Directed by: Alonge Hawes
Written by: Alonge Hawes
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Black on Both Sides
Season episode reviews below. Scroll down for the latest review of chapter 7 and chapter 8, the season finale.
A politically racial web series created primarily for a black audience is what we have here. Within society today is it any wonder? Black on Both Sides introduces us to the whiteness of the American business dream; as if we needed any introduction right? In this title, white-washed Anansi Moor gets promoted to the upper management of Legacy Wireless. I'm pretty sure it's stated that he is the first to receive such an honor. As if the hard work and skill involved were secondary in nature. The honor of being black and in upper management must be some kind of something. Hard work it seems doesn't matter at all. A feeling I have no doubt that is mirrored in the real world.
And this theme is kind of the back bone of this series. The racist nature of white people and the fact they don't see it as such. The promotion of a black man to satisfy an image of racial diversity. Could you imagine black people being promoted simply because they've earned it? If that was done, heaven forbid, but companies might actually really be diverse! I may even go so far as to say that the upper management of companies could have more black people than white. Or even go so far as to write that black people, Asian people and even Egyptians would together, dominate the upper management levels. Why? Because black, white or Asian, a smart hard working person is just that. A smart hard working person. Black on Both Sides focuses on African Americans, but it's not all that far removed from the main message.
Alonge Hawes series isn't "just" about race. Anansi Moor is hiding something from his watchers. A dark secret that slowly reveals itself. His past life is definitely not the assimilated black guy living in a white man's world we at first think. There is a lot more going on behind the scenes. By the time episode 4 is finished, we have a good idea of the what. Just not the exact why. Anansi is what they call a code switcher. A man who can convert himself to play almost any role given to him.
Black on Both Sides involves numerous sub-plots that connect, or I assume will connect soon. Topics ranging from illness right on through to ambition and capital gathering. We also see recurring themes of culture, friendship and parenting. A scene involving a parent being told her son needs medication is a powerful one. Also throw into the mix the obvious gangster roles, involving Anansi's past life and you got some real potential for a great series. Much better than your standard YouTube video.
But the production itself is not perfect. Very uneven audio, (That does seem to improve as the show goes on) and some occasional stuttering, dropped frame rates, during some of the scenes. Generally speaking though the show looks and sounds pretty good. The acting feels real and to the point. As a micro budget web series, Black on Both Sides actually plays itself quite well. There's no problem following the path that Hawes and Burks lay out.
I hope the show continues and that the 4 episodes I've seen won't be the last. There's nothing wrong with pointing out racial issues because that's the only way they'll ever be addressed. I am very curious to see where this all goes. To find out exactly what has taken place in the past, and why things are the way they are now. I'll definitely keep my eyes on this show as the episodes are released. Thumbs up.
Chapter 5: Their Eyes Were Watching God review.
Episode 5 sees Black On Both Sides really finding it's stride. Probably my favorite episode thus far, I've altered my original grade for the series to reflect how things are progressing. As Their Eyes Were Watching God plays through, the growth of the show is really starting to show as the characters are coming into their own.
As Maya's strong personality has always been present in the series, it is with a grand gesture that this episode focuses more on her story than any of the other characters. Her world views and eventual acceptance of what she has to do for her and her daughter. It's a bitter-sweet pill. Anansi has been trying to motivate her to put on a show, as have the other employees of Legacy Wireless but it isn't until a scene with her baby daddy that Maya really commits. It's a sad revelation for both her and viewers because essentially, she has to give up a large chunk of herself to continue on with their plan. At the same time, it's touching to see just how far a person will go for family. But family has been an important backbone of this show since the start and we do see a little more of Anansi's attempts to reconcile with his other half.
Also worth noting is the inclusion of Joseph Ross, another promotion hungry Legacy employee. It is my opinion he is your typical back stabbing work place employee. Standing on the backs of whoever he can to get what he wants. The "race" card is played out with this character, but as always with this show it's set to the background. Joseph Ross isn't all about being white, but his actions and remarks could be taken as such, or as him simply being a prick.
As the racial divide is a theme with Black On Both Sides, it hasn't been forgotten. In particular during a scene with Anansi's boss as the three discuss store numbers. The racial bits are played off a casual conversation and Anansi's boss's attempts at humor. It's done well and tastefully reminding us of the core issues and how veiled they are; but always just below the surface.
This was a good episode in all regards. Even the production flaws are getting less and less with glitchy audio being the foremost technical problem. I eagerly await what comes next as Black On Both sides continues to get better and better.
