A Breakout Year for Black Film? Not Quite.

A Breakout Year for Black Film? Not Quite.

After chronicling the struggles of black independent filmmakers to get their movies made recently, in stories for Filmmaker Magazine and this blog, I was surprised to read New York Times reporter Michael Cieply’s overly upbeat take on what he calls a “substantial new wave” of African American themed films, which seems to me like an irresponsible and overly rosy characterization of the number of black films in the U.S. marketplace, particularly those of the sophisticated or dramatic variety.

Cieply’s story is pegged, in part, to Ryan Coogler’s Sundance winner “Fruitvale Station,” which certainly marks a veritable reason to celebrate for filmmakers of color. But, of course, the proof will be in the pudding when The Weinstein Co releases the film. It could be another “Beasts of the Southern Wild” or “Precious,” but one breakout a year does not constitute any significant new wave or uptick for these kinds of films about the African American experience.

Cieply notes that 10 new films will be released, but when those 10 include Tyler Perry’s annual Lionsgate release, Lee Daniels’s squeamish-looking “The Butler,” and  black comedian Kevin Hart’s concert doc, can you really claim anything has shifted in the film industry? This is not to discount another doc about a black comedian or Tyler Perry’s output, but these are examples of the kinds of films that have already proven safe and unremarkable bets.

More interesting is the appearance later this year of Kasi Lemmons’s “Black Nativity” and Steve McQueen’s “Twelve Years a Slave,” which, if successful, could help pave the way for more black films that don’t conform to the usual stereotypical stories. But. as I’ve been told by several filmmakers of color working today, they are not received with open doors, particularly in the international marketplace, which remains a key facet of any film’s financing structure.

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Comments

No

Yes, I thought that story was a way bit too rosy for the normal course of things re black films. Ten? That's like hearing the press carping about the number of Obama prosecutions under the Espionage Act: six.

MINCE

Ten black films by black directors theatrically released in six months is significant. Because you've done a blog and an article about it (are you flippin' serious?!!!!), doesn't mean you have any insight into the impact of black directors actually getting work OF ALL KINDS out there. The impact this might have on black community and black filmmakers at all stages. Black directors making black movies is something you don't even realize the magnitude of. Black directors making black movies. Not rich white kids getting Academy Awards for going into the backwoods and making fantasies about little black girls. Not rich white men making save fantasies. Not that. Your post reeks of white privilege.

Rif

African-Americans make up about 14% of the population, and movies reflecting the concerns of African-Americans aren't going to be of pressing interest to the other 86%, even assuming African-Americans generally want to see indie-type movies, which doesn't appear to be the case. This doesn't mean that the 86% are racists or boors.

As for Hollywood, try going to the movies sometime: Hollywood is far less about white people than about the fantasy of privilege – privileged possessions and privileged experience. Ethnic filmmaking of any kind violates that convention. For all the white Jewish males working in the movies, how many, other than Woody Allen, make specifically "Jewish" movies? These guys make movies about goys and blonds. Generic fantasy, get it, Ken and Barbie?

And there are OTHER poorly represented minorities. How about Hispanics? Asians? African-Americans have actually done pretty well. And when an African-American complains, particularly a woman, it gets results. Less feared minorities can yell and scream all they want, and they'll just get banned.

BillyDe

Isn't it time these racist/anti-whites awards shows be treated like thee KKK-like organizations they are?

African American Literary Award Show (AALAS)
African Film Critics Awards
African Movie Academy Awards
American Black Film Festival
BEFFTA Leadership Award
BET Awards
Black International Film Festival
Black Movie Awards
Ebony Magazine Awards
Ebony Magazine Beauty and Grooming Awards
Hollywood Black Film Festival
Mid-Atlantic Black Film Festival
Montreal International Black Film Fest
NAACP Image Awards
National Black Theatre Festival
NCTE Advancement of People of Color Leadership Award (APCL)
Soul Train Awards
Steve Harvey’s Neighborhood Awards (formerly known as the Hoodie Awards)
The Black Reel Awards
The Black Reel Awards | Saluting African-Americans in Films
The Black Weblog Awards
The Source Awards
The Trumpet Awards
Twin Cities Black Film Festival
University of Michigan Outstanding Women of Color in Film Award
Urbanworld Film Festival
Etcetera
Etcetera
Etcetera

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