After completing the readings for my course this week, I found a similarity between André Bazin’s article (“The Ontology of the Photographic Image”) and Bell Hooks’ article (“The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators”). I honestly didn’t know what to expect while reading these. There was no film to back it up, but one film did come to mind after being taken aback by some of the messages.
The gaze the Hooks refers to is a gaze that “has been and is a site of resistance for colonized black people globally […] Certain looks were seen as confrontation, as gestures of resistance, and challenges authority.” Hooks previously stated that “when most black people in the United States first had the opportunity to look at film and television, they were fully aware of that mass media was a system of knowledge and power reproducing and maintaining white supremacy.”
The film that most readily comes to my mind is actually a TV miniseries, Roots inspired by Alex Haley’s novel. It is this film example that enables me to understand Bazin’s statement that “cinema is also a language.” Cinema I knew was an art and a way of seeing a different aspect of reality: literally or figuratively. Roots allows Black America to experience a new telling of their history. A history that begins for them in Africa and how they came to be in America and the reality of the hardships they experienced. The “photographic image has changed the very essence of the picture.” We see how Africans lived during the 1700s in Roots, and unfortunately many interpret that as truth. At the same time, Alex Haley’s family history was called into question.
I do wonder how others may interpret and draw enlightenment from these readings. Is there a sense of understanding? Is it because I identify as a female, racially black spectator that I understand and enjoyed these perspectives? While Hooks encourages and empowers the African American female spectator, I neglected to acknowledge the oppression of African Americans within film and photography. That may be for a different post, but for now, these are my thoughts.
Tell me what you think below…