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Anthony Mackie States The Obvious About Black Cinema

Anthony Mackie States The Obvious About Black Cinema

In an interview in today’s Chicago Tribune in advance of the Artistic Achievement Award he will receive this weekend at the Chicago International Film Festival’s Black Perspectives Tribute, Anthony Mackie states that black film today needs a “catalyst” and that filmmakers such as Spike Lee and Robert Townsend should be insprations to new black filmmakers today.

He also says in the interview that: “We’re at a place where we need the next Robert Townsend. We need the next young filmmakers like Spike Lee or John Singleton to come along and show our world in a different light.It happened in music. It was all gang-banging and ‘hoes’ until Talib Kweli, Common and Kanye West came out and redefined the era of the conscious millennium rapper. I feel in film it has to be the same thing.”

O.K. granted. It’s not exactly anything that hasn’t been said before but I just wanted to make sure that at least it was posted here on S & A for the record. To use The New York Times’ motto after a fashion: All the black cinema news that fit to print

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Nope, we don’t need the next Spike, John or Robert. If we must use comparatives we need the next Zanuck, LB Mayer, Corman, Sennet, Coppola, Redford, Wasserman, Weinstein etc etc.


Dang Anthony you wanna name some sista’s too? This is the problem, there’s too many men running thangs and letting their egos drive them. Black Hollywood needs some estrogen :-)


I think the story is more complicated than Anthony Mackie seems to realize. He mentions Spike Lee and John Singleton and those two men are amazing directors but the 1990s was a different time than 2011. In 2011, studios want movies to make money and they would rather greenlight something SAFE like Jumping The Broom than take a chance on a black drama or something that is more risky.

People talk about Steve McQueen he’s doing great with Shame BUT Shame has a mostly white cast. Would a movie like Shame that deals with sexual addiction appeal to black audiences if the cast was all black? Would Shame get mainstream attention if it had an all black cast?

Mackie is “inside” the Hollywood film industry and I am surprised at his comments. There are problems black directors and fimmakers have in obtaining funding to film, produce a movie. There are problems in getting PRESS even from the BLACK PRESS.

I am surprised that Mackie did not discuss the issue of DISTRIBUTION. Anyone can make a movie BUT how does the movie reach an audience? How is the movie marketed? I think this is the problem here. There are black directors out there TRYING to make a difference the problem is either black people or other races don’t know about the artist work, there is not enough money for marketing, no studio will greenlight these movies.


Neziah you are right. Gotta look around for them. And I know for me, that’s why I understand his analogy to music, because there was a time when those sorts of musicians were the norm, the standard, the mainstream/top 40. But they are now underground, like Richard Ayoade or Dee Ree’s or Seith Mann.

Just sucks that you can’t turn on your tv or got to the theatre & get to choose from these different artist’s works…but then again, the game is much crazier now.


He’s right, but we already have many brilliant black filmmakers currently working. Some of which rarely make films anymore (Haile Gerima, Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, etc), but they’re out there, and although many don’t get the funding they desire, the few films they do make are unparallelled. Is there a new Robert Townsend and Spike Lee? Of course, and there’s also new black filmmakers like Steve McQueen and Richard Ayoade who are really going above and beyond the expectations set upon them, so you just have to look at the right people.


Donnie, I disagree. The comparison to music is sound is so far as the mindset of the filmmaker, the group he surrounds himself with & the product they choose to put out are “different”. Making the movie and it’s cost are relative, yes, but if you’re willing to sell your car or max out a few credit cards, you can DEFINITELY make a quality film today. It just requires EXTENSIVE pre-pro because you can’t afford to screw it up. But I think he’s really talking about making credible films where the story is front & center, the politics of race are secondary. First & foremost, Spike was making films about Brooklyn & New York. Robert Townsend was making movies about comedy, just so happens they both were dripping with biting social commentary & satire. In a more recent context, the movie COURAGEOUS just made bookoo money in comparison to it’s budget. Why? Because it is a FAITH based movie, devoid of studio shenanigans (they’ve also gotten smart and taken “Christian” out of the genre label). And all the movies like it, FIREPROOF & such, all said screw the large part of Hollywood, we’re making movies the way WE want to see them, & their audience shows up big.

