One thing this Sundance virgin has learned from my brief time here: Things move pretty fast. Just yesterday Variety reported that HBO had acquired The Black List, the documentary collaboration between former New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell and photographer/filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, and by the time I was sitting in the press screening at the Yarrow Hotel this morning, the HBO logo was in place in the film’s opening credits. (Granted, an insider did tell us that the movie had been bought just before the fest began yesterday…but still.)
In the film, 22 black icons from all fields — from Pulitzer winner Toni Morrison to comedian Chris Rock to former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell — share anecdotes about their experiences being black in America and how those experiences shaped their careers. Highlights: Slash (who is half black) describing the tension between himself and his bandmates in Guns N’ Roses after he expressed discomfort over Axl Rose’s lyrics in "One in a Million" (specifically its use of the n-word); Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr. expressing his crushing disappointment that he "didn’t get a phone call for a year and a half" after his Best Supporting Actor Oscar win; and Chris Rock (pictured, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) explaining his off-kilter definition of true equality (when black people can "suck" just as bad as white people and still be accepted). But who got the biggest laugh at the press screening I attended? Vernon Jordan, who talked about trying to decide as a young man whether he’d go into law or the ministry: "In the process, I discovered sin. And I liked it."