April 6, 2006
. . . . ...........
* 'Baraka' an
By Michelle Zellers
Daily Arts Writer
Richard Keyser, a 12-year-old from Baltimore, Md.,
says his neighborhood revolves around drugs. Explaining
his departure to another continent,
he says, "It's what I'm willing to do Boys of
is get away from here." Baraka
Keyser was one of 20 African-
American boys from his city cho- Tonight only at the
sen to spend seventh and eighth Michigan Theater
grade in East Africa. At the Baraka ThinkFilm
boarding school in Kenya, teachers
hope they can give their students the foundation they need
to do the improbable: graduate from high school.
Faced with the daunting statistic that 76 percent of
black male high school entrants in Baltimore don't
receive a diploma, the film "Boys of Baraka," which won
the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Independent
Film, depicts the individual cases of four boys.
Following them out of their homes in one of the most
violent cities in America, the movie traces their steps into
a world of hedgehogs, lizards and regimented academics.
There, teachers discover some of the students' talents that
went unnoticed in city schools, and the boys adjust to higher
expectations. The instructors strive to give them freedom
"to be normal teenage boys" and explore their new, exotic
environment. They impose constraints on the aggression
that was acceptable and commonplace on the Baltimore
streets; their main challenge is to reverse the kids' "at-risk"
labels before they return to the United States.
What is 'fine art' anyway?
The Daily fine arts section has an
identity crisis. Call it the dump-
ing ground for anything that
isn't film, popular music, television or
video games - but is sufficiently "artsy"
enough to find its way into Daily Arts.
It's easy enough to classify Mozart or
Picasso or Arthur Miller as "fine arts"
- anyone will throw you that bone. But
what about everything else?
On the other end of fine arts legiti-
macy is the coverage of fashion shows,
culture shows, a cappella concerts and
even modern interpretative
performance (think "The
Vagina Monologues"). Can
these really be considered
"fine arts?" The defini-
tive answer: It depends on
whom you ask.
The phrase "fine art"
was first used in 1767R
to describe art that was
"concerned with beauty or
which appealed to taste." " ALI
The phrase was only applied G
to visual arts - sculpture,
Touresy g "h LOKims
The award-winning doc "Boys of Baraka" will play tonight only at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the Michigan Theater.
Video messages from families afflicted by poverty
remind the viewer why parents are willing to sacrifice two
years with their teenage sons. During the separation, one
boy's mother returns to prison for drug use, while her son,
thousands of miles away, realizes he's gifted at math.
The filmmakers keep "Baraka" simple, chronological
and subject-focused, a style that the issues and people in
the film are powerful enough to warrant. Giving a few
overlooked kids some personal attention is what both the
teachers and the movie do best.
"Baraka" moves gracefully between light-hearted
moments that highlight the boys' humor, singularity and
emotionally charged images. When a war in Kenya com-
plicates the situation and forces the boys' education to be
cut painfully short, it's hard not to be disheartened. In
tracing the boys' pursuits after their year at the Baraka
school, the film showcases their extraordinary resilience.
Many flourish in their American schools, putting to use
the skills they take away from Kenya: Honor Roll certifi-
cates, a new world perspective and confidence.
But to some, suspension of the school's operation seems
like just another broken promise. A mentor for Keyser
- the boy who seemed most eager to escape from his
drug-dealing peers - says she would be surprised to see
the disillusioned student make it past the 10th grade.
The filmmakers realize their story's problem spans
beyond its 84-minute running time, so they don't attempt
to provide a solution or offer the audience empty reassur-
ances. The multitude of questions that can't be answered
make for an abrupt ending - frustrating, but appropriate.
It offers a compelling glimpse into what happens when
real potential meets an inescapable lack of opportunity.
Tally Hall takes tr ip to 'Te OC.
By Kimberly Chou Former Daily Arts writer Horow- has released several volumes of its
Daily Arts Writer itz said he first heard the news from "official soundtrack" to capitalize y
the band's booking agent. A copy on the popularity of the music.
As of now, Hollywood's waif- of Marvin's found its way onto the Parts of "Good Day" will be played
du-jour Mischa Barton might not desk of "O.C." music coordinator throughout the show, appearing in
know her character's college plans Alexandra Patsavas. She liked what five scenes as part of a thematic
1 , 1--+-, . C - -- -L- - +
painting, etc. - and usually only for art
of the classical style. The "fine" designa-
tion referred not to quality but rather to the
purity of the art's creation. In short, it's art
produced for the sake of art, with no defer-
ence to practicality or utility - much like
the study of pure science.
