The Black List Debuts on HBO
BLACK POWER: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and Elvis Mitchell look pretty prescient right now.

When the two men conceived of “The Black List: Volume One,” Barack Obama hadn’t yet declared his intention to run for president. By the time the film debuted on HBO last August, Obama’s campaign was well under way.

Now, “The Black List: Volume Two” is premiering on HBO tonight, and the concept of a film celebrating the African-American experience takes on new currency.

“You pinch yourself because we have the film-of-the-moment,” said Greenfield-Sanders, who directed “Black List.”

“What’s interesting about it is that people had expectations,” added Mitchell, who conducted the interviews for the movie. “Instead of it being an expository historical overview, [‘The Black List’] is about people who’ve been on the front lines, living it. That takes on a real different aspect now that we have President Obama.”

“Volume One,” an assemblage of short stories on race, struggle and accomplishment featured the likes of Colin Powell, Al Sharpton, Thelma Golden, Chris Rock, Richard Parsons and Louis Gossett Jr. The second installment has figures such as Laurence Fishburne, Kara Walker, Tyler Perry, RZA, Patrick Robinson, Charley Pride, Maya Rudolph and Angela Davis, but the interviews seem to have a lighter tone.

Subjects of both films turned out on Tuesday for an advance screening of “Volume Two” at Harlem’s Apollo Theater.

The second group had no shortage of challenges on the road to prominence. Walker talks about her art being misunderstood. “You could paint a wall of smiley faces and somebody would ask, ‘Why are you so angry?’” she says. RZA reveals that reading comic books helped him escape his impoverished childhood. Gap head designer Robinson says, “Very few people make it in fashion. It’s not very diverse. It’s a tough, tough field.”

— Sharon Edelson