ESSENCE; in YouTube commentary videos; even on college campuses and at random bus stops --the proverbial "Good Black Man" reached a stress point where he finally determined that he had endured more than enough of the blanket mistreatment he often encountered and had to endure from his feminine counterpart, had grown weary of all their vitriolic verbal assaults against his character, and had become very annoyed with being required to walk around with the distinctively "brown" color on his face which came from someplace "other than" the "natural hue" of his skin, if one grasps the disturbing metaphorical image. Then suddenly, almost as if out of nowhere and without much forewarning, the silence was shattered, and the heretofore quiet timid "mouse" began to "roar" in angry protest!

So establishes the history of one of the few but growing number of film projects being produced in recent years in response to what black males all across the U.S., and even in several other countries around the world, claim to have been quietly and patiently enduring from black women at least since the "Feminist Movement" of the 1970s (some particularly bitter souls will claim: "for centuries")... Tim Alexander's "Diary of a Tired Black Man."

The idea for a "feature length" treatise/documentary released by Magnolia Pictures had its genesis when Mr. Alexander (who wrote and directed the feature film) produced a 3-minute video story about a man who was arriving at the house of his ex-wife (which he reminds her that he bought & furnished) to pick up his daughter for his visitation time, and walking in on a scene slightly reminiscent of the famous (infamous?) "War Council" gathering in the "Spike Lee Joint," "Jungle Fever." The gathering of other young attractive black women in the room egg the ex-wife into an indignant confrontational mode when her former husband pulls into the driveway with his "new woman" in the passenger seat of his car something which they all deem is bad enough in and of itself, but they are doubly upset that he also "had the gall" to show the ex-wife and her gang of bitter ("manless") girlfriends the ultimate "disrespect" by choosing to become romantically involved with (...wait for it...) a "white" woman! Thus setting the stage for the ex-husband's emotional & passionate outpouring of what has for so long remained shrouded in the depths of the black male psyche, revealing what more & more black men are becoming more & more comfortable in expressing, climaxing in the emphatic utterance which would eventually become the feature film's presumably liberating title.

After the little video project became an immediate viral success, and after listening to many black men across the country who were saying that they could relate to the issues that were being explored in the video, Alexander considered it a call to action, so he set about fleshing-out an actual "backstory" (with the obligatory "happy ending" epilogue) as a companion piece to a documentary about the reception and some of the discussions raised by the original 3-minute clip, hoping that it would all serve as a way of promoting genuine dialogue between two very bitter rivals one "male," the other "female."

The film opens with a replay of the famous viral video, which then segues into a series of reactions and comments about the clip from select individuals-- both black men and black women --(and in a few instances, some "non-black" individuals, mostly women) from various parts of the United States.

Interspersed among the various reactions are interconnected vignettes which allegedly trace the origin and development of the relationship of our two main players: "James" (for all intents and purposes of this film, the protagonist) and "Tonya" (the antagonist). We see the evolution from their time as a couple in love and comfortable in each other's presence, to the breakdown of the relationship traced mainly to past issues ("emotional baggage"), to James' struggle to "reconnect" with women on an intimate level and facing all of the challenges associated with trying to get back into the "dating scene"... including experiencing some of the difficulties and complications which tend to arise upon making oneself receptive to the idea of dating "interracially."

The overly forced and contrived scenarios played out in these backstory vignettes are excruciatingly painful to watch... precisely for that very reason. However, it is quite possible that these scenes were deliberately performed in this gut-wrenching manner specifically for the purpose of inducing "discomfort" in the average viewer perhaps as a way of "mimicking" the tense uneasiness that Mr. Alexander was trying to convey regarding how many black men profess to feeling the same way themselves whenever they find themselves being confronted with many of the same attitudes, as portrayed in the film, from real-world black females which fuel & stoke their ire (examples including: rudeness/combativeness, "thug loving" tendencies, and entitlement issues or "Diva Complexes"). Besides, there was only but so much story and character development that Mr. Alexander could fit within each vignette, given the limited time frame he had to work within, so it seems that he had to concentrate as much pertinent information into each individual story arc as possible in order for everything to fit within those parameters. Yet, it would appear from watching this backstory play itself out that the additional mini-movie clips were all done in such an over-the-top and "in-your-face" manner as a means of achieving optimal emotional effect and ensuring that the main point of each mini "morality play" was effectively rammed home.

Many of the interviews during the "documentary" portions are enlightening for the most part, but quite a number of them also feel somewhat forced and disingenuous (especially from the female camp), as though they're overly aware of the fact that they're being filmed for wider exhibition and are thus extra mindful of their demeanor and/or are being extra careful about what contentions/criticisms, if any, to express. It is almost certain that a more "honest" assessment of the reactions and responses to the original clip and any subsequent discussions spurred by & relating to it would've been garnered had many of these encounters been filmed surreptitiously.

Overall, as an "educational/insightful" project, "Diary" does get its points across fairly well: it tears down barriers and raises many of the important questions which, if in earnest, may help to promote reconciliation between the combating sexes in what is becoming popularly known as the "Black Gender War." But in all honesty, that's about the best that could be expected of this movie/documentary something that would probably be good to have on hand as a useful "tool" to foment genuine discussion among those most directly affected by these explored issues; but its wider appeal is quite limited, and as such it is not much of anything that the average viewer can walk away from with any renewed sense of purpose or reignited passion or deeper understanding of his/her world or his/her place in it.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23123&reviewer=427
originally posted: 11/12/11 06:27:36
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  DVD: 03-Feb-2009

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