Tagged Movies

Bay Area Native Hosts “Wedding Day” on TNT


By Sandra Varner


Dreams really do come true.

From humble beginnings to soaring above and beyond achieving her wildest dreams, Los Angeles-based, renowned wedding and event producer and designer Diann Valentine continues to turn fantasy into reality.  

This vivacious, innovative mastermind gives deserving couples the wedding of their dreams as the host of Mark Burnett’s highly anticipated TNT series, “Wedding Day.”  

Diann Valentine

Diann Valentine



Sought-after and admired, Valentine is the creative genius behind the jaw dropping weddings of Usher, Toni Braxton, Kelis, Lela Rochon and Boyz II Men crooner Shawn Stockman just to name a few.

Born in Oakland to a contractor father and mother who were both savvy real estate entrepreneurs, Valentine has always been pushed to settle for nothing less than her dreams.  The self-confessed “daddy’s girl,” credits much of her success to her father who always told her that she is “smart, beautiful and can do whatever [she wants] to do;” and her mother whose advice has never failed her, “when in doubt, pray,” two mottos that continue to guide her life.  

While attending Oakland’s Skyline High School, the overachieving Valentine was part of the debate team, active in student government, a school representative for the Oakland School District, and asked – for the first time ever – by her cousin to plan her big day.  Honored by and excited for the opportunity, Valentine got to work.  

She not only enjoyed the excitement and chaos of planning her cousin’s wedding; but found herself really good at it, too.  Not wanting to give up a good thing, Valentine formed her own wedding planning company called Memories, before she even had her high school diploma.

After graduation, Valentine went on to attend college at California State University, Hayward Campus, graduating with a B.S. degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing.  Throughout college, Valentine continued to prosper with Memories and through word of mouth, was hired by the Bay Area’s elite to plan their weddings and events.  

Her first celebrity wedding was for actress Lela Rochon (Any Given Sunday, Waiting To Exhale) to director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Shooter).  

All aspects of the wedding, from picking the linens to the final dance, were covered by the style and trendsetting bible, InStyle, which solidified Valentine as the expert of all things wedding.  Suddenly, hers opinion mattered to the vastly growing industry of wedding planning and she was now the “it girl” of the business.

Firmly entrenched, D. R. Valentine & Associates, Inc. was born and her reputation expanded.    Valentine’s dinner parties were featured in Essence Magazine and InStyle and sought-after by some of the biggest names in entertainment.

Valentine  will host “Wedding Day,” the newest lovechild of Mark Burnett, the mastermind behind the runaway hit series “Survivor” and “The Apprentice.”  Each episode of “Wedding Day” features Valentine and a team of dream makers, including famed food expert Alan Dunn, making the wedding day dreams of a deserving couple go from fantasy to reality.  

The show takes the wedding plans of the couple and throws limitations out the window as they seek good-hearted volunteers and tap into their creative craniums to really make the big day, truly magical.  

I have seen Valentine’s career soar having known her since the mid-90s; recently, we spoke about this dream of a lifetime opportunity.  Read the full interview at www.Talk2SV.com

