by Morgan Mathews
A review of San Francisco Film Fest short film “Bit”
By JR Valrey, of the Black New World Journalists Society
“Bit” is a 34 minute short comedy, directed by Morgan Mathews, about a young Black tech entrepreneur, Houston, and his ambition to create a start-up around his trivia game app, “Jambo”. The film is set mostly in downtown Oakland, which is currently on the fringes of the ever-growing Silicon Valley.
Houston, the main character, is not written as your stereotypical young Black man from the Bay, which is a part of what made this story fresh; and not an extended-play-gangster-rap-video turned film, like so many other stories written about young Black people in Oakland, and in the Bay.
Instead “Bit” looks at the life of a Black man, in Silicon Valley, in the midst of the Obama initiated so-called post-racial society, where true identity is castigated into the fire of realness, for an existence as a fake multicultural, intersectional blur.
This theme in “Bit” is what created the comedic tension in the film. I first noticed this aspect, when Tony, an Asian computer engineer who once worked for Jambo, was quitting. In the midst of discussing his employment options with Houston, he is distracted by a woman walking by, and tries to start a conversation with the Black-ish colloquial “hey, girl” as she struts on. He later interrupts the conversation again to say, “they love it when I do that”, juxtaposing an Asian man in Oakland, who is more culturally Black, when it comes to talking to women, than Houston.
It also juxtaposed that Asian Tony, stereotypically could not focus on the discussion at hand, when a simple distraction of a woman, prompting lust, presented herself, walking by Tony and Houston discussing the future of Jambo, on a bustling street. Usually this business immaturity is seen as a stereotypical trait of young Black professionals. This was a constant theme throughout the film, which added to the film’s originality and creativity, because not many films from the area cover that element of Bay Area “post racial society” life, which is a reality that I have witnessed some local newcomers play out.
The comedic climax in the film was reached when Houston was invited to present his app, to a program that could help him to further his ambitions. Right before the presentation begins, “Blake”, a white diversity and inclusion consultant, who graduated from a HBCU walks in casually later than expected; indirectly juxtaposing and poking fun at Black people always moving “on colored people’s time”, except this was “Blake” a white guy trained by Black people in Black things at his alma mater which he proudly mentioned. Upon meeting Houston, “Blake”, who’s name is eerily similar to Black, gives him an over-familiar Black man dap up (handshake hug).
After Blake walked away from that interaction, he then awkwardly opened his legs widely, and did some kind of twerk movement for a few seconds, before walking to his seat. What made the interaction politically hilarious, were that these were Blakes’s attempt at having a Black touch aka swag. He looked like a “In Living Color” parody doing it. It is telling that “whatever” company would rather hire a white man with “Black credentials”, rather than hire someone that is Black. Post racialism says that you don’t necessarily need someone who is Black, you just need someone who identifies.
The film goes on to deal with its final dilemma, which is that Houston sold his Black partner and his original designers out, and once Tony, the replacement engineer left, Houston was trying to return to the source, as the revolutionary leader Amilicar Cabral would say. The only thing is that the betrayal really affected Benny.
In the end, in the most unlikely way a brief glimmer of hope and possible crossover success, brought the two friends, and founders, back together. I loved that this was not a sell out “assimilated negro” movie, and that it made some very important points about how Black people are forced to endure daily, and sometimes hourly, pandering and microaggressive behavior living in the post-racial tech world of the Bay Area. The main soapbox that the director used, throughout the film, to make these very valid points was humor, which I thought was brilliant. In the spirit of “Sorry to Bother You” and “Bamboozled”, we have another classic political comedy to add to the political education movie curriculum.
The movie “Bit” is a must see in the virtual edition of the San Francisco Black Film Festival. Buy your tickets here. Sfbff.org.