Vampires Vs. The Bronx is a comedy-horror hybrid that pokes fun at the extinction and displacement many diasporic communities of color are facing right now in major cities by corporate forces. It follows a group of teenagers of Caribbean descent who are forced to protect their neighborhood in the Bronx when a group of vampires/gentrifiers invades.
ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT (Deadline: 10/12 before the class)
1. Watch the film Vampires Vs. The Bronx (Osmany Rodriguez, 2020) on Netflix
2. In the comment section down below answer ONE of the following prompts (2oo-words minimum).
An allegory is a narrative in which a character, place, or event is used to deliver a broader socio-political message about real-world issues and occurrences. Discuss the allegory of corporate gentrifiers as vampires.
Refer to specific characters, scenes, and/or the plot.
How the movie proposes a trans-Caribbean unity to “save the neighborhood” and protect the needs of the Bronx residents.
Analyze how Vampires vs the Bronx flip common horror mise en scene elements (make-up; wardrobe; special effects; lighting; props) to highlight the contrasting presence of gentrifiers and as comedy tools.
Respectfully interactwith ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Vampires Vs The Bronx do you want to bring into the discussion?
What topics from the films and critical texts we have discussed during the first half of the semester would you like to see included in the midterm? Would you like to propose a question?
When Does Resistance Begin? Queer Immigrant and U.S-Born Latino Youth, Identity and the Infrapolitics of the Street
In her essay, associate professor, urban ethnographer, and educational researcher, Cindy Cruz examines the small and deliberate practices of queer youth toward their caseworkers, security guards, and each other. She proposes that observing these practices aids to expand the notion of resistance. She recognizes resistance when youth refuse the logic of domination and share knowledge in ways that suggest new kinds of socialities. She argues that these new socialities have the possibility to become spaces where queer youth can practice new sensibilities and ways of being as they negotiate through the often hostile worlds they traverse. (289-90)
.Resistance- it happens when youth say no to the alternatives they are offered in worlds where they are brutalized and oppressed or to the narratives that emerge within these oppressive spaces. Queer Latino youth might resist using the smallest of gestures. (291)
.Infrapolitics-defined as the dissident offstage practices that resist the everyday degradations and experiences of exclusion that make up the daily fabric of LGBTQ+ Latinx youth lives. (294)
.Resistant socialities- off-stage (non-institutional) practices of queer Latinx youth; breathing spaces, however tight, for youth to reclaim energy, regroup, and create safe space; small deviation from the logic of oppression. (292)
.Hidden transcript- the space of rest and leisure, a place to gossip about your caseworkers, teachers, and the ever-present security guards in Spanish, Spanglish, or English. It is also a place for youth to exchange valuable information about how institutions, organizations, worksites, schools, and youth centers, work (297)
Oral Presentations on Gun Hill Road and “When Does Resistance Begin?”
Think of all the different spaces Vanessa, the young trans woman presented in Gun Hill Road, “traverse.” How do these spaces differentiate? In which ones she feels safe? In which spaces she engages in resistance?
The socialities of resistance that youth develop for survival are vital spaces where the potential to learn new ways of negotiating these hostile worlds can also become places to learn multiple sensibilities and new ways of engaging their world(s) that offer liberatory possibilities. When queer Latino street youth move away or refuse to continue to engage with abusive partners, share technology and vital digital information with each other or question the pedagogy of research, I argue that it is here that resistance begins. (317)
Instead of staying silent, invisible, passive, youth talk back, share knowledge, and practice ways of knowing and being that have the potential for other kinds of emancipatory praxis. (318)
In this film written and directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green, a Puerto Rican ex-con, Enrique, returns home to the Bronx to find that his wife Angela has had an affair while he was away, and his child is exploring a gender transformation that tests his notions of masculinity, gender, sexuality, and the bonds of family.
ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT (Deadline: 10/5 before the class)
2. In the comment section down below answer ONE of the following prompts (175-words minimum).
In Gun Hill Road the different characters have their own distinct understanding of gender and sexuality. How the film addresses with nuance the topics of machismo, trans lives, and role definition within a Nuyorican family and Latinx community?
Discuss how performance poetry and her chosen queer community helps Vanessa navigate her gender transformation while she faces transphobia and bigoted views?
How lighting and the use of close-ups in this scene enhance the emotional struggles and ties of the different characters? Discuss both mise en scene elements and content.
Respectfully interactwith ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Gun Hill Road do you want to bring to the discussion?
