A quick editor’s note…
As the title of the post says, how do we turn all our frustrations with the film industry (the Hollywood studio system specifically) into power, influence, action?
I recently received an email from a reader and filmmaker whose opinions I respect. It was a lengthy one (and I did ask him if it was OK for me to talk about it here); the focus was on the work that we do here on S&A, and the importance of the site’s presence in conversations about what we call black cinema, and more.
But what really got my attention was the email’s closing sentences, which expressed thanks for the, at-times, unpopular stances we take on various related subjects, and ended with the words, “I love all the rage in your readers’ comments! We need those angry voices!”
And those words influenced this post.
I don’t read every single comment posted on this site, because I just don’t have the time; but I do read enough, and I’m on popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, to get a good enough sense of what many are thinking and feeling.
Let me say that I (and I think everyone who contributes to S&A) share your frustrations with the Hollywood assembly-line system of film production entirely, especially where representation of people of African descent is concerned.
Most recently, with news of Zoe Saldana’s casting in Cynthia Mort’s Nina Simone project; the general reaction to that news was swift, wide-spread, unrelenting, and overwhelmingly negative.
Now that’s just one example. It’s the most recent, so I went with it.
But as I’ve said many times in the past on this site, I’m much more interested in how we can galvanize all that anger, and frustration, and turn it into something powerful, that can actually push *us* forward, and get us closer to where we want to be.
Yes, I realize I’m generalizing here; I’m certainly not speaking for every single black person in the world. But, I’ve been at this long enough to know what the general mood and feeling is among *us*, when it comes to how infrequent *our* varied stories are represented on screen (big and small).
But, as I’m always asking, now what? What do we do next? Do we continue to be frustrated, angry, marginalized, or do we find a way (whether individually, or somewhat collectively) to affect change? And if so, how do we do that?
I’m really just trying to shift how we think about our involvement in all this, and find ways to turn things around, focusing much less on what we don’t like, and instead investing our time, energy and resources into what we do like, or what’s promising. I find that much more productive.
Now I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with being frustrated, and angry, and raging, and expressing all of that. But at some point, it’s got to get tiring, doesn’t it? It got that way for me awhile ago. I recall when I started this site 3 1/2 years ago, some folks said I came across as “angry,” and I thought, well, I had/have a right to be angry! What we know as Black cinema was/is in crisis! But all that frustration that I was turning into words on a screen, did nothing to bring about the kind of change I wanted.
So I had to rethink my strategy, and instead opted to invest in something that could affect change, even if it was just a tiny, little bit.
One thing I love about what I do here is discovering new and upcoming projects that look really interesting (to me anyway). I highlight those titles when I find them, hoping that some of you would share in my excitement. There’s so little worth reporting on, that the occasional nugget, when found, is a wonderful breath of fresh air!
And I ‘d rather focus my energy on ensuring that others know about those few projects that I think are (or at least seem to be) really cool and interesting.
So, instead of expressing frustration on a post that contains news that doesn’t please you, consider expressing excitement, or even just hope, on a post that contains news that is more appealing to you.
You might actually find it stress-relieving.
As I replied to the filmmaker/reader who emailed me, raging is fine, but it’s not enough; more needs to be done. We’ve been raging for 100 years, since the medium was invented, and began participating in it. But how do we turn that rage into something powerful, influential, something that simply can’t be ignored, and that actually does make a difference?
And I’m not just talking about here on this site; everywhere we exist, where these conversations are being had.
Let’s start there… I don’t have all the answers; I’m just trying to inspire a different kind of conversation, and mentality, which I think is more purposeful, and gets us closer to that black cinema utopia many of us long for, where we’re represented in our varied experiences, across the Diaspora.