The American Society of Magical Negroes


So you’re a black actor, doing pretty well on the TV series circuit, getting some plum roles. But you have aspirations, as writer and director, for the big screen, so want to produce something noticeable.

And that’s exactly what Kobi Libii has done, with a film that infuses magic, romance, and racism.

boom reviews The American Society of Magical Negroes
So as of now, you will be able to swim in the see, as well as watch any film with sharks in it.

Struggling as an artist in LA is Aren (Justice Smith), whose medium of yarn just doesn’t appear to be wooing the art crowd.

One night he gets into a bit of a pickle, getting money from an ATM machine, which has the opportunity to go south so very quickly. Luckily for him, he’s approached by an older black gentleman, Roger (David Alan Grier), who manages to diffuse the situation with ease, as if by magic.

As it turns out, that’s exactly how he did it, being a member of The American Society of Magic Negroes, which he explains to Aren as being a society created to ease the white discomfort than many of the white population feel in the company of those of colour, as a means of self preservation more than anything else.

And within a blink of an eye, Aren is a member of said society, and is thrown in at the deep with his first assignment, where he is assigned a designer at upcoming social media platform Meet Box, whose white discomfort is holding him back.

It appears to be a simple enough job, but things get a little complicated when Aren meets Lizzie (An-Li Bogan) at the work place, and starts to develop feelings for her, at the risk of completing his mission.

boom reviews The American Society of Magical Negroes
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You have to admire the bravery of Libii, presenting something so seemingly controversial right out of the gate. And yet it works, extremely well, up to a point.

His script initially, is a cross between a Charlie Kaufman script and Woody Allen, showing equal measures of confidence and creativity. It also suffers from it towards the end too, as either libii loses faith in his original idea, or who just chooses, unwisely, to invest more in his boy meets girl story; so you have a genuinely original concept at odds with the most generic idea you can get.

You have to give him credit for at least going as far as he does, in what is a biting satire on racism in the US today. Perhaps he felt it just wasn’t sustainable for an entire film, but if that was the case, he was probably doing himself a disservice, as he clearly embarked on a road that could lead for miles and miles.

That said, the romance element still works, with Smith making an admirable indie leading man, but it does water down the potency of the satire, as well as the potential of what really could have been here.

we give this three out of five