Through the work of modernist activ-
ists, the definition of fine art has broad-
ened throughout the 20th century. The
phrase began to refer to classical music,
established plays and traditional dance
(ballet, for example).
Nowadays, even established institu-
tions like the University have fine arts
degrees for a wide range of mediums.
You can get a Masters of Fine Arts at the
School of Music for choreography and
performance; in the English department
for creative writing; and, of course, from
the Art School for all things visual. Here
is the "pure art" concept applied to aca-
demics - instead of theory and analysis,
this is creation, even in the most modern
of mediums and styles.
The progression of "fine art" is analo-
gous to the changing visions of art itself.
In the 1920s, jazz was considered vulgar
trash, and abstract art's earliest viewers
were similarly horrified. Now, the jazz
greats can be heard at Hill Auditorium
with little grumble from even the most
uppity of art fans, and the University of
Michigan Museum of Art wouldn't hesi-
tate to display a Miro.
And the Daily - the progressive
organization that it is - has taken the
next step and turned these definitions on
their collective heads. There is one editor
and one columnist assigned as the be all,
end all for classical music, jazz, plays,
musicals, poetry, culture and fashion
shows, painting, sculpture and dance.
While the inclusiveness of the fine arts
section was a matter of practicality (there
just aren't enough editors), the system
makes a twisted sort of sense.
Culture shows - while also a state-
ment of politics and culture
(obviously) - is also a dis-
play of beauty, just one that
hasn't been accepted by the
Western mainstream. For
example, traditional Indian
dance is to India what ballet
is to Russia.
Then there's fashion -
regardless of what straight
men say - which has been
ON written off as a little too
utilitarian to be considered
fine art. But consider fash-
ion at the highest levels. Beautiful,
graceful - and in couture shows of
Galliano, Versace or Dolce & Gabba-
na - totally impractical. This is pure
art that just happens to be displayed
on the human body.
And finally, "The Vagina Mono-
logues" is a political statement, which
could disqualify it as a fine art, but think
of all the politics involved in some of the
20th century's best plays. Some exam-
ples: "The Crucible," "Streetcar Named
Desire" or "Macbeth."
Maybe I'm totally off my rocker at
this point, but time seems to change
all. Perhaps by the time I'm perma-
nently planted on a real rocker, the
Daily fine arts section will have paved
the way for college fine arts writers
around the country.
But more likely than not, long after
we're all ancient history, future gen-
erations will figure out new ways to
challenge the status quo. In short, vita
brevis, ars longa.
Life is short, but art is forever.
- Go wishes her Daily Arts career was
forever. She wishes the future generations
of Daily writers the best ofluck in sticking
it to the man. She will miss almost everyone
desperately and hopes the whole thing
doesn'tfall apart without her. Thanks for
giving me everything Inever knew Inever
wanted.,E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
or which boy-toy to choose from on
But as long as Orange County
beauty Marissa Cooper's melodra-
matic life allows indie bands to get
their TV exposure, Andrew Horow-
itz, of Ann Arbor-bred band Tally
Hall, doesn't have a problem.
Tonight's "O.C." episode will
feature a track from Marvin's Mar-
velous Mechanical Museum, Tally
Hall's debut album.
"We're not big 'O.C.' watchers, but
we know what it's about," Horow-
itz admitted. "We're watching (the
show) for the first time all together,
having a mini party."
she heard, the band liked what she
thought, and now Tally Hall's song
"Good Day" will get prominent play
on the popular teenage drama.
"It was a welcome phone call,"
Horowitz said. Known for perform-
ing in brightly colored neckties, the
band members first came together
during their years at the University.
"We're (our agent's) first 'O.C.
band,' " Horowitz said, adding that
the show has become a primary
venue for rising indie rockers.
Bands ranging from The Killers to
Death Cab For Cutie, Spoon to matt
pond PA, have had their music on the
Fox show. Symbiotically, "The O.C."
arc. Horowitz revealed that tonight's
episode is when the main characters
- four high school seniors - find
out about their college admissions.
"The O.C." may be Tally Hall's
most prominent celluloid- expo-
sure to date, but it's not their first.
Recently their song "Banana Man"
snagged plays on MTV's "The Real
World," and the band caught the
attention of VHI's "Best Week Ever"
at the South by Southwest Music and
Media Conference in Austin.
Tally Hall will return to Ann
Arbor this Saturday for two shows at
the Blind Pig. The first, an all-ages
performance, is already sold out.
A song performed by Tally Hall
will be featured on Fox's hit
"The O.C." tonight at 9 p.m.
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