Filmmaker and Caribbean and Puerto Rican Studies scholar, Frances Negrón-Muntaner, reads Basquiat through a “popular boricua logic.” She argues that contrary to general belief Basquiat’s actions were “not irrational.” She considers that they “bear a great resemblance to Puerto Rican laborers’ resistance to capital’s demands” In specific she identifies that similarily his “sense of personal dignity seemed to clash often with the requirements of the work discipline.” (121-22)
What do you think Negrón-Muntaner is trying to convey?
Few figures from this—or indeed any—era embody the torment of becoming a commodity as a racialized subject more intensely than the Brooklyn-born son of a Haitian accountant and a Puerto Rican art lover, the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat.
As with hip hop culture in general (to which he had an ambivalent relationship), Basquiat has been primarily studied as an African American artist. Calling him “the most financially successful Black visual artist in history” and the integrator of “African-American culture,” the majority of critics who have to date reflected on Basquiat generally ignore the potential significance of the artist’s Caribbean roots for his production and the construction of his Star persona.
Given Basquiat’s constitutive relation to boricua culture and growing importance as a painter, it is even more mystifying that Puerto Rican critics have to date ignored him.
This oversight reveals how “black” symbolic practices and artists (with the notable exception of musicians) are often construed as outside the pale of boricua culture due to their “low” (raced) identity and notorious “American” tendencies. (115-16)
How do these statements relate to previous discussions in our class in relationship to the erasure and neglect of Afro-Latinx people?
Why Negrón-Muntaner place a lot of importance on his collaborative work with Al Diaz as SAMO?
A collaborative endeavor between Basquiat and his school friend Al Diaz, SAMO anticipated Basquiat’s career on various levels. Not only did their tags allude to the “same old racism,” these were strategically placed outside art galleries or on the pathways of influential people, even if the writing entailed a critique of greed and white privilege. (117)
Consistent with alternative definitions of what is worthy and how to measure value, Basquiat rejected regulated forms of labor …True to SAMO, Basquiat craved attention on his own, non-normative terms, and dismissed “prevailing definitions of property and propriety.” Complementarily, Basquiat resisted spatial stability, living as a drifter for most of his life. (118)
These practices of flight were not the result of lacking a home, but articulated a desire to be free from subjecting structures, be they school, family, or capital. (119)
Basquiat’s erratic behavior toward people in positions to assist him was noted as a symptom of individual mental instability, yet his tense relation ship with his body as an instrument of labor is common to Puerto Ricans and African Americans, as both groups have experienced different forms of labor coercion, including slavery, colonial subjection, undesirable work, and even the inability to obtain work. (120)
.Why Negrón Muntaner sees “Basquiat’s paintings [as] a significant canvas for bilingual written expression and an Afro-Latino diasporic cultural competence?” (137-8)
.How the topics of colonization, slave labor, the Spanish conquest, and religious oppression are presented in Basquiat’s work? (138-9)
Minutes 1:04:15- 1:06:40
Contrary to most critics, who see in Basquiat either a primitive or a primitivist, the artist demonstrates that U.S. culture is not homogeneous, coherent, or “white.” In his paintings, assembled from disparate physical and symbolic materials, Basquiat’s chaotic synthesis and the world it brings forth resemble the way that Puerto Rican and other migrant Caribbean identities are made up of seemingly opposite elements in the ruins of modern utopias (capitalist or communist).
Centered on a rare interview that director and friend Tamra Davis shot with Jean-Michel Basquiat more than 30 years ago, this documentary chronicles the meteoric rise and fall of the young Afro Caribbean artist. The film looks at how in the marginalized New York City of the 70s with Puerto Rican artist Al Diaz, Basquiat covered the city with the graffiti tag and writings ‘SAMO.’ In 1981 he put paint on canvas for the first time, and by 1983 he was an artist with global status. He achieved critical and commercial success, though he was constantly confronted by racism from some of his peers and art institutions.
ASYNCHRONOUS BLOG POST (Deadline: 9/28 before the class)
2. In the comment section down below answer ONE of the following prompts (2o0-words minimum).
Discuss the integration and dialogues of Afro-diasporic, Puerto Rican, Haitian, and/or Latinx arts within Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work by referencing scenes or sequences from the documentary.
Compare Basquiat’s beginnings as a downtown interdisciplinary artist with his eventual experiences as an Afro-diasporic painter in the predominantly white-owned art market.
Select and analyze the function of two different documentary techniques in Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (archival footage or images; Basquiat’s testimonies; interviews; montage; analysis of paintings; soundtrack). How do these techniques add nuance and complexity to the artist’s portrait?
