'Black List Vol. 2'


HBO's distinctive and elegant follow-up to 2008's "The Black List Vol. 1" follows a similar minimalist path in gathering prominent black figures to reveal something candid and insightful about themselves or their take on the world.

Each vignette is a couple of minutes long, spoken against a plain background, the camera softly focused and their inquisitor — in this case, journalist-turned- filmmaker Elvis Mitchell — neither seen nor heard. The effect is at once distinctive and provocative yet ridiculously simple. All of the participants are black, but their stories aren't necessarily centered specifically on race. But all are poignant, to be sure.

The parties this time include Laurence Fishburne and Maya Rudolph, producer Suzanne de Passe, pastor T.D. Jakes, singer Charley Pride, filmmakers Tyler Perry and Melvin Van Peebles, artist Kara Walker, fashion designer Patrick Robinson, activist and academic Angela Davis and Anglican Bishop Barbara Harris.

The tapestry formed by the narrative is meant to offer a "unique look into the zeitgeist of black America," and that it does. Fishburne talks of the responsibility he's been made to feel as an onscreen father figure. Rudolph discusses the odd perceptions she fields as someone of mixed race. Veteran country crooner Pride shares the sense of purpose he felt as a black man singing white man's music.

A production collaboration between Mitchell and Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, who also directs, "Black List 2" is as visually stimulating as it is verbally astute. It's also an entertaining way to spend an hour. (partialdiff)