White Lies, Black Sheep James Spooner

White Lies, Black Sheep James Spooner

AJ (Ayindé Howell) sees himself as an individual undefined by skin colour but his friends and family, black and white alike, disagree. Why doesn’t he act "black”? That’s the central question in this story where individuality battles racial stereotypes.

Director Spooner places AJ in the world of New York indie rock clubs, the setting of his 2003 doc Afro-Punk, which profiled African-Americans that love punk, thrash and hardcore. AJ springs from this milieu as a promoter who books indie bands and surrounds himself with white friends and colleagues.

By contrast, his white buddy Josh (Jeremy Bobb) chases black girls and pushes AJ to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Similarly, AJ’s Afro-conscious father nags him to get in touch with his black roots. At first, AJ listens to neither but gradually notices that the whites around him with exoticism or deny his blackness. Then, he meets a sister named Pinky (Shaneka k. Wright), one of the few blacks in these clubs, and perhaps finds a kindred spirit. AJ gradually becomes blacker, if that’s possible.

White Lies, Black Sheep adds enough humour and style to avoid preaching on a serious subject. The mockumentary structure allows Spooner to keep a much needed distance from his characters, though they refer to the camera crew too often. There’s room for scathing satire but Spooner doesn’t go down that road. He’s a documentarian at heart and prefers to observe rather than criticise. However, Spooner captures the spirit of the indie rock scene perfectly and his film is bursting with great music and energy.

Though it has its flaws, White Lies, Black Sheep is smartly done and provokes the audience into considering the racial issues without knocking them over the head. (SpoonMor)