(GIF via YouTube)
Before moving to Philadelphia from Palmyra, NJ, in 2013, Lamont Lamar was mostly interested in photography.
But the “culture shock” he experienced at seeing his fellow high school students’ daily struggles pushed him to want to start documenting what was going on around him through video.
Now, Lamar’s short film “Black Men Don’t Cry,” which captures visuals throughout the city and features the voices of fellow African American youth reflecting on their frustrations of being perceived as emotionless, is one of the many films being shown on the big screen in the upcoming BlackStar Film Festival.
“I was raised in a town where social injustices were not a factor,” said Lamar, who just graduated from the Charter High School for Architecture + Design and will be studing filmmaking at California College of the Arts. “When I moved into the city, I found that some of the students’ motivations and their viewpoints weren’t driven on education and on their future — they were driven on their moment and how to survive today.”
Lamar wanted to start giving these students a voice. So, with his school just a short walk from PhillyCAM, he started attending classes there with Ariel Taylor, PhillyCAM’s youth media coordinator, whose after-school programs focus on teaching students about media literacy.
During those classes, students work with Taylor and each other to create media on a wide range of topics, but Taylor has also made it a mission for the past two years she’s been with PhillyCAM to teach students the power of media — and how, in the way mainstream media is constructed, their voices can be left out.
It’s why Lamar’s film being included in BlackStar, as well as any other film festival or public screening, is so important.
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“It definitely amplifies the message that I send here at PhillyCAM, which is always letting the students know how valuable and important their voices are, and how it’s needed. There are things about them that people really want to know,” Taylor said. “It’s definitely a way for them to not feel as lonely.”
“Black Men Don’t Cry” was filmed and produced by five students, with Lamar in charge of the cinematography and connecting the words — all poems or messages from students of color — with the visuals. The film also features an original score from Play On, Philly!, the program that provides tuition-free music classes to students in underserved communities.
Through this collaboration, Lamar put together a film that shares the message of how African American men are often portrayed and perceived to be tough, strong and emotionless. Lamar found out through research that that lack of expression can often lead to downward spirals for African American men who feel like they have to act a certain way.
“It makes them have to feel like they have to do certain things to survive and I think that has caused in history and time for African American men to be perceived as something else that they’re not,” Lamar said.
Basically, Lamar wants African American men in the audience at BlackStar, as well as anyone else, to know this: “It’s okay to show your emotions — it’s okay to care.”-30-
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