Which Black, Female Filmmaker Should Direct ‘Americanah?’

Which Black, Female Filmmaker Should Direct 'Americanah?'

I think it goes without saying that the film adaptation of
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Americanah,”
should be directed by a woman, but more specifically a black woman. Earlier
this summer, Academy-Award winning actress Lupita Nyong’o optioned the work,
and will be reuniting with Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment company to both produce
and star in the film. 

The novel follows a Nigerian woman, Ifemulu, as she
navigates new American terrain while her lover Obinze experiences life as an
undocumented immigrant in London. A transcontinental love story, the book
explores nuances of black female sexuality, identity, and relationships through
the lens of a brazen, intelligent black female character.

The possibility of an emerging director becoming attached to
this project excites me. There are many examples of emerging directors brought
on to larger projects and establishing their careers- Think Cary Fukunaga’s
remake of “Jane Eyre,” or Ryan
Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station.” The crop
of talented emerging African female directors include the likes of Nikyatu
Jusu, Frances Bodomo, and Chika Anadu, whose recent feature film “B For Boy” strikes some of the same cultural chords as “Americanah.” I have no doubt that any one of them would bring a distinct directorial
perspective to the material, as evidenced in their respective bodies of work in
the short form.

But with the star power and prestige now behind the project,
a more established director might be the sole option for the film’s producers. Ava
DuVernay is a definite shoo-in for the project, demonstrating a continual
engagement with the inner lives of black women in both “I Will Follow and “Middle of
Nowhere.” Her upcoming film, “Selma,” was produced in part by Brad Pitt’s Plan B, which might put her at an advantage for being considered for this project.

Further, after the international success of “Belle,” Amma Asante also seems another
strong possibility.  The UK-born,
Ghanaian director has increased her filmmaking profile significantly since the
release of the film and has reportedly been offered a larger, studio film as
her next project. Widening the scope, Nigerian director Andrew Dosunmu, who
explored contemporary Nigerian life in America in both “Restless City and “Mother of
George,” could also take on the project.

But, what if the director isn’t black, or a woman? Will this
taint the possibilities for the film? Will the significance of scenes in an
African braid-shop be lost? Will the subtleties and commentary about tensions
between African immigrants and African Americans come across? One of my
favorite sequences in the book takes a place when Ifemelu doesn’t attend a
protest that her African American boyfriend Blaine organizes, causing a large
cultural rift between them. It’s funny but also telling, of intercultural
division between these communities. How can one truly direct this scene if they
know nothing about these types of tensions, or don’t care to know more than
what the book offers? There’s a certain cultural currency that goes beyond
being interested, or chosen to adapt certain material. We often hear people
say: “The book was so much better than the film,” and I’d hate to see that to happen
to this adaptation. There are so many ways to channel its literary strengths
into a powerful film.  Bringing on the
right director is the first step.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Allison Caviness

I vote Nikyatu Jusu!!

China

The incredible Kasi Lemmons would be a great director for this project.

Nikk

Nikyatu Jusu. End of story.

Get a Nigerian Director in America who has LIVED the story!

e.g. Maeyen Bassey (Love & Basketball, Soulfood, Truco, 419 in Nigeria Documentary (formerly Journey to My Nigeria), Nigeria at 50 etc…

IGBO

In theory, any one of a number of talented directors could helm this film irrespective of race or gender. In theory. For example, "Dirty Pretty Things" was an excellent film that dealt with race and the plight of immigrants and it was both written and directed by white men. On the other hand, I had big problems with "Mississippi Burning," which was also written and directed by white men.

While there are some worthwhile points on both sides of the debate, I strongly disagree with T Nail's assertion that "The director interprets the screenplay into sound and images, but for the most part doesn't create new content. So even if a man were to direct it, the content / hence the point of view would still be the writer's." That's simply not true.

First of all, a film adaptation is not simply a literal translation of a novel. A novel is a story told through the thought's of a character. A movie is a story told with pictures. When you adapt a novel, the screenwriter makes creative choices throughout the process deciding not only how to tell the story in a visual way, but also what to tell and what to leave out. That process is often in collaboration with the director.

Secondly, the director interprets the screenplay based not only on his or her's interpretation of the material, but on their unique world view. In other words, if you were to give the screenplay to ten different directors, you would get ten different films. Stephen Frears, the British director of "Dirty Pretty Things" mentioned above, tends to direct films with a light touch. When you see one of his films, his technique is not as obvious as a filmmaker with a more easily identifiable style like Steven Spielberg.

All of this is to say that there is more to directing than meets the eye. The more important question regarding who should direct "Americanah," rather than race or gender is deciding on what type of film do you want to make. Do you want to do a stylish and visually lyrical film? Perhaps a good choice would be Kasi Lemmons, Julie Dash or even Benh Zeitlin. A gritty, more naturalistic looking film, perhaps Lee Daniels, Charles Burnett or David Gordon Green. If you're just going for something light and "commercial" (which is what Hollywood usually does) you could probably go with just about any journeyman director like Gina Prince-Bythewood, Reggie Hudlin or Tim Story that will get the film in on time and under budget.

Personally, I think an excellent choice would be the Guinean director Flora Gomes. He's an imaginative director who handles both drama and comedy well.