Chapter 6: The Audacity Of Hope review.
Chapter 6: The Audacity Of Hope is a slightly different kind of episode, focusing on Henry Gil Scott Heron and his new podcast. Lilith Alexander and Nigel Hawthorne, both authors, are the guests and in keeping with the nature of Black On Both Sides, rivalry is expected. And delivered. In essence, Lilith argues that black women should get out from under black men, that they've outgrown black men in near every way. In her eyes, the black woman should worry much less about supporting black men and worry about themselves. She states that a black man is simply incapable of appreciating the mind of a black woman. She also states that the black man is solely responsible for crimes, drugs and the general stereotype of the black community.
Nigel on the other hand, believes the media is responsible for the black stereotype. He also believes that becoming financially independent is more important than the black woman. That they are part of the reason and even help the white man oppress the black man. He states that black woman make fun of black men who educate themselves, they make fun of black men who put on a suit instead of gold chains. There's plenty more in this argument, and each side really does have some good points. This reviewer should also point out that 'most' of what's being argued could apply to white men and women as well, but I'll leave that alone.
This podcast debate rages on for the entire episode with only 2 breaks if memory serves me. During those breaks we don't revisit Anansi or anyone else, making this episode one of pure debate and no story. I'm not going to sit here and complain because the debate was good, aside from Henry's insistence that he be called by his full name on the show. Henry Gil Scott Heron is a mouthful when used within a full sentence, and I suspect that someone invested in starting a successful podcast would realize this, and not continually insist on his full name being used. Especially by stopping, and correcting his guests. I think this bit was added as some comic relief during a tough and touchy subject. But I could be wrong.
The audio issues continue to plague this chapter as well. Switching from great audio to the whooshing of wind just below the dialog. At this point, I simply can't understand the problem. If there is great audio recorded, as indicated by the segments that contain it, why not just use it through-out? It may be a little more work to sync it up in the editor, but the end result would be worth it.
Chapter 6 is a good episode for those who enjoy a good debate. It doesn't do much to advance the overarching plot of the series, but does add some depth. Not my favorite episode thus far but a good one all the same.
Chapters 7 & 8 / season wrap.
Chapter 7 begins with the awkward realization that in order to play his end game, Anansi Moor will need a little help from Nefertiti and in case you haven't been following along, she wants no part of it. With a final warning that this will be the last time she's involved in his BS, she finally agrees. The dinner party allows Anansi to accomplish his goal and he gets trusted to perform a yearly company inventory; which allows him to finally execute his master plan. It's a good thing he was able to talk his way out of the trunk situation.
The actual execution of his plan is flawless leaving an adversary from an earlier episode to break some devastating news to Cyrus. Speaking of which, it is in these final episodes that we learn Anansi's real goal. Sure, the money is one thing but we couldn't have him simply being a crook so here, we find out Anansi's history and his personal motivations. It's not all about the money after all but there's no doubt what he plans to do with the cash will really piss of Cyrus.
This series has been plagued by micro budget production issues since chapter 1. In these episodes, the dinner party felt the most rushed, with audio that was very back and forth and some camera work that looked a little frantic sometimes. It's a good thing that the acting and story of this show are really well done because without, it would be very hard to get into this show.
Things are not, and haven't been perfect but one thing Black On Both Sides has instead of money, is heart, and gritty raw talent. I've come to know the characters and while I think some of them kind of get left behind, one thing is clear. I remember them, so that means they performed excellently. With regard to these final episodes alone, I wish that maybe a third episode was produced. This would have allowed a cleaner, more polished season finale. Season finale you ask? I can't say for sure, but I would hope another season is filmed and produced. There's room even if it means totally shifting away from Legacy and focusing on the building and branding of a new venture.
Because of all the production issues that seem to shout micro budget/no budget, I really have no business giving Black On Both Sides, as an entire season a 4 star review. But let me explain: At some point when you really like something you just have to push the technical problems aside. I knew this was a micro budget title going in so to severely penalize a series, that I really like for production would be silly and a little mean spirited. So, I threw all that away and asked myself if I enjoyed watching the series as a whole. I asked if I found myself quickly jumping to the next episode when I had them, or if I put it off. I did/do enjoy it and did jump right into the next episode(s). With the answers being clear I really had no other choice. For the story, the acting and the sheer determination it must have taken to fully finish the entire season, a 4 star review is deserved. (More like earned). So here I am putting my thumbs up. If the right people are reading this, give Alonge Hawes a budget and let's move onto season 2.