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. In 2014, Academy-Award winning actress Lupita Nyong’o optioned the work, 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 last feature 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 was offered a larger, studio film after “Belle” which was to star Kerry Washington, but both eventually left the project, and Asante is currently wrapping up “A United Kingdom” with David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike.

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.

Nijla Mu’min is a writer and filmmaker from the East Bay Area. She’s written for The Los Angeles Times, Vice, and Bitch Media.

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Comments

dongagaleo@gmail.com

I can’t wait to see Americanah…
It is just my favourite book after Purple Hibiscus and it was because of Purple Hibiscus that I thought of myself as an actor. As Kambili.
I love the Nigerian part of Americanah more, the inclusion of the military and most importantly University strikes, it is our reality!
My one wish in this life is to get an opportunity to auditon for Americanah. Before Lupita was annouced as Ifemelu, I thought I was the one…lol…
I just want to badly be in the film, i don’t care if it is for a second.

Anany

They are not right. Ang Lee did a great job on Brokeback Mountain because he is a great director. He did not need to come at it from the perspective of being gay because the script was already written. Directing is not the same as writing. Why should someone’s genitals and the colour of their skin disqualify them from working on a project? It’s simply sexist and racist. The author of this article knows that playing the sexism and racism cards will just reduce the number of people competing for the chance to direct the production because they won’t want to be vilified for being the non black-female who got the job. Good job to her if she is successful in doing so, but a sexist racist she remains.

Troublemaker

@ANANY Stop the BS! Nobody is "abusing the minority card!" The gay folks are right! There are so little of them getting the opportunity to direct their own projects that they become upset. It’s the same thing with the black female directors. There are so little of them directing their own stories, that they have to be vocal in order to get jobs. This project should be directed by a black woman either from Nigeria/Africa, the Caribbean or America!

Andrew

Euzhan Palcy

Ava

Lupita is a star, therefore it will already be a star vehicle. I hope an African director will be in the director’s chair and I’m sure there are some talented African women (albeit unheralded) who can do a great job, if given the opportunity.

Rocket

@Anany
A lot is not fair in Hollywood. I think that’s the point.

Anany

I just think that people who can play a minority card should not abuse it, and should be called out when they are being as discriminatory as someone would be towards them in an alternative situation. I’m gay and plenty of gay people I know think straight (and even bi) people should not be involved in gay storytelling and I call them on their bullshit; it’s not fair.

JDUB

@ Anany – only a person who is "racist and sexist" would think that insisting on a black woman director for this film is "racist and sexist." You need to get your head outta ya butt and catch up.

Anany

This is racist and sexist. If someone gad argued that a white, male should have directed ‘Shame’ by Steve McQueen there would have been huge controversy. Artists do what they like. You are a black female, Nijla. Is this just your way of subconsciously saying that you want to direct it? You are just a sexist racist.

Miles Ellison

Descriptions like "nuanced exploration of black female sexuality and relationships" and "intelligent black female character" virtually guarantee that this will have no audience. When’s the next rom-com based on Steve Harvey’s relationship magnum opuses coming out? That will be a hit.

Jeff

What about Biyi Bandele, who directed the film adaptation of Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun?

Troublemaker

First choice would be Euzhan Palcy who wrote A Dry White Season, Dee Rees, Kasi Lemmons or Ava Duvernay. Amma Asante is too obsessed with interracial relationships in her films and she would not know how to handle the nuances in a black relationship especially one that involves an African American man with an African woman.

Mario Van Peepholes

"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?"

Wow, good question! That’s just why I don’t think people of color should be able to direct any films that aren’t specifically about their own race, or why women shouldn’t be allowed to direct manly action movies.

DJ

Kasi Lemmons. And to disrupt categorization and think outside the proverbial box, Ang Lee.

IG-88

Spike Lee, Tyler Perry (he wants to be a woman) or Tate Taylor.

alex

Destiny Ekaragha or Amma Asante.

NO BRAINER

It’s clear who you S&A people think should direct the film. So why ask?

gracy

Dee Rees

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