“GENERIC ANTI-RACIST BRAND MESSAGE,” BY ZEN ZADIH PACE, SATIRIZES ATTEMPTS BY COMPANIES TO PROMOTE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AFTER DECADES OF IGNORANCE
Society is changing at warp speed, but corporate America? Pshhh! Despite lip service, glossy videos featuring token minorities, pledges to “continue the conversation” and thick reports extoling hollow gestures, brands are desperate to show their solidarity with Black Lives Matter. That hypocrisy gave producer/ director Zen Zadih Pace tons of material to work with in his new short film, “Generic Anti-Racist Brand Message,” which lampoons the business community’s attempts to promote their diversity and inclusion efforts. Featuring a sarcastic and scathing voiceover by Pace, the film trolls pretty, stock footage (ironically, very little available featuring black people) that companies use in their promotional efforts to create a hilarious picture of the empty promises and limp efforts industry has made to level the playing field and reflect a world that began evolving years ago. Apparently, company leaders didn’t get the memo. (See video HERE)
“Racism is BAD. Real bad,” reads Pace, in a soothing voice-over reminiscent of a promo for tonight’s Hallmark network movie “Christmas in Love” airing at 8pm EST/ 7pm Central in Caucasian markets across America “We get that now. SO. We’re having meetings about it, talking about it, thinking about it, and EVEN typing about it.”
Says Pace: “What so many of these companies deny is a Black Persons existence, by not promoting, by only taking. They are very much subconsciously still treating Black People like objects. This angered me, so I made this video as a clear and direct response to them.”
Pace was inspired to make the film after talking with former PAPER Magazine Culture editor Michael Love Michael, who was amused at his former publication’s efforts to show awareness/ concern about the George Floyd shooting. Its CEO, Tom Florio, was taken to task for a company-wide email he had sent acknowledging society’s “deep-rooted racial oppression and institutionalized racism,” adding it has “left us frustrated, angry, sad and frightened.” After called out on social media by black employees who had a “different” experience at the magazine, Florio Tweeted a mea culpa, saying “… This week I gained a lesson in my own failures of communication and yes, self-awareness.”
Good for you. Here’s a cookie.
Still, Pace was not impressed.
“People are experiencing collective trauma for this country’s past, and brands are still trying to find a way to sell mascara or sneakers, while attempting to denounce racism,” says Pace. “These brands will continue to make messages in reaction to the communities they supply, but will they listen to the actual needs and wants of black people?”
“Generic Anti-Racist Brand Message,” Zen believes, is a first step at calling bullshit on companies that only hire black employees when their EEOC headcount is at stake.
“You can’t stick black people in your annual reports, when your annual efforts are minimal at best,” says Pace.
Perhaps the film says it best:
“Because we stand with you, black community, and to help in this fight we are using words, words like stand, solidarity and we’re committed … We are gladly announcing that as of today we are posting a black square to end racism.”
Zen Zadih Pace (they/them) originally from Flint, Mich., is a multidisciplinary artist in New York City. A content director for the leading mental health app Bloom, Head of Production for Impact Movies, and a Life Coach for children with disabilities. At Impact, videos under their direction have helped nonprofits to raise close to $1 million in donations in the last year. In content creation, they use their skills learned from the prestigious British Academy of Dramatic Arts in Oxford, England. Creating a unique approach to chemistry tests that help artists perform authentically The director has worked in production at BBC, Logo, Colbert Report and MSNBC and their directing work has been featured in PAPER, Huffington Post, Latinx and more. Currently, Pace is directing the Sundance finalist script FRAUD by Dana Levinson.