The Black List: Volume 1, the first film in this trilogy, premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2008 and aired on HBO in August of that year. In 2009, it won the NAACP Spirit award best documentary.
The film works as a series of living portraits, twenty-three prominent African Americans of various professions, disciplines and backgrounds offer their own stories and insights on the struggles, triumphs and joys of black life in this country and manage to re-define “blacklist” for a new century in the process. Subjects speak directly to the camera as they tell their stories.
Those interviewed for the film are: Bill T. Jones, Chris Rock, Colin Powell, Dawn Staley, Faye Wattleton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Lorna Simpson, Louis Gossett, Jr., Mahlon Duckett, , Marc Morial, Rev. Al Sharpton, Richard D. Parsons, Russell Simmons, Sean Combs, Serena Williams, Slash, Steven Stoute, Susan Rice, Suzan-Lori Parks, Thelma Golden, Toni Morrison, Vernon Jordan, William Rice, and Zane.
Felicia R. Lee, The New York Times – Their tales of their lives begin with the personal, and move into an area of larger social repercussion, as the weight of their accomplishment on this country and world come into focus. “The Black List” is more than an enumeration of obstacles overcome – it’s a singular view of America from a type of insight and perspective rarely seen on screen in a way that emphasizes the elegance and determination of the subjects.
Slash “They think I’m Jewish,” he says. “I’m in the Jewish book of famous people. But as far as, you know, on the professional level, I think it’s pretty common knowledge that I’m half black or whatever. I was never really fazed by the, sort of, the color barrier, you know?”
Slash, the former lead guitarist of Guns N’ Roses, is talking. The son of a black mother and a white father, he is the first among the 23 renowned people who muse, confess and tell stories in “The Black List: Volume 1,” a 90-minute documentary scheduled to have its television premiere on HBO on Monday night. A collaboration between the portrait photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, who directed it, and the film critic Elvis Mitchell, who did the interviews, it consists of a series of portraits capturing the range of what is often called the black experience.”
Steven Zeitchik, The Hollywood Reporter
“The Black List” is much more than a totem of ethnic pride, though it’s that too — it’s an exploration of identity and ambition in contemporary and recent America. It may be the best thing, outside a good Obama speech, that one could watch to deepen and humanize their understanding of race.”
Steve Boone, Time Out Magazine
Luminaries face the camera and tell their tales as if addressing a single friendly acquaintance (you, the viewer) rather than a sea of black ties at an NAACP fund-raiser.”