Afro-Punk is an award winning 66-minute DIY documentary film directed by James Spooner and released for the screen in 2003 with a subsequent dvd release in 2007 (US) and 2010 (JA) . The film explores the experiences of black punk and hardcore kids within a predominantly white subculture. Afro-Punk focuses on the lives of four African Americans dedicated to the punk rock lifestyle, interspersed with interviews from a chorus of over 80 black punks from throughout the United States.
The film raises questions around black identity, interracial dating, marginalization, the double consciousness of black Americans, and alienation. It’s also a time capsule for what black alternative youth experienced just as the world was beginning to shift with the power of the internet.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR:
James Spooner came into filmmaking with nothing more than the passion to tell his story. A bi-racial punk rocker, bouncing from the desert of California to the Streets of New York, duality was something he wrestled with throughout his life. From culture to sub-culture, the complexity of black identity was foremost in his mind.
Without the aid of film school, a computer, or even an email address, James set out to write, produce, and direct his first feature length documentary utilizing the DIY punk values he had grown up with. Even in its infancy, the film revealed his experience in “otherness” was not an isolated one. And upon screening the film throughout the world, he has learned that the feeling of “otherness” was not unique to black punks but crossed over into many other black experiences.
Spooner has been the subject of profile spots on MTV2, NPR, PBS and lent his opinions to countless magazines both in print and online including the Village Voice, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times.
Afro-Punk has also been radically embraced by Academia. In addition to the numerous collegiate level screenings, and inclusion into many thesis papers, the New Museum of Art integrated Afro-Punk into high school curriculum for selected schools nationwide. James has participated in panels and conducted discussions with thousands of students. Topics range from the history of Punk Rock, the “Do it Yourself” movement, to mixed-race politics, interracial experiences and the illusion of integration.
The Afro-Punk film also inspired the now international Afro-Punk Festival. Originally co-founded by James Spooner, it has become a highly anticipated (and often controversial) event in New York, Atlanta, Brazil, London, Paris and Johannesburg with audiences over 75,000.
After repeated conflicts with the current owner of AfroPunk Fest, James Spooner left the company. James currently resides in Los Angeles. He is a vegan tattoo artist and presently working on his first graphic novel memoir encompassing his introduction to punk and its ideologies in eighth grade.
James is still excited to screen and discuss the film and its relevance today. You can schedule an artist talk with 30 minute slide show on the history of AfroPunk and DIY punk culture, covering TOPICS such as:
* the punk ethos and the scene that helped raise him and inspire this film: DIY, zine making, involvement versus consumerism, killing your idols, critiquing establishments including punk itself, non conformity, equality for all: women, LGBQT, animals, anti-corporatism, anti-labels, squatting, protesting, authenticity vs selling out, straight edge, nihilism, etc.
* where the AfroPunk film’s punk rockers are today
* how a punk DIY film turned into a cultural movement that shattered limited notions of black identity and stereotypes
* critiques of the punk scene in the early 2000s around race
* the AfroPunk Festival’s beginnings and the punk vs. capitalism tug of war that led him to leave
* black punk and American hardcore punk heroes
* what it means to be PUNK and who/what that term can apply to (i.e. is Chance the Rapper punk?)
* what it means to be a “nigger” and who/what that term can apply to (i.e. “the rock n roll nigger”)
* the predicament of an AfroPunk-inspired black power movement that’s also entrenched in target marketing
* how the AfroPunk experience applies to all marginalized people in hegemonic spaces
* how white supremacy affects the music black people listen to, create, or participate in
“The founder and creator of AfroPunk shares a compelling story about the irony of losing his black punk dream only to regain it in a most unexpected way. At a time when images of black people were portrayed through a very limited, reductive, and often negative mainstream lens, James Spooner set out to redefine blackness for alternative kids embracing the ethics of punk rock rebellion culture throughout the country. James added nuance to what it is to be “black” by telling punk kids’ stories and developing AfroPunk both as a film, culture, and later as the AfroPunk Festival. James relays the origins of finding punk, the reasons behind making the film, building the AfroPunk community, and why he had to step aside from it all as it began to grow. Filled with humor and a quick course in punk 101, James delivers a message that still resonates today in our heated political climate. He’s still the same kid. Still punk.”