Respectfully interactwith ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child do you want to bring into the discussion?
Before watching The Get Down and/or reading “Between Blackness and Latinidad in the Hip Hop Zone” did your conception of Hip Hop included other cultural groups besides African-Americans? Why? Why not?
A Hip Hop Definition
Raquel Z. Rivera, Puerto Rican author of New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone, argues that “hip hop is most often historically defined in terms of music, visual arts (graffiti), and dance (breaking, popping, locking, rocking). Language, mannerisms, fashion, and other expressions of culture are considered by some to also be defining aspects of hip hop. Hip hop, like earlier cultural expressions, has in many senses served as a bridge between Puerto Ricans, other Latina/os, West Indians, and African Americans.” (354)
Davey D Cook, an African American who grew up during this time in the South Bronx, explains: “Hip Hop was multicultural in the sense that it was Blacks and Puerto Ricans who put this whole thing down. We lived next to each other and for the most part shared the same urban problems. We also shared the same legacy of exploitation, oppression, and colonization. (354)
(Watch from 33:40-40:55)
When New York Puerto Rican youngsters began participating alongside African Americans in the early development of MCing as a lyrical/musical style, they were not exactly “defecting” from Puerto Rican tradition. In terms of social function and aesthetics, Puerto Rican oral and musical styles can be invoked as precursors of MCing as much as African American ones.
Island musical traditions like plena, bomba, and música jíbara can be invoked just as easily among rap’s forebears. Verbal duels featuring boasting, trading insults, sexual innuendoes, and improvisation are common in all three. Like rap, they are notorious for historicizing everyday events.
What would breakbeats be without the decades-old influence of Puerto Rican and Cuban musical traditions on African Americans in New York City? Those timbales and conga solos that were the heart of so many breakbeats got into soul and funk records from Africa via the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. (357)
Oral/ Slide Presentation on The Get Down and the essay “Between Blackness and Latinidad in the Hip Hop Zone”
In her essay, “Between Blackness and Latinidad in the Hip Hop Zone,” Raquel Z. Rivera argues that the Puerto Rican input to Hip Hop has been depreciated or plainly erased because of ethnic and racial constructions in the U.S., the Caribbean, and Latin America. There is a marketing factor to the Puerto Rican exclusion. The U.S. music industry and the media centralized English-speaking African Americans over Puerto Ricans and Latinxs. But Rivera also posits that although conceived as multi-cultural and multi-racial, the Puerto Rican and Latinx identities (formed collectively,) tend to reject the African heritage while celebrating Europeanness. This social process has created a false cultural divide between African Americans and Puerto Ricans. (352)
In the mid-1980s, as graffiti and the “breakdancing” craze faded into the media background, hip hop music became commercial popular music and was thought of as almost exclusively African American. Back then [the 1980s], rap’s blackness was a big part of its commercial appeal. But it was not clear if Latina/os were a lighter version of black or not black at all. The industry gatekeepers were not often willing to take a risk by signing Latina/os. That is, until Latina/os, and particularly Boricuas, became a ghetto-tropical fad in the mid-1990s, and then it became trendy for Latina/os and non- Latina/os to include words in Spanish and references to Latina/os in rhymes and have Butta Pecan Rican mamis adorning videos. (355)
How The Get Down shows this joint Afro Diasporic cultural movement? Which characters represent better the cross-cultural dynamics of Hip Hop as describe by Raquel Z. Rivera?
Creator and the director of the pilot, Baz Luhrmann, and a team of collaborators -Catherine Martin, MC Nas, DJ Grandmaster Flash, playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, and hip-hop historian Nelson George – set The Get Down as a music-driven drama that documents the emergence of a new art form. Set in the late 1970s, when New York was at the brink of bankruptcy, the rise of hip-hop is told through the lives, art, music, and dance of a group of young people in the South Bronx.
ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT (Due on 9/21 before the class)
2. In the comment section down below answer ONE of the following prompts (200-word minimum).
Describe the different artistic engagements of intersecting Nuyorican and Black communities in the Bronx that led to the creation of Hip Hop culture? Refer to specific characters and scenes from the first episode of The Get Down.
Hip Hop parties became healing spaces to deal with the marginalization and turf wars in the Bronx. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Refer to the title of the episode and to specific scenes from the first episode of The Get Down
Analyze the elements of mise en scene in this scene
How does the director uses the setting, lighting, costumes, props, camera, and/or actor movements or positions to portrait Ezekiel’s potential as a poet/MC?
