Film Review: THROUGH A LENS DARKLY (directed by Thomas Allen Harris) 

Post image for Film Review: THROUGH A LENS DARKLY (directed by Thomas Allen Harris) 

by Jason Rohrer on October 13, 2014

in Film

A LIGHT ON THE DARK

Combining a pop history of black American photography with a glimpse at the director’s own family photo albums, Thomas Allen Harris’s Through a Lens Darkly manages to be both agenda-heavy and fairly entertaining. Like its credited inspiration, Deborah Willis’s book Reflections in Black, this film begins with the premise that to be black in America is to be denied a positive self-image. This is blamed largely on the fact that stereotype-free imagery is lacking in the culture generally; the movie is a nice primer on this point of view. Harris interviews or provides archive footage of all the right figures in the genre (Gordon Parks, Carrie Mae Weems), as well as some who are less impressive.

The work of Renee Cox, as seen in THROUGH A LENS DARKLY, a film by Thomas Allen Harris. A First Run Features Release.

Harris slickly documents the rise of 20th Century black self-awareness via not only art photography but the growth of photography as a source of domestic memorabilia. Musing on the total lack of snapshots in his father’s family, he wonders, “Was the burden of representation so great that they simply did not want to be seen?” It’s a good question, and if the film degenerates like so much political art into a celebration of an arguably underrepresented American experience, and spends rather more time showcasing the filmmaker’s friends and collaborators than the whole can gracefully support, there is still much to learn and appreciate here.

stills courtesy of First Run Features
poster photo by Lyle Ashton Harris (in collaboration with Thomas Allen Harris)

YO MAMA'S PIETA, by Renee Cox, as seen in THROUGH A LENS DARKLY, a film by Thomas Allen Harris. A First Run Features Release.Through a Lens Darkly
First Run Features
U.S.A. | 92 minutes | 2014
in scattered release
opens at the Laemmle Playhouse 7
in L.A. on October 14, 2014
for more info, visit:
Through a Lens Darkly‘s blog
and First Run Features

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