I have a lot of favorites and there is plenty of room for one more. Rafael Ragland is now my favorite Madison, Wisconsin film maker and Running On Faith is my favorite movie.
Mr. Ragland put together The Club film in 2013, basing it on the experiences of 11 high schoolers that connected through the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County. I know after school programs are critical for kids looking for something productive to do, a friend, or just a place to hang out. We as citizens of this country are usually only exposed to the limited selection of stereotypical youths on screen. They change the titles and looks but their goals are the same: convince America that no one of youthful age, look or exuberance can be considered relevant until deemed otherwise by the almighty unavailable and uneducated.
Some of the more obvious examples include the straight back home to study nerd, sports jock, stoner skater, fly on the wall artist and jaded thug. There’s too much contradiction and too little intersectionality in mainstream business, and people born old are harder to learn as they get older. America forces this tactical nationalistic generalization to make any larger realizations about the world seem like conspiracies. With The Club, we get real places and their insignia, kids that appear and sound to be from the area and not casted as “18-to-look-younger” in order to satisfy the American tradition of fetishizing the cloning and rape of vulnerable children, and a brilliant variety of locale for talented locals to show off their complexity as individuals. Run-on sentences are hard to understand for those that put minimal effort into reading and that’s why I use them sometimes but not always.
Try to think beyond the common misconception of what “good writing” is. Then imagine how “good acting” could be, since it’s more likely than not based on glorifying systematic oppression. Do the same with your concept of what is “well shot”. Here’s sumn ta chew on: Why are the most privileged people from birth who experience the least adversity on their path to success in charge of what is an authentic expression of a difficult situation? In other words, why are the most out of touch douchebags in the history of Earth in charge of what reality the grimiest, hardest, most gritty Americans experience? The most sought after reviews are from me, the homeless, disabled, scammed, incarcerated, poor, tortured, enslaved, scarred, broken and ugly artists. We’re the most honest, obviously.
Keep this in mind when you’re criticizing artists. The furthest removed people from hard work in the arena are awarded the easiest and most numerous American dollars. Use critical thinking and ask the questions to the people that you want to ask them to and not to someone else who will satisfy your pathetic need to hear yourself echo chambered by another more or less equally robotic machine. Talk to yourself in the mirror. Do something difficult and noble, and then make sure no one ever finds out. These types of behavior will qualify you for the next level of knowledge.
Rafael recorded the tragic short film A Cry For Help in 2016 for the now deceased Anisa Scott. She expresses her concern for violence in Chicago in the short. The 11-year-old girl was recently shot and killed on East Washington Avenue in Madison.
“God, I just wanna go outside and play, like a seven-year-old’s supposed to do. I don’t wanna die.”
Rafael and his 608TV folks did a comedy-horror movie set at Devil’s Lake too. There’s this hilarious exchange between the captain of this boat the cast is staying on, and the Jason-style serial killer swampman.
Captain: “Who the fuck are you?
Killer: “How many disciples did Jesus have?”
Captain: “What are you talking about bro?”
Captain: “I’m a fucking atheist, I don’t know shit about the Bible! I don’t know, I don’t want no smoke!”
Tylerman Films shot the Running On Faith production. I love all the hot button issues Rafael presses in this one. He goes into the vissisitudes that a man with a record will experience, whether or not he’s guilty in the minds of those that affect and are affected by him. Americans like to think they’re significantly different in 2020, because of “all that is going on”, but they’re not. They still assume you’re guilty if you have been convicted of anything. They still use that as primary weaponry to fight the working class and will continue to do so as long as they are not punished by the law for doing so at equal to or greater than the rate of the previously mentioned cyclical phenomenon.
This Malik Jr. character has multiple sides like any man from up north. He supposedly killed his wife and had to do time for that. Fresh out, we find out he’s a vet too, but that’s not enough to alleviate the suspicions of society’s gatekeepers. He turns to dope and almost dies but not before he tries to live without it. The supa thick interviewer says, “I wish you luck” at the end of the interview scene. This is a line I know quite well. Malik scoffs, “Luck?” I’m all for an exact 50/50 split of all positions in every industry male/female. Anything else is more fascist. I also know, through experience, that thick bitches, white hos, lesbos, married women, blah blah blah, are just plain humanoids like pretty boys, studs, bears and fit guys. They all gravitate to the same empty place eventually. Doesn’t matter if they identify as Antarctican, see-through-pink, a dragon, computer, god or half-human half-tree.
One of the aspects I find most interesting about this movie is that there are actual Madison Police uniforms in this movie. The opps come in around 40 minutes in and shoot the Black man dead of course. Here’s that “Police Bias Training” skit from The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (and Jordan Klepper). They shot this just a short few months after Tony Robinson was murdered by MPD. Talk about a great way to get some PR, just kill one of em and otherwise non-existent mainline media comes around to laugh at Middle America.
