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Octavia Spencer & Kevin Costner are Caught in a Custody Battle in ‘Black And White’ (Photo + TIFF Premiere News)

Octavia Spencer & Kevin Costner are Caught in a Custody Battle in 'Black And White' (Photo + TIFF Premiere News)

The 39th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has announced its TIFF Docs lineup, and among the always impressive slate of high-profile films making their world premieres at the festival, are a few that we’ve been tracking on this blog, including the Kevin Costner/Octavia Spencer drama “Black And White.”

Anthony Mackie co-stars in the film, which is written and directed by actor Mike Binder, with Costner co-producing alongside Binder and Todd Lewis.

The drama centers on Elliot Anderson (Costner) an attorney widowed after his wife dies in a car crash, and who also is raising his bi-racial granddaughter Eloise, since his daughter died in childbirth. As he struggles with his grief, Elliot’s world is turned upside-down when the child’s African American grandmother Rowena (played by Octavia Spencer) demands that Eloise be brought under the care of her African American father Reggie, a drug addict who Elliot blames for the negligence that led to the death of his own daughter. Elliot finds himself deeply entrenched in a custody battle and will stop at nothing to keep his granddaughter from coming under the watch of his reckless son-in-law. 

Too bad the father has to be a drug addict to complicated matters further. There’s already enough drama that him being a negligent drug addict seems unnecessarily added on.
Of course, we’ll just have to wait to learn more.
The film is further described as a searing portrayal of a broken man caught up in a struggle clouded by bitterness, blame and racial tension, who learns to forgive and how to provide for the only family he has left.
By the way, the film’s score is composed by Terence Blanchard.

No trailer yet, so the above first official photo from the film will have to do in the meantime.

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival, one of the top movie showcases and a favored platform to unveil Oscar contenders, will run from September 4-14.

Earlier this year, while he was doing press for his last film, “Draft Day,” Costner talked briefly about the film, when he was asked about how he lets his instincts inform his career: 

“My whole life has been instinctual… I have instinctually thought I could do things in my life, and I followed that up by sometimes putting everything I have at risk – my money, my house – to make a movie. I just did it again with Black and White.”

He added that the film was “a rock that I had to push uphill just to make it”:

“Nobody wanted to make it. It’s my hope that you all see it. It’s my hope that it becomes as important as Field of Dreams or Dances [With Wolves]. I think it will be, because it’s about people. It’s funny, it’s poignant, it’s sad, and in the end it gives you hope.”

On the reactions he’s gotten from others who learn he’s made a movie about race:

“I realize that I’m not in battle. I’m not in combat. ‘Ooh, that’s very brave thing to do.’ Well, I’m not in Vietnam. I’m not in Iraq. And if I want to make a little movie about racism, I should do it. Maybe the studio should too.”

On how his projects will be received, Costner says he isn’t worried: 

“I’ve never been afraid of things not working. I think it’s an underrated experience in life. I’ve had some wild, wild successes. I try to clean up the oceans, and I try to do things. I’m not afraid to be on the floor.

“I have a strong belief that what I’m doing, other people will believe in it too if I can get it just right. Not that people don’t let me down, not that I haven’t let other people down, but I have a tremendous belief in people and in the common experience.”

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Those bashing this as yet unreleased film without having seen it are at best overly sensitive, at worst unfairly judgmental. Given an intelligent script, Kevin Costner gives awesome performances. Octavia Spencer is a smart actress, unlikely to choose to act in a cliche' ridden movie. (I admit disliking The Help. Director Lee Daniels is pathetically overrated. Each film he's done is loaded with exaggerations, cliches, stereotypes! Not to mention the editing and photography always look cheap. Thank goodness he's not directing this.)

The couple of short articles I've read about 'Black and White' made me eager to see it. Over a decade ago, a close family friend, highly gifted with creative talents, began a legal battle to obtain custody of her infant granddaughter. (For simplicity's sake I'll dub my friend CJ, her son RJ, the ex SO, child MJ). CJ's son had been returned to serve a long sentence after being caught for violating parole, as well as having been convicted on a newer crime involving child pornography .

Predictably CJ swore there was no basis for any of RJ's convictions, he's been 'set up'. Those who knew him attributed CJ's claims as those of a loving mother. The child's mother, SO, had a brief criminal record, including a drug arrest, but after the separation from RJ, 'turned her life around' as the saying goes. CJ, our friend of many years, was not satisfied by occasional visits and became obsessed with getting custody of her grandchild. She accused the mother of all sorts of abuse, which Child Protection investigators found without basis. According to CJ they were being fooled by the evil tricky mother SO.

CJ became increasingly obsessed with her case and failed to pursue a near certain business opportunity. Once an original creative artist, CJ dropped interest in everything. Every dollar she made went to pay shady lawyers who'd play along as if there were a chance she could gain custody. The last I heard , CJ herself had been arrested after having run off with her 5 year old granddaughter. My point Black and White's custody battle plot is not unheard of these days. The movie may have something new and worthwhile to say. My mind's open. :)


This Kevin Costner movie is pure garbage! He should have been the drug addict absentee father!




Playing devil's advocate, if the black father didn't have a significant flaw, there wouldn't be a story. The courts would allow him to raise his child and that'd be the end of it. I understand why we as black people are reacting to the drug addict aspect but we must be honest with ourselves and admit that that type of situation exists in every ethnic group including ours. I'd rather they make him an addict than a rapist or murderer because those are the only other reasons he wouldn't be allowed custody of his child. Just an observation. Having said that, this doesn't sound like a $12 big screen movie. It's a small story that belongs on t.v.


This story sounds very familiar to a British TV film starring John Thaw in 2001"Buried Treasure"- except in this instance the Grandfather was a reluctant guardian at first…taken this from imdb "Harry Jenkins is a self-made business man, who one day receives a message that his only daughter has died in a car crash. Last time he saw his daughter was at his wife's funeral. When trying to deal with his daughter's affairs, he finds out he is a grandfather of a nine-year-old girl, named Saffron. Since he is her only relative, social services hands over Saffron to him. At first he tries to get rid of her, but he soon finds out that they share more than his daughter, Saffron's mother. They take a trip from Manchester to London, to find Saffron's estranged father, but they find so much more."
– Written by Louise J-L


A film about a black male addict who has not been taking care of his children. Count me out on this one.


I was interested in this film until I learned the father was a drug addict. After learning that fact, I said NO!

Geneva Girl

This was already made into a Hallmark movie with Lou Gosett Jr. And Gena Rowlands, albeit without the father being a drug addict.


And soon an essay and comments from Andre Seewood.


I guess the only way to truly justify a win for Costner's character, with no questions asked, is to portray his granddaughter's father as a drug addict, unworthy of winning custody of his child. It would be a brave and more interesting plot if the father was clean and gainfully employed, a regular joe working a 9 – 5.

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