Since the first time I ever met a black person, I have been hearing about how great of a film Eve's Bayou is. It's was always every black person I’ve ever met, favorite movie. The reviews online of it are great, it won quite a few awards, you could consider it a "black classic". So, naturally, when The Underground Museum here in Los Angeles, announced it was going to screen it for their garden movie night, I decided to go with a couple of friends. None of the 3 of us had seen it before. However, as soon as the movie started, I was confused as to why this is considered a such a great film and it just got worse throughout. I will say the performances of the actors were amazing, of course, they are, it's a great cast, and the way the movie was filmed was also beautiful…but the story lost me.
The opening monologue
After reading some articles online, post my film viewing, apparently this monologue is considered the deepest part of the film. The monologue, explains what "Eve's Bayou" is. Long story short, Eve was a slave woman she saved her master's life with her "powerful medicine" aka voodoo and as a reward, he gave her this piece of land (the Bayou) and her freedom. The monologue goes on to say, that subsequently she bore 16 of his children, yadda yadda yadda, they stayed there in love and this currently family we are about to follow for the duration of the film, are descendants of the two. I'm sorry but you can't have a slave, a slave master and love all in the same sentence. This isn't loving. Why are we romanticizing slave masters? Even if she was “freed” she isn’t really free because no slave on any planet falls in love with a slave master who has beaten and rape her and her family for god knows how many generations. I don’t care how many acres of land he gave her, this is not a normal, loving relationships and I’m tired of romanticizing white people abusing black women.
The dismissing of abuse
Pretty much this entire movie is about how abusive and fucked up the family is. This was my main issue with the film. If you're going to present us with an abusive, shitty family, then there needs to be some discussion of it or resolution at the end. This had none, it just ended like "Well that was cool...coffee anyone"? Meanwhile, these two horrible shit parents have abused sexually, mentally, verbally and physically to the point where they all no doubt have some serious mental health issues to deal with, and there was no discussion of it. I can't subscribe to the normalization of abuse. It’s this exact reason why I no longer watch any slavery or police brutality films/shows. We just don’t need it, we have such a larger narrative and history than just being abused. It also makes me wonder why so many of our “black classics” are about black suffering. I personally, am just not on board to bond in misery.
Along this subject, is the blaming of Cisely for her father molesting her. After seeing this film, all three of us went to get dinner and discuss the film, at the restaurant, other black folks joined our discussion (it’s a real black and local community spot, this happens regularly). Additionally, I have discussed this scene in particular with other black people and literally almost every single person calls this child a hoe, “fast” “acting grown” etc and zero blame is placed on her shit father. I’d say I’m confused but not really. Sexual abuse is swept under the rug really everywhere but in the black community in particular. I don’t care if that child walked downstairs naked, that man is a GROWN and knew it was his daughter yet allowed it anyways. Not to mention the mental abuse he already caused on her to get her to that point. Sorry, but anyone who supports that is pure garbage and so is this narrative.
Why Is Everyone's Response to Kill Each Other?
I lost count on how many times people in this family are presented with a problem, and their first response is to suggest murder, like whet? Why? At one point, the aunt threatens to kill Cisely and she meant it. You gone kill your niece because YOUR brother is a cheating, abusive pedophile? What are we watching?
What Was The Take Away Here?
Finally, what was the message? We discussed this at length and none of us could figure out what we were supposed to walk away from that movie knowing or feeling. Fine, you want to make a film about abuse, cool, but where is the message or the point? I was waiting for some sort of a “we survived this fucked up situation and overcame” type resolution but instead we literally just started another day like nothing happened. Maybe this only made sense in 1997 when it was released, but in 2018, I don’t see the take away. I didn’t come out the otherside with any more or less information than I had when I started it. I was just left confused.
I know this will probably cancel my black card but I don’t really care. I don’t get the hype and I’m not interested in cosigning movies about black abuse. For all these commentary and praise I’ve been hearing for 27 years, I was severely underwhelmed.