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<I>Knowing Richard Black</I> Explores World of Racial Dating Practices

14 Feb, 2004 By: Erik Gruenwedel

“Black symbolizes race,” said filmmaker Jon Marc Sandifer, who plays both narrator and matchmaker in Knowing Richard Black (DVD $19.99). “Richard? Well, what's the nickname for Richard?”

In current social norms, interracial dating, specifically sexual intimacy between a black man and a white woman, isn't much of a novelty, despite Hollywood's efforts to prove otherwise.

Sandifer, however, turns the tables on the titillating myth surrounding the sexual prowess of black men with Marilyne, a late-30s attractive West African businesswoman who is visiting Washington, D.C., on business and has only been intimate with white guys.

Chatsworth, Calif.-based Image Entertainment, which distributes the unrated reality-based 75-minute DVD due Feb. 17, was attracted to the project because it represented a different slice of urban life in America that is generally not seen in urban films, according to Barry Gordon, SVP of acquisitions at Image.

“It's not a hip-hop movie,” said Gordon. “It's truly an adult urban film that more closely resembles [an African-American] male ‘Sex and the City' than hip-hop. I think there is an element of the urban market that is moving toward mainstream adult urban entertainment.”

Bonus features include additional footage (yet, no further insights from well-spoken Sandifer, who is a producer of “106 Park,” the hip-hop program on Black Entertainment Television), two music videos by General Pop, a photo gallery, and cast and crew biographies.

From the outset, Sandifer appears both amused and challenged by Marilyne's lack of the “black experience,” so much so that he laboriously arranges “blind dates” for her with three of his black buddies: introspective Marc (“What does she look like?”); hair stylist Tre (“Is she fly?”); and business man Mark (“Okay, cool”).

“I had so many questions,” said Sandifer in the film. “Simply why? Did she ever take the time to get to know a black man? If she did, where did she go wrong? Where did he go wrong?”

When Marilyne and Marc finally meet, it becomes clear that nobody really erred toward their race, despite Marc's assertion that Marilyne excluded their race from consideration.

As it turns out, Marilyne dated white men primarily due to circumstance and never intended to exclude black men from her dating repertoire -- with the exception of Marc, of course.

Shortly after that failed “love connection,” Marc calls Sandifer and is upset because he believes he was allegedly “used” by his friend and asks that his scenes be deleted from the film.

Sandifer soon realizes that his male friendships are worth more than an interracial social experiment, and the film ends, leaving this viewer wondering why the director himself didn't try to close the deal with Marilyne.

“A lot of people assume that I did, but really didn't,” Sandifer said. “After that night [with Marc and Marilyne] she wouldn't even return any of my calls.”

“I think he [prefers] to put his friends on the spot,” Gordon said.

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