More a eulogy than a biography, this hour-long video documentary celebrating Marlon Riggs is riveting in its second half--following the trailblazing documentarian as he battles AIDS while working on his final project, Black Is...Black Ain't. The home-movie feel of the cinema verite footage shot by Karen Everett and her crew adds urgency and intimacy to Riggs's private and public encounters. In the first half, Riggs's path is traced rather summarily: we learn about his idyllic childhood in Texas, his idols (Martin Luther King and Harriet Tubman), his first brushes with racism in Georgia, and his education at Harvard and Berkeley. The film also chronicles Riggs's relationship with his publicity-shy life partner Jack, a white electrical engineer, and the flap it caused in the late 80s, when members of the black gay community accused Riggs of Uncle Tomism. Everett, a former student of Riggs, highlights in an adoring tone his achievements as a filmmaker and a spokesman against racism and homophobia (Tongues Untied, his 1989 public-TV documentary on the American black gay experience, was condemned by conservatives during the Bush administration). Unfortunately, she doesn't delve very deeply into his art or convictions. Her polemics against the right wing seem out of context and aren't nearly as compelling as the interviews with Riggs interspersed throughout the video. In offering informative glimpses into a remarkable life cut short, this video serves as a companion piece to Riggs's own work, which ranks among the most thought-provoking and genuinely radical in personal journalism. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday and Saturday, February 7 and 8, 7:00 and 9:00, and Sunday, February 9, 5:30 and 7:30, 773-281-4114. --Ted Shen
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.