I liked Diary of a Tired Black Man. In fact, I really liked it a lot. This comes as something of a surprise, because to be perfectly frank and honest, it really didn't look that good to me. And to take that frankness and honesty one step further, the film does have some problems that will likely turn some people off; but that's neither here nor there, because what this film does have is a raw honesty that is as entertaining as it educational as it is uncompromising.
Writer, producer and director Tim Alexander's Diary of a Tired Black Man is an interesting mix of documentary and dramatic reenactment. The project started out as a three-minute short that Alexander posted on the Internet, where it garnered millions of hits and sparked considerable debate. In the short, a group of angry black women are sitting around Tonya's (Paula Lema) living room bashing black men. When Tonya's ex-husband James (Jimmy Jean-Louis) arrives to pick up their daughter, with a white woman in tow, he is on the receiving end of the fury of Tonya and her friends. But rather than fall victim to the verbal lashing the women dish out, James stands up for himself, and puts the women, and especially his ex-wife, back in their place.
With the original short as a springboard, Alexander traveled all over the United States, showed various men and women his film, and then interviewed them on camera about their feelings. Diary of a Tired Black Man consists of those interviews inter-cut with more scenes depicting the relationship between James and Tonya, starting with the beginning, and culminating in the destruction of the marriage. The final film is a compelling, and often no-holds-barred examination of how black men feel about how some black women treat them--and it ain't always pretty. In interview after interview, the men offer well thought out--and often hilarious--explanations about why some black women treat some black men so terrible. Meanwhile, even though some of the women interviewed by Alexander have valid things to say, some are complete idiots.
Diary of a Tired Black Man works for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it is honest--brutally so at times--but certainly more honest than the vast majority of other depictions of black men in the mass media. This film stands in direct defiance of shows like Jerry Springer or Maury Povitch, which choose to represent the worst of black masculinity. But the film also works as a refreshing break from the hackneyed films of Tyler Perry, whose faith-based minstrel/drag shows are favored by many of the same women who need to watch this movie.
Alexander's film is at its best when he is interviewing real people on the street. His staged scenes are okay, and he deserves credit for creating something with almost nothing, but at the end of the day, those scenes are not compelling enough to carry the film. And to his credit, if Alexander had simply made a conventional film, he would have likely made something that had no real bite to it. But as it stands, Diary of a Tired Black Man goes for the jugular (in a loving way designed to spark conversation and promote emotional growth).
Diary of a Tired Black Man will not be for everyone, that's for sure. But if you have ever endured bad relationships, or multiple bad relationships, then it is a film well worth watching, as it raises some very valid points. And what is also very important to realize is that while the film specifically deals with black people, its overall subject matter is universally human.
Diary of a Tired Black Man is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen. The movie was shot on consumer grade digital video, but it looks far better than one would expect. And while the picture quality is not great, it is good, and the quality remains consistent.
Diary of a Tired Black Man is presented in English 2.0 Dolby Digital. The sound quality is good, especially considering that most of the interviews were shot outdoors. The sound is clear, audio levels are good, and the overall mix is clean.
Writer/producer/director Tim Alexander provides one of the best commentaries I have heard in a long time. Not only does he offer insight into the production of the film, he also elaborates on his personal feelings about the subject matter. His tone is very casual and matter of fact, often funny, and though the film itself is not the sort that might make you want to listen to the commentary right away, it is well worth checking out. Alexander has also included a reel of extended interview footage (73 min.) that is almost as compelling as the film itself. Finally, there is a profanity-free version of the film, but I didn't watch it, because I don't give a shit about things like that.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Diary of a Tired Black Man, but it is definitely one of nicest surprises I've had in a long time. It definitely is not a film for everyone, and it's up to you to determine if this subject matter interests you. But as far as recommending it, I'd be hard pressed to sing the film's praises anymore than I am.
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]