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What the Success of “Precious” Means for Black Indie Cinema

What the Success of "Precious" Means for Black Indie Cinema

Here’s my take in a new story on IFC.com.

Serious African-American cinema scarcely exists. It arrives in fits and sputters, in the occasional legends (Melvin Van Peebles, Gordon Parks), outliers (Charles Burnett, Julie Dash) or mavericks (Spike Lee). But demanding cinema based around the black experience are largely absent from American screens, displaced by gangstas, guns and masquerading comedians in drag or fat suits (Tyler Perry, Eddie Murphy). Can Lee Daniels’ “Precious” change all that?

A couple key quotes:

“‘Precious’ is the sort of black film we’ve gotten used to seeing,” says Barry Jenkins, the San Francisco-based director of “Medicine for Melancholy.” “A gritty story of urban struggle and strife — there’s nothing wrong with that, but why aren’t there other films filling out this portrait of what it’s like to be black in America today? Whatever backlash there is against ‘Precious,’ it’s not about the film itself — it’s about the dearth of films to complement it.”

“We want to see ourselves reflected on the screen in fresh and innovative ways just like our white counterparts,” says “A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy” director Dennis Dortch. “White folks are up to their necks with hip and quirky films validating their existence every year. To believe that a black audience with the same desire does not exist is silly.”

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