For Colored Girls

What we can say plainly, we say plainly. We don't mince words. We don't elaborate unnecessarily. At the core of each of us is the urge to understand and be understood, and we do not risk missing connection by muddying the waters of communication with vain linguistic and artistic flourishes. If we can say it, we say it.

Where then do poetry and dance and film and music and sculpture and painting fit into the communication mix? Why do we use meter and rhyme and movement and color and rhythm if we could just speak it plain? I'd argue that we make art because some things are just too complicated to spell out simply, or rather, art is sometimes the simplest and clearest way to say something.

In one respect, For Colored Girls says nothing clearly. The film communicates through poetry and dance and music and plot. In it's strongest moments, it is verse and image, expression and sound. It is implicit and suggestive, and all meaning slips through ones fingers like wind and rain.

In another respect though, For Colored Girls communicates as clearly as any film I've ever seen. Pain, heartache, sorrow, love, ambition, resolution, and compassion are displayed on the screen in bright purples and yellows and blues. Like a slap across the face or a hand softly laid upon ones shoulder, For Colored Girls leaves no doubt of its intentions.

The film follows the narratives of nine black women living in New York City whose lives intertwine in various ways. Though they each come from different worlds and socioeconomic statues, they hold in common their gender, race, and heartache. These three things bind them together.

Most of their heartache stems from their troubled relationships with the men in their lives. Men, in this film, are almost without exception despicable. (I say "almost" because there is one positive example of masculinity in the film.) That's not to say the women are left without fault in this film. For Colored Girls calls on them to take responsibility for part of the pain in their lives. Like I said, this film is complicated.

As a white male, I felt like I needed an interpreter for this film, like I was listening in on a conversation in another language about a subject I know very little about, but I did listen. I tried to humbly let the film express its angst to me. I tried to sit and feel what the film feels. I tried to find resonance in the film, but mostly, I tried to let the film find resonance in me. If the film were a person, I would have been simply letting her know I was there.

I think that's all For Colored Girls asks of its audience. Listen. Be. Perhaps pray. Acknowledge her pain. Allow her to communicate her struggles in the clearest way possible - in poetry, in dance, in color, in tears.

11/11/2010 5:00:00 AM
  • Evangelical
  • Reel Spirituality
  • gender
  • Race
  • Christianity
  • Elijah Davidson
    About Elijah Davidson
    Elijah Davidson is the Co-Director of Reel Spirituality at Fuller Seminary's Brehm Center for theology, arts and culture. Follow his reflections via Twitter, or at the Brehm Center blog and the Reel Spirituality website.