DVD Tribute to Stanley “Tookie” Williams

By Jesse Douglas Allen-Taylor

If Crips gang co-founder and five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Stanley “Tookie” Williams had not been executed by the State of California, could he have made a difference in calming troubled inner city neighborhoods and turning the country’s gangsta youth away from street violence and towards a more positive, productive path?
The question can never be answered, of course, but longtime Williams supporter and political-social activist and writer Barbara Becnel of Richmond keeps pushing us to continue asking it, as well as to continue the work Williams began after his conversion from gangsta to gang peace and street violence prevention while he was incarcerated on San Quentin’s Death Row.
Becnel’s latest project is a powerful and poignant hour-long documentary on the events surrounding Williams’ execution-”Tribute: Stanley Tookie Williams”-now available both in DVD and for showing at large venues.
The documentary is not a biography of Williams, but is an account of the events immediately preceding and following his execution. In fact, Williams himself only appears as something of a spirit-vision, never in motion but only as a series of mostly-black-and-white montage photographs, speaking only once, like a ghostly echo, at the film’s end.
The effect is like having just missed an earthquake or a lightning bolt striking a tree in the front yard, or a meteor blazing into the atmosphere across the night sky, and then sitting and listening to a group telling you about the experience.
“Tribute” switches back and forth in random order between three events-the vigil outside the grounds of San Quentin on the night of Williams’ execution in December of 2005, his funeral services, and a staged re-enactment of his execution held at Berkeley’s Black Repertory Theater on the first anniversary of his death.
Of the three events, the staged re-enactment is the weakest. By many witness accounts, Williams’ execution was botched, with the attending nurse unable at first to find a vein amidst Williams’ powerful arm muscles, and Williams later appearing to violently shake and suffer far longer than the swift passing of sentence the State of California contends. In all, the execution took 35 minutes to complete. The Black Rep re-enactment fails to capture what must have been the horror of those long moments.
But that is more than made up from the live footage of speakers at the San Quentin vigil and the Los Angeles funeral-the vigil in grainy black and white, the funeral in feature-length movie quality color. The funeral footage includes excerpts from a speech by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and a eulogy by the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, who called Williams “the patron saint of all those struggling in gang life.”
But more powerful-if that seems possible-are the remarks by film producer Rudy Langlais, who witnessed Williams’ execution and recounts in quiet, understated tones both the execution itself and Williams’ last meeting with a small group of supporters-including Becnel-in his cell six hours before his death. Also included is footage of a poem read by rapper Snoop Dogg at the funeral, who credited Williams with turning him away from the gangsta life, and who breaks down in tears before its ending.
“TRIBUTE: Stanley Tookie Williams” can be purchased through the Stanley Tookie Williams Legacy Network at http://www.stwlegacy.net/. The website also includes a trailer on the movie, as well as information on where and when the movie will be shown.

Chris Rock’s “Good Hair” Gets Movie Deal

By Sandra Varner

According to reports from The Hollywood Reporter, “Good Hair,” the HBO Films documentary, which won a special jury prize when it premiered at Sundance in January, looks at hair culture in the black community. Roadside Attractions is set to release the film theatrically in the fall.

Chris Rock

Chris Rock

“I’m very happy to be working with the good people at Roadside Attractions,” Rock said. “I loved the job they did with ‘Super Size Me’ and hope we can have similar success.”
Rock produced and co-wrote “Hair,” and Jeff Stilson directed. The doc is a travelogue that explores the way hairstyles affect the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships and self-esteem of Black people. Ice-T, Nia Long, Paul Mooney, Raven Symone, Maya Angelou and Rev. Al Sharpton share on-camera stories and observations.
Currently, Rock is filming “Death at a Funeral,” which he co-wrote and stars in. He also has “Grown Ups” in production with Adam Sandler.

Nauturi Au Naturel

Naturi Naughton:The Notorious Interview

By Kam Williams

Naturi Cora Maria Naughton was born on May 20, 1984 in East Orange, New Jersey where she started singing in the choir at New Hope Baptist Church at just 5 years of age. She turned pro by 14, when she became a member of the girl band 3LW. The group soon signed with Sony/Epic Records and went on a nationwide tour while their debut album, entitled “3LW,” went platinum, selling 1.3 million copies.

Away from the entertainment business, Naturi always remained an honor student, attending Seton Hall University where she majored in Political Science until her career became too demanding. Just before her junior year, she joined the Broadway production of Hairspray as Little Inez. As gifted as gorgeous newcomer may be, she remains humble and grateful to God for her blessings, and praises her parents for supporting her dreams and for raising her with so much love, encouragement, and faith.

