Trivial Pursuit, yellow pie: What is the most important date of the 1940s for the American army? The bombing of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. A film by Michael Bay with Ben Affleck and Cuba Gooding, Jr. (in a supporting role). But if you’re playing Black Trivial Pursuit (yet to be commercialized) you lose, because the right answer is December 2, 1948, the desegregation of the US armies.
Men of Honor is a studio project. Fox hired an experienced filmmaker to direct a potential blockbuster. But this time the filmmaker happens to be Black. George Tillman, Jr. (Soul Food) made one big leap when he accepted to tell the story of the first deep-sea diver in the American Navy. Starring Robert de Niro and Cuba Gooding, Jr., with hundreds of extras and underwater scenes, the historical reconstitution is a well-crafted piece of propaganda, and it works.
Who are the true heroes of America’s history? Racist and alcoholic instructors and divers who receive medals for leaving their partners behind because the Navy can’t decorate the Black man who saved him? In the armies just like in schools or buses desegregation was fought for against Whites who wanted to preserve racial privilege. In his fight Brashear (Cuba Gooding Jr.) embodies the all-American values of justice, merit and democracy which most view as utopian but still delight in seeing reflected, though here through the eyes of those who so rarely see justice, democracy, or merit rewarded.
Men Of Honor is not only a depiction of past injustices through the life of heroes and martyrs, it’s a blunt, Black look at the racial dynamics of American history. When cook Brashear is promoted sea-lifeguard, a first step to glory, his fellow workers tell him, rather matter-of-factly: « the only reason they took you is ’cause you’re high yellow. »
Men of Honor is based on the true story of Carl Brashear.
Directed by George Tillman, Jr. Starring Cuba Gooding Jr. (Carl Brashear), Robert de Niro (Billy Sunday), Michael Rapaport (Snowhill), Aunjanue Ellis (Jo). D.P.: Anthony B. Richmond. Producer: Robert Teitel, Bill Cosby. A Twentieth Century Fox production///Article N° : 5611