James Spooner is the director of Afro-punk, a documentary film exploring race identity in the punk scene. He produced his film mostly out of New York, having had no previous training in film (he'd studied sculpting in college). As a DIY effort, he rigorously toured the film across the country like a band, showing it as many venues as possible, and rapidly amassing a devoted cult following, largely among minority punks centralized around a message board on his website afropunk.com.
He also has another feature film called White Lies Black Sheep, which is more a fictional dramatization of the same concept. It premiered at Toronto international Film Fest and is on the festival circuit now.
He was born in the Caribbean nation of Saint Lucia, but grew up in America on both coasts with a black father and white mother. All his life he was part of the predominantly Eurocentric punk scene, but had always considered himself to be black, despite being the only biracial kid in his family and his siblings often referring to him as "their white brother". After visiting his birthplace in the predominantly black St. Lucia for the first time since toddlerhood however, he began to reevaluate himself culturally. He'd always considered the islands his home, and had never considered the possibility of anyone seeing him as anything other than black, but he realized here for the first time, by some, he might be considered white.
He grew increasingly fascinated with the strange phenomenon of nobody (including himself and his friends) actually discussing race relations or exploring the mostly untold stories of the black experience in the punk scene, despite the plethora of accomplished black artists like Mick Collins, Fishbone, Vaginal Davis, and Bad Brains, and indeed punk rock's origins as an offshoot of rock and roll itself and the pioneering work of innovators like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Jimi Hendrix.
Personal Statement from WhiteLiesBlackSheep.com
I grew up all over the place. I have seen a lot of things. I have lived both comfortably and uncomfortably in black AND white America. Defining myself, for myself and loving myself for my decision, was no easy task. "White Lies" marks the end of that journey for me. It was the last thing I needed to say to my world before I could say to myself, what I always knew to be true. "Race doesn't matter, Race is a lie". That statement made, I also understand that RACISM does matter and that is the truth. I fully comprehend the difference and how it has effected and continues to effect my life. It is my hope that this film speaks to the audience the way, my first film, Afro-Punk did, helping them as they continue to define themselves.—James Spooner, WhiteLiesBlackSheep.com