Here, Naturi talks about her performance as Lil’ Kim in the much-anticipated motion picture, Notorious, a bio-pic about the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Christopher Wallace). In addition, she recently landed a lead role in the re-make of the screen version of Fame, the 1980 musical revolving around students at the New York Academy of Performing Arts. Read more

Ethiopian Immigrant Adjusts to Israel in Coming-of-Age Tale on DVD

Live and Become
(Va, Vis et Deviens)
DVD Review by Kam Williams
9 year-old Schlomo (Sirak Sabahat) ended up in Israel in 1985 as part of Operation Moses, a humanitarian airlift of about 8,000 Ethiopian Jews fleeing religious persecution. The only thing wrong with this picture is that he didn’t deserve to exercise any right of return like his fellow refugees, given that he was actually a Christian whose starving mother had him take the place of a deceased child.

Nonetheless, upon his arrival in Tel Aviv, he is presumed to be a Jewish orphan by the couple who adopt him, Yoram (Roschdy Zem) and Yael Harrari (Yael Abecassis). While hiding the fact that he is neither Jewish nor orphaned, Schlomo does his best to adapt to the culture and customs of his new homeland.

However, he soon finds that even if he were Jewish, most white Israelis seem to have a problem with his skin color, and don’t real consider him one of the Chosen People. This proves particularly challenging when he hits puberty and takes an interest in girls, especially Sarah (Roni Hadar), whose racist father doesn’t want his daughter dating a black kid. Read more

Langella, Jolie, Ledger & Davis Honored By Film Critics

By Kam Williams

melvinvanpeebles.jpgThe African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) has named “The Dark Knight” as the Best Picture of 2008.

Directed and co-written by Christopher Nolan, the Warner Bros. Pictures release captured a majority vote by the organization, which is comprised of African-American media professionals from across the nation.

Frank Langella was selected as Best Actor 2008 for “Frost/Nixon.”  Angelina Jolie earned AAFCA recognition as Best Actress 2008 for “The Changeling.”

“Although our organization gives specific consideration to work by artists of African descent, the performances of Mr. Langella and Ms. Jolie are undeniably transcendent and deserving of our recognition,” remarked AAFCA outgoing President Gil Robertson, who will assume the role of East Coast Vice President in 2009. Read more

Eartha Kitt, "Santa's Baby", succumbs to cancer

By Conway Jones

Diva, legend and international celebrity Eartha Kitt has died at age 81.

With her curvaceous frame and unabashed vocal come-ons, she was among the first widely known African-American sex symbols. She was proclaimed as “the most exciting woman alive” by Orson Welles in the early ’50s.

Kitt was the illegitimate child of a black Cherokee sharecropper mother and a white man.  She worked in cotton fields and lived with a black family. She was sent to live in Harlem with an aunt at age 8.

By her early teenage years she was working in a factory and sleeping in subways and on the roofs of unlocked buildings. Read more

Morgan Freeman Gets Kennedy Center Award

By Conway Jones

Actor Morgan Freeman received the Kennedy Center Award at the 31st annual national celebration of the arts along with five other notables this past Saturday in Washington, DC.

The Kennedy Center honors recognize individuals who have had an impact on American culture through the performing arts, part of the living memorial to President John F. Kennedy.

The awards were presented Saturday night at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She addressed each honoree, beginning with Freeman, who once played the president in the movie “Deep Impact.”

“I know that when you played the African-American president of the United States, most people thought that would happen when a comet hit,” Rice said. “But wonder of wonders, fiction has become true.”

Freeman, 71, who starred this year in “The Dark Knight,” suffered broken bones in a Mississippi car crash in August. The Oscar-winning actor said he was still recovering from nerve damage in his left hand. Read more

Bishop Jakes “Sets It Off” in Oakland

tdjakes.jpgOn Friday, Nov. 14, many welcomed Bishop T.D. Jakes to Oakland.  His first stop was the Jack London Square Cinema to promote his new movie, “Not Easily Broken”which is scheduled to come out in  January.

