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Eye-Opening Doc

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(above) LOCAL TALK: Steve Lee is interviewed among many who openly talk ‘Racial Taboo’ in Brian Grimm’s documentary. Courtesy photo
Upon arriving at the home of local filmmaker Brian Grimm, I immediately become a welcomed guest. His eyes glisten with excitement as he takes me through various rooms and shows me equipment he used to create his documentary, “Racial Taboo,” which will premiere at City Stage on September 27th. He points to texts that have inspired him to make the film, and he seems eager to not only promote it but to get to know me.

And that is where Grimm triumphs: He is a personable guy who genuinely loves people and the stories they have to share. It is a personality trait—which becomes apparent within minutes of meeting him—that transcends to his work. Grimm exhibits a unique curiosity about the world, something which lured him three years ago to create a film about race in our society. “Racial Taboo” explores prejudices which have crippled people since the days of slavery. It delves into oppression created by a white-dominated society, and examines the historical inaccuracies taught in schools, which veil the implications of white privilege. Just as importantly, the film seeks to answer why people are so afraid to candidly discuss racial issues.

Grimm reasons that race exemplifies an area of concern that white people cannot control; as a result, they choose not to discuss it, despite the black community’s desire to address the after-effects of the issues and move forward. In order for progress to be made, boundaries must be eradicated; “Racial Taboo” aims to do such.

“Initially in 2009, when we were in the depths of the recession, I wondered what was going to happen to people that were already living in poverty and could not find a job,” Grimm says. “I was curious why 25  percent of black America lives at or below the poverty level, and why they historically have double the unemployment of white people? But who could I talk to? I didn’t know any black people—and, as it turns out, neither did any of my liberal friends. I was very afraid to talk about these subjects with black people. I wanted to know why.”

What turned into a three-year journey, continues today. Grimm uses film as a facilitator for his investigations. “I believe that it is TV and film that continue to reinforce the perceptions that were created by slavery and Jim Crow,” he notes. “So, it is film that will be the most effective way to change these perceptions going forward. Watching ‘Racial Taboo’ changes people’s perceptions—you cannot ‘unsee’ or ‘unhear’ something.”

Grimm’s experience provides new perspectives on society. Or, at least, the movie will give people something to relate to on some level.

“I had the opportunity to challenge many of my life-long beliefs and assumptions about black culture,” he says. “As a white person, I thought that the rest of the world thought like me. Understanding that white privilege is real was disturbing—not because it exists, but because it persists.”

Grimm urges people to admit their own prejudices and use them as a starting point for growth. He says facing his own prejudices, upon being asked about them, remains eye-opening.

“When I found the courage to say, ‘yes,’ my experience was that black people trusted me because now there is a basis for an honest relationship,” Grimm explains. “After over 150 interviews no one has shamed me for being prejudiced; I feared that for a long time for nothing. I found black culture to be incredibly understanding and forgiving.”

So far Grimm’s screening of the film has resulted in his hopes: to prompt open discussions among audience members. “Racial Taboo” has shown at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina. Grimm also routinely plays the film for test audiences and members of the media, with hopes of perfecting the film in its ability to spark and carry forth dialogue. Locally, the film has garnered the attention and support of Mayor Bill Saffo, Deborah Maxwell (President of the New Hanover County NAACP),  Ben David (District Attorney for New Hanover and Pender Counties), Samuel Ibrahim (New Hanover County Republican Party Chairman), and Richard Poole (New Hanover County Democratic Party Chairman).

“Racial Taboo” will become available at all New Hanover County public libraries beginning October 1st. Grimm wants to someday make the film available online for free; he says it will happen once the film reaches 5,000 likes on Facebook, and when donations/purchases reach one-third of the production cost, which is around $25,000. People interested in contributing can donate $200 and become a credited “executive producer” (on the online version), or donate between $20 and $199 and become listed as a “co-executive producer” (on the online version). T-shirts and DVDs are also available for purchase.

The premiere of “Racial Taboo” at City Stage will also feature stand-up comedy by national-touring comedians Kyle Grooms and Dustin Chafin. Grooms has seen the film and really took to Grimm’s personality. More so, he enjoys shedding a light on sensitive issues with the use of comedy as a cushion. “I think humor is a way of adding a little sugar to it,” Grooms says. “[The subject of race] is bitter but it’s still the truth.”

Tickets for the event can be purchased on the film’s website ( Grimm asks attendees to bring canned food items or baby formula to the premiere to donate to a local food bank. More importantly, he asks: “Try to have an open mind for 53 minutes and 23 seconds, and then talk about it.” There will be a political roundtable, including Mayor Saffo, Ben David and the NAACP, after the screening.

‘Racial Taboo’ screening; comedy

w/Kyle Grooms & Dustin Chafin
City Stage, 21 N Front St.
September 27th-28th, 7 p.m.
$12 adv or $15/door

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