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A Filmmaker's Attempt To Peel Off the Labels

"You sit idly by and watch your media distort your images," says Janks Morton in his documentary about African Americans' misperceptions. (By Pouya Dianat -- The Washington Post)

Morton: "Now let's ask some women."

Woman in pink pearls: "I don't know. I would say jail."

Wrong, wrong, wrong, Morton says. There are more black men in college than in jail.

In 2005, according to the Census Bureau, there were 864,000 black men in college. According to Justice Department statistics, there were 802,000 in federal and state prisons and jails, "even with the old heads holding on," Morton says.

Between the ages of 18 and 24, however, black men in college outnumber those incarcerated by 4 to 1.

Still, the idea that the reverse is true stems from an image that has been perpetuated, Morton says, by the government, the media and the black leadership, whoever they are.

So you ask him to ask the white men sitting behind him at the restaurant.

"I'm not worried about them," he says. "My point is I'm worried about us and what we think about ourselves."

That is the very point of Morton's documentary, which was also released on DVD yesterday. The film, which cost him $7,000 to produce, explores the stereotypes and statistics that label black men, black families, black women, black children. "This project, top to bottom, is all me," Morton says. "With the new digital capacity, we have an ability to drive demand without relying on other people. I assembled, I edited, scored the whole thing in my house. That wasn't feasible five years ago."

The film sets out to debunk stereotypes that he says have been perpetuated for so many years that they have struck the black community to its core. Stereotypes that have insulted, demoralized and humiliated. That have left others intimidated by black boys and black men.

The "docu-logue" is done in a style akin to Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," with interviews of black intellectuals. Moving from topic to topic, it's infused with graphics, historical footage of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and provocative moments, such as black women calling black men dogs.

In an era when the Internet makes it possible for anybody with an opinion to publish, anybody with a keyboard to blog, anybody with a digital camera to make a movie, this film is an attempt by one man -- whether you believe him or not -- to rebut the stereotypes.

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