Diary of a Tired Black Man
108 Minutes, Rated R, Documentary/Drama/Comedy
Director/Producer: Tim Alexander
Available on DVD ($22) Feb. 3, 2009
The premise of Diary of a Tired Black Man is derived from a three-minute clip that appeared on the Internet a couple of years ago. The clip involves four black women sitting around a living room. As a car pulls into the driveway, one of the women exclaims, Tell me that ain't James rolling up with a white girl!
James would be the tired black man that this film is centered around, and his main protagonist is his ex-wife, Tanya. The confrontation at the door comes as James is trying to pick up his daughter, and it concludes with James declaring he is tired of dealing with angry black women, such as the ones in his direct presence.
The original clip had many people supposing that its creator, Tim Alexander, was suggesting that men who resembled James in this scene should dump black women and their angry ways, for the sanctuary of white women. The rest of this terrific docudrama proves that assumption dead wrong.
Diary isn't a traditional, straightforward 108-minute movie, and it is more of a documentary, but it works in that the short scenes provide enough dramatic tension, yet elicit a wide array of responses from an audience. That audience would be the people who are peppered between the cinematic scenes that star Jimmy-Jean Louis and Paula Lima. They are the people that Alexander went across the country to show them exactly the same things you're looking at, and then respond to what they saw in real time.
The fascinating thing about all those People on the Street interviews (all done by Alexander himself) is that they're all memorable in their own way; some of them are hilarious (such as many of the barbershop scenes-pick one), some unintelligible, many of them serious in tone and nature.
The clip scenes are based on Alexander's experiences in dealing with multiple relationships with women, not all of them as negative as he portrays. However, the negativity that is shown in this film is by design-it is to make a point, to both men and women that African-American relationships are deteriorating at a cataclysmic rate. However, Alexander's point is that black women are just as much of the problem, if not more so, as black men.
And yet, even as these scenes are spliced to show examples of how tired James is becoming of his wife's act, of her friends and their abusive mates, of his friends and their philandering ways, they still follow a straight line, rather than jumping all over the place.
This is meant to show, in a chronological order, the building tension between James and Tanya, all leading to perhaps the most intense, and compelling, scene in this movie-the moment when James decides, after receiving the most disrespectful thing he could ever have gotten from his wife, that it's time for this reign of misery to end, once and for all. And he does so in a way one could least expect, even when you think you know what's about to happen.
Then, in the scenes to follow, Alexander wraps it all up by answering those critics who claimed that this film was a diatribe in favor of dating women of other race. He does this by having his character, now single, date women of different races and meet women in different places, with various conclusions, before finally coming back to the original three-minute clip shown at the beginning. By the time the film is over, you've seen James grow as a character; from a weary, aggravated, and browbeaten man, to certain and contented man at peace.
The point of all this was summed up beautifully by one of Alexander's many People on the Street: This wasn't about the white girl [in the car]. Even more so, the bigger point addresses black women's need to be angry in order to show a modicum of strength. As a simple caption points out, while a young lady is trying to define what a strong black woman is, A strong black woman is a woman who has weathered many storms without losing the goodness of her character.
In all, this film serves a sociological purpose; to educate women about many of their own tactics and how those tactics are driving men into marriage strikes and such. But it also serves as a reminder to men who are disgruntled that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the ocean, let alone the street. Yet it says to both parties: if you don't choose your mates and friends wisely, you could be a part of this film someday.
That it seeks to open a dialogue by shining a light on a problem that's helping to destroy black relationships, Diary succeeds on every level. The fact that it was all derived out of three minutes of an internet phenomenon, with most of the major backstage work done by one person; it's an amazing accomplishment to see it unfold. Entertaining as it is educational, fascinating and compelling; Diary is well worth the $20 paid for it.
RATING: 3.5 stars out of four.