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval just recently retired. The star of the Comedy Central video said in the September 29 announcement to his blog that only a “small group of dissenters despise MPD”, as if enough people have enough exposure to MPD to have any kind of unique opinion on them as an institution, much less an organization, and that we’re not brainwashed from birth to believe existing law enforcement is legitimate under threat of gun, chains and poverty. He sounds just like all those useless Americans preaching that the Black Lives Matter movement is good but should be Black only (with maybe some other Brown people) and Antifa is evil and the gross kind of White people (and other people that wish they were White).
Also, he says he was only shot at twice since he started on July 11, 1983, which is close to nothing compared to many Madison and area residents that don’t get paid to uphold the law. This is quite the testament to the privilege these people go through on a day to day basis. I’m glad Rafael Ragland showed the corrupt Black cop at the end of the film too. Fascism goes far beyond racial lines when both parties agree to abuse the system together in order to punish victims they can mutually agree on. Some common enemies for Uncle Sams and Uncle Toms: Natives, Mexicans, Canadians, Midwesterners, Chinese, Germans, Slavs, Socialists, Communists, Anarchists, Immigrants, Environmentalists, Civil Rights Protesters, Muslims, Non-Stereotypes, Ethnic Minorities, Laborers, Locals, Scientists, so on and so forth.
There appear to be shots inside Meriter Hospital near the end of the film as well. One of the first things I noticed is that they didn’t chain the overdosed convicted-wife-murderer to the hospital bed like they did to me on the night before my graduation from UW-Madison – the non-convicted-wife-murderer. Good for him. He was getting interviews for jobs too? I can’t even get those. It is definitely advantageous to get credit for serving your country by doing it under the umbrella of the United States Military, if they allow you to. That’s one of the points here, I think, that overseas battles are glorified as being more important than those going on inside America’s borders. In other words, issues occurring not on American soil are less important than those occurring on American soil when it comes to American people, and we’re taught otherwise to keep us middling amongst ourselves.
The project feels like Madison. Thomas the cop smokes a joint in uniform around the 1:30:00 mark (weed is still illegal here). Actors have tattoos, as they do (but don’t according to Hollywood). There might even be more women than men, like Madison, UW-Madison and Wisconsin. I love the strong female side to this film. The Black females in this story have noticeable local accents in place of the culture vulture coastie variation and that’s a breath of fresh air. Not that all coasties are bad, because they’re not. Not because all people that talk like that are bad, because they’re not. But because these actresses are culturally relevant.
They’re not constantly complaining about how poor and disadvantaged their man is either. I love to see Black women portrayed in a non-whiny, non-whore light because that’s the kind of Black woman that I enjoy. Take Black out of that sentence and that’s the type of woman I enjoy. See how easy that is? No, of course not. The females in Running On Faith are largely Christianity and baby mama drama based, as they are in most film and entertainment representations, but these ladies are able to show a head of household side too. I am exhausted of the prototypical, overly scripted mad/emotionless Black woman character and Rafael gives the ladies more creative room to work in his movies.
The exchange around 1:40:00 displays a relationship dynamic that exists all throughout the mixed world of babymaking. Rafael shows with this sequence that just because two people are fucking, or fuck with each other, that doesn’t mean that they’re not delusional racists. If y’all are looking to people that put their dick in women of various “races” or whatever, to find answers to life questions, look no further than the disgusting authority that is the foundation of this country. Just because some fuckboy or fuckgirl put a penis in a vagina or a vagina on a penis they somehow have an advanced outlook on life? No. They just put their dick or vagina on or in a different color dick or vagina. The mouth was maybe involved too. There might’ve even been kissing. Just ask your local fascist what they think of interracial mixing if you want your truth. Y’all on some ole schkool rapist bloodsport fag shit for real.
A message showing the power of devout Christianity follows this dynamic that has existed since the beginning of the human age. Like Mike Koval and his hyperconservative Catholic upbringing, many Black Americans go through a rigorous hyperconservative Baptist upbringing. The commonality: Love for exaggerating the accuracy of American pseudoscience and stereotypes. Christianity and religion can be a wonderfully powerful positive forces too and have proven to support many White-Black causes in the past. At times, it’s the only way to get all the people that believe in the religion of Racism together on anything. Want some generic Whites and Blacks, just start talking the correct folk hero stories with the proper amount of Atheism and they’ll be eating crumbs right out of the palm of your hand.
The ending is interesting. Silver tooth square liquor bottle guy from the beginning (that wanted to run a train on Grace) smokes the resident veteran sergeant dope dealer, slimy Chino slips away, and the woman of many wigs survives to possibly run away to Europe with a third man who also expressed interest in taking care of her. Momma just cared that her baby was ok, though. All of that prayer and yelling was out of love. I hope that other people genuinely feel like that in this world. Rafael Ragland, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and I salute you for your service to this country.
I’m my favorite artist in the world and I’m the best at everything I ever do. Happy birthday to me. Fuck you.