If you pay attention to the packaging of this collection of black cinema trailers, you might be fooled into thinking this something more than it is. But what this is, quite simply, is a collection of trailers from 31 movies produced between 1946 and 1976. All of the films previewed in these trailers were intended for black audiences, and cover a wide array of genres and stars. And that's a great thing. But claims of this DVD being anything more a compilation of coming attractions is nothing more than hyperbolic bullshit.
The single biggest problem with Afro Promo is that it claims to offer some sort of historical overview or context, when in reality this disc is nothing more than a series of trailers strung together. In fact, the trailers aren't even strung together in any sort of chronological order. There appears to be some sort of thematic order—at first—until you realize that not all the Sidney Poitier films are actually grouped together, nor are the comedies , sports movies or musicals. In fact, there is just enough effort to create the illusion of thematic grouping that when the trailer for A Piece of the Action comes 22 trailers after all the other Poitier movies, it seems all the more like someone doesn't know what they're doing. In all fairness, however, there is a menu on the disc that does group certain types of films together (i.e. Poitier films, comedies, blaxploitation, ect.).
The other major complaint about Afro Promo is the packaging, which never goes out of its way to give this release any greater sense of importance. At the very least the mini booklet that contains a near-useless essay by a Yale professor could list the movies with some pertinent information. The impressive collection of spaghetti western trailers, A Fistful of Trailers, has a booklet that features poster art from each movie included on the disc, plus information about release dates. Afro Promo makes no mention of what trailers are included, or what year the original films being promoted were released. And as for Terri Francis' essay: I have forgotten more relevant information about black cinema than she writes about.
Despite the disappointing packaging and presentation, it is great to have a diverse collection of trailers that ranges from classics like A Raisin in the Sun, Lady Sings the Blues, The Defiant Ones, Car Wash, and Foxy Brown to forgotten treasures like Cool Breeze and Black Girl, to total trash like Mandingo. It's great that something like Afro Promo exists to chronicle the existence of these films (even though the chronicle is half-ass). But what would be even better than having a collection of trailers like this would be to have the actual films available on DVD. As it stands, nearly half the trailer in this collection are for movies not available on DVD, or in the case of Cool Breeze, have never even been released on home video.
Anyone who is familiar with trailer compilations knows that picture quality can run from good to very bad. Afro Promo is no exception. The trailers including in this collection most likely come from either 16 or 35 millimeter sources that have seen their fair share of wear.
The sound quality in Afro Promo is just as varied as the picture quality.
Afro Promo comes with two short films, Famous Irish Americansand Reckless Eyeballing. Your life will feel neither enriched nor more well rounded from having watched either short film.
If you are a fan of black films, then you'll pretty much want this in your collection. By that same measure, you should also have Something Weird Video's blaxploitation trailer collection Afros, Macks & Zodiacs. But if you are not a fan of black films, or if you are looking for something with a bit more academic weight, you might as well skip this disc.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]