American Denial (2015) dir. Llewellyn Smith et al.




Consider America: The preponderance of evidence indicates that the structural domination of whites over people of color upon which the country was founded and built continues to subsist, albeit completely at odds with the nation’s credos of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity. American Denial examines the fallacious reconciliation of belief and praxis while challenging its viewers to take on the morass that comprises its diagnostic focus.

The production of American Denial began four years ago, but its recent release and distribution couldn’t be more pertinent to the zeitgeist now spreading across metropolitan America, brought on in part by the condensation of the Black Lives Matter movement and the increased media coverage of, and popular response to, state violence against black and disenfranchised Americans. The ITVS-series documentary homes in on Gunnar Myrdal’s 1944 study An American Dilemma, a Carnegie-funded project undertaken in tandem with such important American reformers as political scientist Ralph Bunche. A distinguished cast of scholars including Michelle Alexander (author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness), john a. powell, James Sidanius, Danielle S. Allen, and Vincent Brown underlines the irrefutable continuity of past and present in this country, pairing theory with firsthand accounts while shoring up the film’s multidisciplinary fluidity.

By framing the catalysis of Gunnar Myrdal’s study with the brass tacks of the sociologist’s personal life, American Denial prescribes the critical posture incumbent on proponents of meaningful social change. As co-director Llewellyn Smith pointed out at a screening of his film earlier this year, these issues of reform must first be considered on a more personal, visceral scale: “At some level these aren’t legal questions. At some level it’s about what we believe about equality. How do we live it?” Don’t miss the opportunity to sit in on the conversation with Llewellyn Smith at the MFA this Thursday.

screening info

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