‘Black Man’ documentary film featuring 32 Muskegon residents to premiere at Frauenthal

MUSKEGON, MI — Muskegon County kicks off Black History Month this weekend with the special premiere of “Black Man,” a documentary produced by a Muskegon Native American about black men in Muskegon County.

The documentary tells the stories of 32 black men in a small community, ages 21 to 91, as they share their thoughts on life, love, longing, loss and America.

“I would describe the film as a face-to-face roller coaster ride,” said Jon Covington, the film’s producer. “It’s raw and compelling.”

Covington said the film concept took shape in 2018 when he was asked to interview 47 other black men in the Muskegon community as part of the Muskegon Museum of Art’s exhibition “Sons: Seeing the Modern African American Male.”

At the time, Covington was the owner of radio station 97.3 “The Beat,” he said. The interviews were to provide a five-minute loop to be played in the museum’s waiting area.

“They mass emailed the guys and asked them to come in and talk to me for a few minutes,” he said. “And from the people who were passing by, I realized that this is potentially a documentary that we have on our hands here.”

The documentary first screened in small iterations across the country in 2020 and received nominations at several film festivals, including the Capital City Black Film Festival, officials said.

It is described as a “raw, real, immersive, kaleidoscopic view” with a deeper dive into expanded components of the film.

“I say to people who’ve seen the film that it’s changed a lot,” Covington said. “It’s still faithful to Muskegon, but it’s changed a bit from the first version of the film. But I think it’s always been relatable to others, no matter where they are.”

The February 5 screening at the Frauenthal Center in Muskegon will be the first time West Michiganders will be able to see the developed film in its entirety.

The free premiere event is a prelude to a nationwide effort to celebrate and honor Black History Month, officials said.

Several Muskegon area organizations including United Way of the Lakeshore and Hackley Public Library are coming together to host the premiere of Black Man.

Covington said he’s confident the film’s impact will only increase due to the importance of Black History Month.

“The reason the month exists at all is to highlight the contributions Black men and women have made to civilization and society,” he said. “So here it is. You have 32 black men sharing in a way we’ve never seen on screen before.

“I think it adds to the overall arc of Black History Month to see the truth and transparency of how these black men portray themselves.”

Dominique Bunker, community engagement director at United Way of the Lakeshore, said she hopes the film will spark conversation and community pride.

“It will be a platform and a launching pad for community conversations around a raw experience of what our neighbors are feeling,” she said. “Because it’s not all negative. There will be positive talk, different ages, story pieces, laughter, tears, all kinds of wonderful things that can come out of it.”

The final version of the film will premiere on Sunday, February 5 at 3 p.m. at the Frauenthal Center, 425 W Western Ave STE 200. Admission is free.

For residents of Grand Rapids, the Kent District Library is partnering with Celebration Cinema to host the film premiere on February 28 at 7 p.m. in downtown Grand Rapids. Find out more by visiting the film’s Facebook page.

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