Color Adjustment. 1991. USA. Directed by Marlon Riggs. Digital projection. Courtesy of California Newsreel. 80 min.
An extension of Marlon Riggs’s first documentary, Ethnic Notions, which charted the prejudicial depictions of African Americans from the 1820s to the Civil Rights Era, Color Adjustment narrows the focus to portrayals of African Americans on television, examining how the medium is an instrument for oppression, assimilation, and expression. Ruby Dee narrates this history, illustrated by archival footage of Amos and Andy, Good Times, and The Cosby Show, and enriched by testimonials from media and sociology scholars. The result is an incisive intellectual analysis of how black life in America was portrayed on the small screen, and its lasting significance. The film’s deceptively conventional form (talking heads, narration, archival material) feels radical here, for its centering of black voices describing what blackness on television meant to them.