‘The New Black’: Documentary addresses taboo topics

Yoruba Richen

Yoruba Richen, director/producer of ‘The New Black.’ (Photo by Luke Rattray; courtesy the filmmakers)

Washington Blade

One of the big debates with reality TV is the inevitable degree to which the camera’s presence affects the way people act. It’s unquantifiable, of course, but it’s also a challenge for documentary filmmakers.

Yoruba Richen says she knew it would be hard to capture the kind of exchanges she wanted to get in her film “The New Black,” a piece that explores both last year’s battle for Maryland Question 6, a referendum question that won 52 percent of the vote last November to uphold same-sex marriage rights there, but also the larger issue of how the African-American community is grappling with gay rights and the degree to which many feel it’s comparable to the civil rights struggle. The roughly 80-minute documentary screens twice this weekend as part of the AFI Docs (formerly Silverdocs) festival in Washington DC that continues through Sunday.

Two such exchanges especially stand out — one Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director of National Black Justice Coalition, has with anti-gay family members at her husband’s (she’s an LGBT ally) retirement party and the tear-laced discussion 24-year-old lesbian Karess Taylor-Hughes has coming out to her religious foster mother.

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