Of course, Hollywood would never go for it.

JDNorry

Okay seriously, can someone just call Kasi Lemmons and end all of the shenanigans?!

Friday Jones

Firstly can we rephrase this question: What Dream Team can make this film? The forced singularity makes me want to cringe.

Cinematographer – Bradford Young

Ava Duvernay
Andrew Dosunmu
Gina Prince Bythewood
Reginald Hudlin
Kasi Lemmons
Steve McQueen
Ana Lily Amirpour – Newcomer Wildcard
Dana Verde – Newcomer Wildcard

Producer – Oprah Winfrey
Producer – Will Packer
Producer – Idris Elba

That's just my two cents….

mack sadler

YES

Barbara

Well, I don't know anything about film making–who's good or bad. But, I will say that the James Brown movie was lousy. Looked like a kindergarten child made it. It didn't portray the dynamic performer Brown was. It seemed poorly written and presented.

I saw the movie Belle, and I loved it. I haven't read the book Americanah, so I don't have a comment about the upcoming movie.

yolandayolanda

Amma Asante or Ava DuVernay would do this justice.

dl

after her success with "belle" i think amma asante would be a good choice she is british but of west african decent and she would be able to really get a sweeping epic out of this amazing novel so shes my choice.

T Nails

Michel Gondry. He's not American, Black, or Female. But he's brilliant. Is that a qualification?

T Nails

Did Tyler Perry being black made him a good choice for directing "Colored Girls". Should Carl Franklin, perhaps the most skilled black director working, should have been denied directing House of Cards because he's not a white middle aged male politician. Should only psyhcos direct films about killers? Your race, sex and where you grew up are not qualifications for directing a good movie. Ang Lee, Chinese director, directed a white dysfunctional Connecticut family in the "Ice Storm". Katheryn Bigelow, neither male or a soldier, did a peerless job directing "Hurt Locker". And Hitchcock, to my knowledge, not a killer, created the classic "Pyscho".

When will some of the readers and writers of S & A understand that craft, understanding of drama, theme and story, knowing how to work with people and a whole slew of relevant traits, take precedence in directing a movie over race and sex? Just the mere mention of Andrew Dosumnu as a candidate to direct shows a complete lack of what makes a director. There's a reason hardly anyone's seen the movie. It was like watching paint dry – narcissistic exercise in aesthetics devoid of compelling drama.

Celebrate the opportunities and triumphs of people of all walks getting a chance to sit in the director's chair. Don't make it an entitlement.

Marian

So many exciting possibilities already mentioned! To add: Euzhan Palcy, Julie Dash.

DJ

With the epic, continental and immigrant nature of the work, I'd go with an established, empathetic and innovative talent — Ang Lee.

CareyCarey

"But with the star power and prestige now behind the project, a more established director might be the sole option for the film's producers"

Umm, that can be interpreted in several ways but hold that thought.

"But what if the director is not black or a woman? Will this taint the possibilities for the film?"

Okay, back to the first question, I question the meaning of "the SOLE option for the film's producers. Is that a PC way to avoid using the trite but true phrase "Movie-making is a business, so it's not about "talent", it's about star power". In other words, an established A-list director whose name turns head is not necessarily the "sole" option, it's the "best" option if their goal is making the most money that they can.

That said, the second question has to be looked at with a very keen eye. Well, will a white director "taint" the possibilities? I don't know the signicance of "tainting" a film, nor do I really know what that means, but again, this is show-business and "tainting" dain't gonna stop the show.

In reference Andrew Dosunmu possibly being choosen, he is, in my opinion, totally off the table. First, his name has NO drawing power and his 2 films were just "OK". Now that's not only my opinion, his films have low ratings on Netflex and other outlets. So, although Dosunmu has been champion here at S&A, he is one of many Shadow and Act's favorites who are not ready for prime time.

Ava DuVernay? Well, she's another S&A darling but my jury is still out. And, we'll get a chance to see if she remains at the front of the pack upon the release of "Selma".

Victoria

Angelina Jolie. Or Forest Whitaker.

Sir Farts a Lot

"I think it goes without saying that the film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s "Americanah," should be directed by a woman, but more specifically a black woman. "

Except that stating such a preference is quite literally illegal.

DW

Tina Mabry director of Mississippi Damned.

AH

Tina Mabry, see Mississippi Damned for further proof.

troublemaker

The director should be black African female born who has lived, educated and worked in the US. No Americans, No UK, No white and No male directors!

Rel

1. Ava DuVernay 2. Dee Rees 3. Tanya Hamilton 4. Kasi Lemmons

SAVANNAH MORGAN

Tate Taylor ~~~>>> Signed, Hollywood

Akim

Why can't Lupita simply direct it herself? She is also a director!

Four

First choice Duvernay. Second choice Assante. Third choice Blythewood. Fourth choice Barnette.

Filmloverladyeo

Director Ngozi Onwurah gets my vote. She would be perfect to direct "Americanah". For you that don't know, she is the British/Nigerian director that did "Welcome to the Terradome" and "Kill the Messenger" starring David Oyelowo. Being Nigerian and having lived in the West, she has the experience and skill to bring us a first rate adaptation.

Caryn Ward

Would love to throw Dee Rees into the mix!

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