All they needed was distribution, which if the quality of the film is up to screening standards & you can prove demos in locales, you’ll get it. Hell, sometimes the quality can be dog mess and you’ll still get distribution as long as you can prove that the return on the investment will be there. And you can’t say that it’s always about race because Black movies were still being shown in the late 80s, early 90s when folks were gettin’ shot up in the theatre, those movies were still being shown. Maybe not nationally, but they hit ALL the usual suspects (St. Louis, NY, DC, Philly, LA, Dallas, etc).

WE haven’t proven CONSISTENTLY that a film with an all black cast will make money. You’ll have some hits, some so-sos, but the only CONSISTENT game in town, is our boy TP.-and THAT speaks more to his AUDIENCE, than to the QUALITY of his films. Since we know Blacks aren’t a monolithic group, we’re all over the map based on geography, education level, filmic & artistic taste…even whether or not there are cultural norms & responsibilities of our own ethnicity….how can we expect every Black film to make it, just because there are Black people in it? That doesn’t work for us. Find your HOOK, put Black people in it, & then make the film.

Look at Woody Allen, dude hasn’t had a SMASH hit in probably 30 odd years, but he has just enough money from his loyal, devoted fanbase that garner him return engagements. Not to mention, he’s in the “clique” and actors are dying to work with him because it’s a status symbol, even if the movie is shit (I could care less for his stuff really LOL) The only person we have that comes close to that regard is Spike…and we all know how well that’s been going.




I read an article about the revival of THE FAST & THE FURIOUS franchise and what Universal learned is that the marketing of the film as a “Latino” film failed because Latino’s don’t respond to that (they copied the model for Blacks & Women mind you). The movies succeeded because they focused on the car culture, which is a HUGE part of Latino culture. That…and hot women LOL It’s basically a 90 min auto show, complete with the glistened up women in skinny-mini’s & thong bikini’s, which really is a regular old studio film. Add a “Rodriguez” here & a “Sanchez” there, some Reggaeton to it & BOOM, anatomy of a hit!

We’re always talking about making a movie about “BLACK” people, when, if you’re primarily interested in commerce, we should make a movie about surfers, who are Black. Or Wall Street Corporate raiders, who are Black. Sell that, and you’ll have more people come to the theatres-I’ll lay money on it.


Barry Jenkins passes on many opportunities. he seems to want to create his own path


Quick question – are black film makers expected to make movies featuring a significant amount of black actors?

Stacey Muhammad

It’s often said that if it’s not in the mainstream, it’s not in our bloodstream. I agree with Anthony Mackie, however, I think that the “next” Spike Lee / Robert Townsend is out here, already making films. There are many brilliant young black filmmakers who are doing incredible work. Much of it may not be funded, it may not get the attention it deserves, but it’s out here!

Donnie Leapheart

Not to really debate the point made but you can’t compare film with music. A person can literally record an album over the course of a week with only 2 people in a basement studio in their home with a Mac and Pro Tools. You can’t make a quality, entertaining film with same resources.

Also, Spike Lee and Robert Townsend also had the benefit of coming in when not too many other African Americans were doing it so they stood out. A comedy like Hollywood Shuffle would be ignored nowadays. Dramas like Do the Right Thing and Boys in the Hood would today be blasted for perpetuating “urban” stereotypes.

There are already filmmakers out here slowly changing the game, the audience just doesn’t know about them because there is too much competition for their already short attention spans.


Anthony Mackie is right but I think those ‘catalysts’ to move black cinema forward are already around. Barry Jenkins who directed Medicine for Melancholy looks like a big talent but while big talents from previous eras, like Spike Lee and others, got Hollywood contracts and freedom to do personal projects what is Barry getting? From what I see he’s making a bunch of short films and maybe that’s his choice but I’d be surprised if he wouldn’t jump at the chance to make the kind of leap Spike made when we went to Columbia Pictures to make School Daze. You may or may not like School Daze but the point is Columbia gave Spike millions of Hollywood cash to make a very new, very different black film from what had gone before.

At the moment black talent who have started in indie film like Barry Jenkins, Dennis Dortch, Matthew Cherry etc are not been given the opportunity to make the leap to bigger budget features and so black cinema is really suffering.


2011/INAUGURATION of Black Panther Cinema, who ready to sign up? huuum??, we could start with the ushers, but they to busy Watchin the Throne.

Bright Spots on the Horizon> Barry Jenkins-Ava Duvernay-Ric Cordero<

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