Respectfully interactwith ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about The Get Down do you want to bring into the discussion?
Have you seen similar disinvestment as the one presented in the documentary in your borough or neighborhood? What are some common signs of this urban marginalization?
.What are the central ideas of this writer, thinker, and/or filmmaker?
In the documentary Decade of Fire, Vivian Vásquez look at how during the 70s the systemic disenfranchisement of the Bronx as well as the criminalization of black, Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Latinx people contributed to the literal burning of the borough and further displacement of these historically marginalized communities. Using Vasquez’s account, the filmmakers also pay attention to the ways grassroots organizing led to an ongoing project of revitalization, cultural affirmation, and sustainability.
.Analyze one specific section of the film with an excerpt by your assigned author that best communicates what you identified in the question above. What analogies and critical connections can you establish between the audiovisual work and the essay?
Both Chang and the filmmakers bring evidence of how landlords benefitted from burning their own buildings to collect insurance money. They proposed that this type of corrupt economy went on for many years with no accountability of repercussions against those who destroyed and displaced whole communities in the South Bronx.
.Select one specific element of mise-en-scene (costume, lighting, camera frames or movements, sound, music, actors’ movements, or positions) and examine how this artistic choice enhances or adds nuance to the central concerns of the audiovisual piece.
A mise en scene element that stands out from the documentary is the use of maps with archival footage to demonstrate and see the scale of its arguments (see 12:00-13:40 / 42:00-43:00). In these two sections we see on one side how redlining was part of a concerted effort of the state, the city, developers, and insurance companies to neglect black and Latinx communities, and on the other side, the amount of money made from the fires.
.Pose a critical question about the audiovisual piece or the essay to the group.
What were some of the community initiatives against the “mathematics of destruction” (Chang 14) that stood out for you? How the current wave of gentrification in the Bronx is connected to this story? (01:08:00-01:11:00)
Throughout the 1970s, fires consumed the South Bronx. Black and Puerto Rican residents were blamed for the devastation even as they battled daily to save their neighborhoods. In DECADE OF FIRE, Bronx-born Vivian Vázquez Irizarry pursues the truth surrounding the fires – uncovering policies of racism and neglect that still shape our cities, and offering hope to communities on the brink today.
ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT (Due on 9/14 before the class)
1. Watch the documentary Decade of Fire (Gretchen Hildebran and Vivian Vásquez, 2018)
2. In the comment section down below answer ONE of the following prompts (2o0-words minimum).
Discuss specific policies (laws), political or corporate decisions, and/or examples of media representation, that led to the neglect and extreme marginalization of the Bronx during the 1970s.
Refer to scenes and concrete issues presented by the filmmakers.
Elaborate on some of the grassroots efforts and community activism that ended the fires.
Refer to scenes, concrete actions, and solutions presented by the filmmakers.
Select and analyze the function of two different documentary techniques in Decade of Fire (voice-over narration; archival footage or images; interviews; montage; animation). How do these techniques help to convey the results of the filmmakers’ historical research?
Respectfully interactwith ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Decade of Fire do you want to bring into the discussion?
Mise-en-scene, a French term meaning “place on stage,” refers to all the visual elements of a theatrical production within the space provided by the stage itself. Filmmakers have borrowed the term and have extended the meaning to suggest the control the director and his collaborators have over the visual elements within the film image. Four aspects of mise-en-scene which overlap the physical art of the theatre are setting, costume, lighting, and movement of figures and the camera. Control of these elements provides the director an opportunity to stage events and engage in visual storytelling.
Setting, as an important visual element of film, includes all that the viewer sees which informs time and place apart from costume.
Costume, or clothing and its accessories, is also an important visual element in film. Costume can serve to enhance the narrative, or story, for instance, by suggesting social position of characters.
Figure expression and movement are used by the director to support the narrative as well as help develop the thematic unity of a film.
Figure expression refers to the facial expressions and the posture of an actor, whereas figure movement refers to all other actions of the actor, including gestures.
Lighting, like the other aspects of mise-en-scene, is a tool used by the director to convey special meaning about a character or the narrative to the viewer. Lighting can help define the setting of a scene or accentuate the behavior of the figures in the film.
Camera Shots and Angles
What mise en scene elements Gregory Nava, the director of Selena, and his collaborators use to convey: a) Selena’s relatability (everydayness; b) social classes, elitism, and ethnic prejudices; c)Selena’s level of success within the music industry?