James Spooner was very successful with his 2003 debut “Afro-Punk”. This was a documentary about black punks in the mostly white American punk rock scene. Interviews with black punk artists were mixed with scenes from shows and images of black punk lovers. For many white punk fans, the band Bad Brains is about the only link to the “Afro-Punk” sub-movement. But Spooner’s documentary showed that there is a larger stream of black bands and punks in America. This fact resulted in an interesting film about a black minority within a white cultural movement.
Spooner elaborates on this theme in “White Lies, Black Sheep”. But now he uses the means of the “semi-documentary”. The film was shot in video format and in a way that resembles a documentary. Yet it is mainly acted on. The story is simple enough. A black nightclub employee is completely “integrated” into the white music scene, but then notices that his friends have a very stereotypical image of him because of his skin color. In any case, the actors are well on their way and the camera work is wild and choppy, but that only increases the realism of the film.
But does the development that protagonist AJ experiences appeal to the average viewer? Probably because the film portrays young people who struggle with peer pressure and are looking for their own personality. Peer pressure can sometimes lead to fierce conflict situations. All this nicely comes to the fore in Spooner’s film in which, in addition to recognizable social group processes, a contemporary, hip music scene is central. Downsides are that the stereotypes sometimes seem somewhat simplistic (to be black is to have afros and read militant literature) but this could just as well have been done on purpose so as not to complicate the story. Spooner’s previous work “Afro-punk” (in which an actual existing fact is highlighted) is a bit more interesting, but “White Lies, Black Sheep” is an entertaining film.