Later on that evening, Bishop Jakes was hosted by Bishop Ernestine Reems-Dickerson and the Center of Hope family.  Many were blessed by the word and the  signing of his new book, Before You Do”.  Over 3000 people were blessed by the word titled “Set it Off”!

Pastors Brondon and Maria Reems were the organizers of this powerful worship service.

“A Day Late In Oakland”

ZacharyStauffer.jpg“A Day Late in Oakland”, Zachary Stauffer’s  master’s film thesis produced over the past year at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, will have it’s world premier this week at the Mill Valley Film Festival.
It’s a half-hour documentary about the 2007 murder of Oakland Post  editor Chauncey Bailey and the evolution of Your Black Muslim Bakery, the organization implicated in Bailey’s killing.
The film is paired with a few other short documentaries by Bay Area filmmakers in a program called “The Home in My Heart.”
Here are the screening times:
Friday, Oct. 3, 9:00 pm at the San Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.
Saturday, Oct. 11, 4:15 at the Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley. Read more

Black Directors Celebrate Film Diversity

By Kwan Booth

The San Francisco Black Film Festival kicked off it’s latest installment on Wednesday June 4. The festival, now in it’s 10th year, has become one of the preeminent destinations for Black filmmakers around the country, showcasing over 100 films from the United States and around the world over a 10 day period. This year’s festival, which runs June 5-8 and 11-15 includes documentaries, features and short films that explore the various attitudes and aesthetics of the African Diaspora. The Post talked to 4 directors about their work and inspiration. Click the links below to read the interviews and watch footage from each film.



“Fillmo’”, Nilja Mumin, Director, Screening Sunday June 8, 2pm

‘Fillmo’ takes a look at the current processes of gentrification and redevelopment within the once thriving area of the Western Addition in San Francisco.



“Black August”, Tcinque Sampson, Director, Screening Friday, June 13, 6pm

Political Prisoner George Lester Jackson’s (Gary Dourdan, CSI) short life became a flashpoint for revolution, igniting the bloodiest riot in San Quentin’s history. In a story ripped from history’s headlines, Black August traces Jackson’s spiritual journey and violent fate, from being sent up on a one-year-to-life sentence for robbing a gas station of $71 to galvanizing the Black Guerrilla Family with his incendiary book of letters, Soledad Brother, to the fierce August day when his younger brother Jonathan shocked the world by taking a California courtroom hostage to protest Jackson’s upcoming trial.

“Equinox: The Movement”, Baayan Bakari, Director, Screening Saturday, June 14, 4:45

Set in Oakland, CA, Equinox is the story of a boy’s tumultuous journey toward manhood. 18-year-old Malachi Cross embarks upon this journey as he joins a powerful ‘rites of passage’ program to teach him the lessons of true strength, courage, and power that his dysfunctional family and emasculated father can’t give him. The story is complicated as his high school peers plan to take over the local radio station “for the people,” his girlfriend hates the new Malachi, and things at home take a turn for the worse, putting him to the test.

“The Revolution”,Trevor Parham, Producer/Writer, Screening, Friday June 6, 7:30

A music video for the Napalm Clique, highlighting the social and educational value of hip hop.

Celebrity Profiles: Fools Gold

fools-gold.jpgFOOL’s GOLD in Theaters on Feb. 8th

Sandra Varner’s Celebrity Profiles

Kate Hudson (Skeleton Key, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) and Matthew McConaughey (Amistad, A Time to Kill, We Are Marshall) re-team in the romantic comedy, FOOL’S GOLD, opening in theaters on Feb. 8th.

In this film, the two (Hudson as “Tess” Finnegan,” McConaughey as Ben “Finn” Finnegan) are a divorcing couple whose egos clash albeit they make a concerted effort to dig up buried treasure on the ocean’s floor.

