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Last modified: Thursday, February 10, 2011

WTIU-TV's 'Blacking Up' documentary receives national award

Feb. 10, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Robert Clift, a doctoral candidate in Indiana University's Department of Communication and Culture, has been awarded the American Library Association's (ALA) 2011 Notable Videos for Adults Award for his film Blacking Up: Hip-Hop's Remix of Race and Identity.

The film was made by WTIU-TV and Independent Television Service. Blacking Up offers a provocative look at the popularity of hip-hop among America's white youth, exploring whether white identification is rooted in admiration and a desire to transcend race, or is merely a new chapter in a continuum of stereotyping, mimicry and cultural appropriation.

Clift wrote, directed and produced the documentary. His previous film Stealing Home: The Case of Cuban Baseball was broadcast nationally on PBS in 2001.

"Because of this award, Blacking Up will almost certainly become available at every library in the country, including the IU Bloomington Wells Library, which recently purchased a copy," said Steve Krahnke, executive producer for the film. "WTIU is happy to have partnered with Mr. Clift and the Independent Television Service (ITVS) in the creation of the film. We look forward to a continuing fruitful relationship with Robert, hopefully on films which are equally provocative and which add to the national conversation."

Blacking Up places the issues of cross-cultural appropriation and desire in historical context, drawing parallels between the figure of the white hip-hop fan and previous incarnations of white identification with black culture. The film addresses the legacy of blackface performers such as Al Jolson. In addition, jazz figures like the "hipster" and rock 'n' roll icons such as Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones are considered within a broader context of white appropriation of black cultural expression. The film posits that identifying with black culture has offered white performers and consumers a means to lift inhibitions, and in the case of hip-hop, has given white men license to act aggressively masculine.

Throughout the film are commentaries by African American cultural critics such as Amiri Baraka (who draws parallels to the beatnik era), Nelson George, Greg Tate, comedian Paul Mooney and hip-hop figures Chuck D, Russell Simmons, M1 of Dead Prez and DJ Kool Herc.

Blacking Up: Hip-Hop's Remix of Race and Identity is scheduled to air on WTIU on Thursday, Feb. 24, at 10 p.m.

Blacking Up is distributed on television by the National Educational Television Association (NETA) and has appeared on dozens of PBS stations nationwide.


WTIU is the PBS television station owned and operated by Indiana University and serves over 350,000 households in 29 counties in West and South Central Indiana. WTIU airs programming on four digital channels 24 hours a day, and produces local, regional and national programs.