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By Merle Bertrand | May 11, 2004

Nine times out of ten, the best part about going to see a movie in the theater is watching the previews. It should come as no surprise then, that watching a promo tape from a distribution company is usually at least somewhat intriguing and entertaining. Such is the case with Quickband Networks’ promo tape for “Afocentricity.”
Billed as “a ground-breaking collection of visionary short films by African American directors,” “Afrocentricity” offers up a diverse assortment of shorts along with interviews with the filmmakers themselves. Many of these films, such as Jeff Byrd’s somber post-bus station shoot-out drama “Breakdown,” Niva Dorell’s gritty and compelling “Kings,” Lee Davis’ unpredictable police drama “A Gut Feeling,” and Chuck Wilson’s “Breakfast at Ben’s” not surprisingly have a strong urban theme.
Yet, nearly half the films included here cover different ground. Tanya Boyd’s touching “The Gift” tells the true story of a blind sculptor who fears regaining his sight through surgery. Muhammida El Muhajir examines Hip Hop around the world in the documentary “Hip Hop, The New World Order.” Finally, there’s the short that launched a Budweiser ad campaign and made “Whazzup?!” a nationwide water cooler buzz word: Charles Stone III’s remarkably silly yet genuinely engaging “true.”
While it’s always difficult to extrapolate the quality of a film from its preview, the films included on this promo tape show enough promise to justify their inclusion. One further observation: Throughout the accompanying interviews and commentary, the names Spike Lee and John Singleton cropped up repeatedly in terms of inspiration and, in some cases, more concrete support, for the filmmakers. If “Afrocentricity” really pays off, it will be in fostering a multitude of next generation black filmmakers to follow up those two ground breakers. Judging by the material on this promo tape, that process seems to be well underway.

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