Filmed in Australia, the story centers on the legendary 18th century Queen’s Dowry, chests packed with exotic treasure that was lost at sea in 1715. The wildly hunt sends the squabbling couple –along with several bumbling cohorts– on a water-adventure fiasco, finally getting the gold. Read more

Personal Pick: David E. Talbert’s First Sunday


Ice Cube (left) and Tracy Morgan star in “First Sunday”

Sandra Varner’s Celebrity Profiles

Hollywood embraces the church community in David E. Talbert’s First Sunday, opening in theatres on January 11th.
What happens when a down-on-his-luck single father fails repeatedly and the one thing that he’s good at is threatened? Durell (Ice Cube) may not win an award for parenting, but there’s no doubt he loves his son, Durell, Jr., and will do anything for him.
Young Durell’s mother, Omunique (Regina Hall) wants a better life and is tired of doing hair at the salon and at home to make ends meet. Plus, she needs over $17,000 to keep the shop open if they are to stay in Baltimore. Frustrated, broke and tired of big Durell’s empty promises, she plans to move to Atlanta.
Taking his son away would destroy Durell, emotionally. Read more

Part Three: Plato Reviews The Great Debaters

by Marvin X
This is a coming of age film of the North American African Nation. It is about a people regaining their consciousness after decades of obscurity. This film puts them back properly in the time and space of history, for they present themselves as a civilized people, the children and the adults, thus making it a movie on the goodness of life and the power of consciousness to reveal the very best of a people, thus regaining their self respect before the world community. It shows the intelligence and leadership of American African youth– of adult leadership and intelligence as well, including the radical activist tradition in North American African History.
Every North American African, every Pan African, can be proud that Oprah Winfrey and Denzil Washington produced this. Perhaps we have reached that moment in time when our people have no choice but to be their true selves, their best selves.
For the first time in a long time, we see the intellectual genius of a people during the turbulent 1930s. This should be a lesson to all North American Africans that we have a dignified liberation tradition to uphold, thus we cannot sink into the morass of today, but in the manner of this film, take a great leap forward into dignity, respect, and intelligent behavior.
As a people, we must be proud of the young performers in this drama. They have exhibited the very best in us as human beings, as African people. The children teach us and themselves in this movie. They teach us the worst in human consciousness with their remarks on a lynching.
They repeatedly show us the power of using the black mind for intellectual dexterity rather than barbarity and expressions of animal consciousness.
But imagine, so-called Negroes having an intellectual debate, even a team of debaters with a coach who apprises them on the Willie Lynch syndrome, who tells them straight out white supremacy has them insane, thus confirming the sister who says it is not white supremacy but white lunacy, thus we are victims of an insanity far beyond the economic implications. I love James Baldwin’s quote, “It’s a wonder we haven’t all gone stark raving mad,” dealing with white supremacy for four hundred years. The Debaters is a hopeful sign that we can and shall overcome.

Blacktrospective 2007: The Best and Worst in Film

Tasha Smith (as Angela), Janet Jackson (as Patricia) and Sharon Leal (as Dianne) in Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married?” Photo Credit: Alfeo Dixon

By Kam Williams

With two excellent offerings in Why Did I Get Married? and Daddy’s Little Girls, 2007 truly belonged to Tyler Perry. Not only did he make the two best black ensemble pictures released by a big studio, but his films also boasted some of the year’s most memorable performances in both the male (Perry and Idris Elba) and female (Tasha Smith, Gabrielle Union and Jill Scott) acting categories.
I’m sure many readers might want an explanation for the relatively-poor showings of Denzel’s box-office hits American Gangster and The Great Debaters. Well, the former was not much more than a big budget variation on the gangsploitation genre in this critic’s estimation. Meanwhile, the latter did feature several inspired performances, but was simply too riddled with comical anachronisms and historical inaccuracies to take seriously.
I hope you take the time to check out some of the lesser-known independent film and documentaries, as you will be well rewarded for investing a couple of hours in labors of love like Banished, What Black Men Think and Diary of a Tired Black Man. Read more