When I first saw the trailer for the new short film by filmmaker Wendy James called Savage, the first thing that came to mind was "Oh No! Not another white savior helps poor black people movie!'"
In fact I told the producer, Jasmyne Pope, that I think that our readers (including myself) are pretty sick of these films, but I was informed that, this was not the intention of James' film at all, but actually the opposite. It is a film that sets out to criticize and challenge that tired, old film cliche.
As James says herself, her film "takes a critical look at the ''white savior complex'' which we all know is alive and well in American cinema. Think about movies such as Dangerous Minds, The Blind Side, even the film Avatar. In the film Savage, we observe Sara Maris, an idealistic young white teacher (in a Brooklyn Bed-Stuy high school) , as she tries to optimistically ''save'' her black student, James. However, in this film we seek to question: who really is in need of saving? James never asks to be ´´saved´´. Might the white heroine actually have some prejudices and desires that should be scrutinized? The story we aim to tell with this film is a complex one, and we hope to promote discussion amongst our audience about White Privilege."
She went even farther to say that Savage is intended to be "a challenging piece. It’s about the way people perceive their world and their position in it. It’s also about the way this perception causes us to create boundaries for ourselves in our society, most specifically through categories of racial and class “otherness”. Sara’s perception of her own authority, both real and imaginary, affects every move she makes. In Savage, salvation is a strong theme. We’d like to challenge the viewer’s ideas of salvation and the “white saviour” trope. We highly agree with James Baldwin when he said, “salvation is a two-way street."
Well that's a relief, and I wish more films were made that set out to examine and take apart that worn out concept.
But frst, some backgorund on James herself (pictured below) who is an Afro-Latina, and who currently (and proudly) lives in the Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn neighborhood. A native of Los Angeles, she got her BFA in film at UCLA, and is currently working on her MFA in Film Directing at Columbia University. She's inspired by films made in the "neo-realist" style of post-war Italian directors such as Vittorio de Sica (Umberto D, The Bicycle Thief), Roberto Rossellini (Open City, Germany Year Zero), and the Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel, Amores Perros).
Currently there is an Indiegogo campiagn to raise $6,000 in 33 days to help pay for post-production and a few pick up shots. As James and her producer Pope say "as a couple of young black women making films, it hasn't been easy an easy road getting this film made, but we'll continue to strive to create meaningful and challenging work."
To contribite to their fundraising campaign go HERE.
Below is the trailer for the film.