Obama and the Oscars: Lights, Camera, Nationalism!

During the run up to the 2014 Oscars, film producers and executives have claimed that the election and re-election of President Barack Obama has erased racial lines and created a better country. They have also linked the ‘Obama effect’ to a spate of daring films about slavery and racial discrimination in the American past. This symposium brings together leading academics, critics, and film programmers to discuss the production, distribution and marketing of films in the age of Obama, as well as the ways in which Oscar-nominated films address the history of America and the Atlantic world.


Speakers include:

  • George Elliott Clarke, E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto, and William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies at Harvard University.
  • Jasmine Cobb, Assistant Professor of Communication studies at Northwestern University.
  • Charles Coleman, Film Programmer for Facets Cinémathèque
  • Armond White, editor and film critic for City Arts.
  • Moderator: Daniel McNeil

Friday, February 28, 2014 at 4:00pm to 7:00pm

Rosati Room 300, Richardson Library


African and Black Diaspora Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences





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Daniel McNeil

Daniel McNeil 2/12/2014



Refreshments Available

Welcome and Introduction from Daniel McNeil, Ida B. Wells-Barnett Professor of African and Black Diaspora Studies, DePaul University


George Elliott Clarke, "'Italicized' Black Macho 'Cool' in Tarantino's Django Unchained and Perry Henzell's The Harder They Come, or the Intertext as Miscegenation."

Like others, African-American filmmaker Spike Lee criticized Quentin Tarantino's film, Django Unchained (2012), as a "disrespectful" fantasy, noting that "American slavery was not a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western." Yet, Lee seems oblivious to Tarantino's production, not of "Spaghetti Western," per se, but of a "Blaxploitation Spaghetti Western," one that works self-consciously to produce a Black Macho hero-liberator, with a white sidekick, "Dr. King," who is every bit a proponent of violence as his famous African-American namesake was not. Moreover, Tarantino pays homage slyly to a "Blaxpolitation" classic, The Harder They Come (1972), a Jamaican film, directed by Perry Henzell, that is itself informed extensively by the Italian film Django (1966), directed by Sergio Corbucci. Latin-imagined concepts of rebel or revolutionary or heroic conduct thus serve to influence both a Jamaican and an Italian-American film directors' visions of "Black Macho" heroism that, in the case of Tarantino, is also — arguably — a projection of the "cool" and "heroic" persona of President Barack Obama.

Jasmine Nichole Cobb, “Compared to What? ‘Reel’ Slavery & Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years”

This talk explores historical veracity in distinct productions of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years A Slave — directed by Gordon Parks and Steve McQueen — in order to consider the role of violence and the representation of Black women in “verifiable” accounts of slavery on screen.


Refreshment Break


Armond White, “Race Hype in the Obama Era”

This talk examines the race hype of recent films that distort survival and civil rights agendas — and movie responses, too.

Discussant: Charles Coleman

Roundtable Discussion with Armond White, Charles Coleman, George Elliott Clarke, Jasmine Nichole Cobb, and Daniel McNeil

Please contact dmcneil2@depaul.edu for further information about the event

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