On the first go around with the research proposal, I really wasn’t sure what i was doing. This came partly from my own misunderstanding of exactly what a research proposal was supposed to accomplish, but also because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to research. I narrowed down activist film to black film, and found three specific and important eras of black film, but each of these would have served as an RBA topic alone. Most of the feedback that i got on my research proposal was that it read like an abbreviated history of black film (which it very much was).
I had to remember why I was interested in the subject of non-documentary activist films in the first place: the inherent contradictions of activist commercial film and the subjectivity of the art. If these films serve the purpose of turning a profit, how can they be purely activist? When every aspect of a film is not a reflection of reality, but the embodiment of an artist’s vision about the world he/she seeks to portray, what is at stake in each choice made?
That’s what drew me to blaxploitation. Although it was a marketing strategy, it also produced black narratives never before seen on the screen, and provided more avenue for black artists to work in the film industry. So my research revolves around reconciling these contradictory aspects of the blaxploitation movement. My thesis is roughly that blaxploitation helped more than it hurt, but as a white guy, I worry this is an easy argument to make – I certainly to further my research before fully understanding my argument.