Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Black Hollywood Taking Steps Backward

Was at Best Buy with Little Man. As I passed the racks of DVDs, I figured it couldn't hurt to see if there was anything new out that hadn't made the theatres featuring a cast with more than one Black person, or a story about Black people . For some reason, these movies hardly make it to the theatres these days. This is especially important to me as Little Man's ability to differentiate skin color and understand race increases. Amidst all the celebration of The Princess and the Frog and the first Black princess, overall there are fewer and fewer stories that feature black main characters, and even fewer that feature stories of Black life. One site I visited had the following as the Top 5 Black movies of 2009:

1. Precious
2. American Violet
3. Princess and the Frog
4. Black Dynamite
5. Good Hair

Of these five, American Violet only opened in 5 cities. Black Dynamite was also released on a limited basis. So even at the top of the list, very few Black movies are getting major releases and the opportunity to make money like the Disney-backed Princess.

ROOT OF THE PROBLEM: In order for most movies to make it to a theatrical release, they must be picked up for distribution by a major production company. The most famous example currently is Tyler's Perry's relationship with Lionsgate. Perry has made Lionsgate execs look like geniuses by being one of the most bankable moviemakers in Hollywood, and therefore he gets to keep making movies with them. Those not as famous as Perry, have to go the Film Festival route, and roll the dice that they may or may not get tapped by a production company for a theatrical release. American Violet was distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films, Good Hair benefited from Chris Rock's relationship with HBO. Black Dynamite will be distributed by a relatively company, Apparition.

WHAT I WISH WOULD HAPPEN: There is a critical mass of Black leading ladies, men, and directors that have had a enough success where they can leverage their notoriety and resources to not only make, but distribute films that they want to make instead of hoping, praying and complaining that more suitable roles come their way. Mel Gibson did this when he made The Passion of the Christ, and he got to laugh all the way to the bank when the movie made almost $400 million domestically. It's hard to imagine that if Will Smith (who already has a production company, Overbrook Films, which produced ATL), Denzel (direted Antoine Fisher Story), and Chris Tucker (a reported $20 million per movie guy) got together, they couldn't produce a good story from some up and coming screenwriter with a tight script. But alas, the lightbulb has not quite gone on yet, so until it does, I'll continue to support the products of Code Black Entertainment, see what I can find at Film Festivals. If and when I happen upon one of said celebrities, I'll be sure to put the bug in their ear. There are too many talened Black actors, actresses, directors and writers out there for me, my family and the rest of the world to not know who they are and what they can do.

1 comment:

  1. Very good piece.

    Will Smith is not interested in doing Black movies, and I especially don't think putting up his own money for the cause. He's pretty much only interested in being the biggest movie star, period. And Christ Tucker walked away from the black written, directed, and produced Friday sequal simply because they couldn't pay him top dollar.

    But I've long had your same notion that these black actors/writers/produces who've made it ought to stop complaining and begging the white man to give them a role; but instead pull their resources and do their own.

    If you take stars even the level of Sanaa Lathan (one of the biggest complainers) and Terrence Howard, or whomever; who've made nice chunks of money, they could pull resources.

    But nah, most of them have to go lease a bently, then sit around and complain about what white folks ain't giving them.

    You know, Will might step up if it was something that's going to be a vehicle for his wife; but that's about it.