All Articles Tagged "black film"
‘Best Man Holiday’ Almost Didn’t Get Funding! Find Out Why Black Films Have Difficulty Getting Financed
With all the buzz and praise surrounding Best Man Holiday, can you believe the film barely made it to the silver screen? Investors were hesitant about funding the all-black cast movie. They labeled it too “depressing” and too much of a departure from its 15-year-old sequel, Florida Courier reports.
Malcolm D. Lee, the writer-director behind the box office hit, had to resort to a lot of persuasion to convince financiers to back the sequel. It was only after a table-read, a run-through of the script with the cast, that investors relented and supported Best Man Holiday.
“I remember one of the executives saying: ‘Listening to Terrence Howard deliver dialogue live, out loud, can really turn people around,’” Lee said.
He adds, however, that if it weren’t for wave of Black films in recent years, Best Man Holiday might not have existed. Lee referred to the 2008 to 2011 time slot as the “Black Movie” desert — a three-year dry spell for actors of color. But 2013, in his eyes, couldn’t have been a more convenient time to pitch the sequel.
A few years back, Lee says, “I’ve had many, many people declare that Black movies are dead. Except for Tyler Perry movies.” Now, he says, “We’re seeing a gaggle of ‘em.”
Lately, as we’ve seen a myriad of triumphant films featuring a predominant Black cast (such as Fruitvale Station and Think Like a Man), Lee alludes that he’s profited from their success by scoring funding from hesitant investors. But film flops such as Just Wright, Soul Men, and Miracle at St. Anna’s, FLCourier adds, have caused investor’s to avert their eyes away from African-American casts in the film industry.
“Both hits and misses [from all-black cast films] are analyzed unduly, because there aren’t enough of them,” it says.
Despite the boom in Black film, like Jumping the Broom grossing $37 million on a $6.6 million budget and Think Like a Man reeling in $96 million on a $12 million budget, Hollywood executives are still reluctant to put their money on all-black cast movies. They’re more at ease with tent poles — movies, that without a doubt, are expected to “hold up” and bring in the dough.
Will Packer, the film director behind the upcoming Think Like a Man Too, using a baseball analogy, says the film business is fueled by “grand slams, not singles and doubles.” He adds that Hollywood execs neglect to consider that America is a diverse marketplace.
“You can’t effectively run a full-service Hollywood studio right now without having content that appeals to that diversity,” Packer explains.
“Look at the numbers for “Think Like a Man.” Consider the results for “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” which cost around $30 million to make and has grossed around $140 million. The audience is there,” Florida Courier says.
Fortunately, as Lee says we’re out of the “Black movie desert” and Packer predicts that if all-black cast films continue to produce quality films such as The Butler and 12 Years a Slave, the black film industry will be bursting with support.
Well, it appears that all of that heavy promoting has certainly paid off. The sequel to 1999 blockbuster The Best Man, Best Man Holiday, scored big at the box office this weekend! According to Box Office Mojo, the Malcolm D. Lee-directed flick earned $30 million at the box office during its opening weekend, which is great compared to the $17 million spent producing the movie.
The highly anticipated sequel, which was debuted 14 years after the original film’s release, came in at number two in the weekend box office, coming in second to Thor: The Dark World. The reviews are in and critics have great things to say.
“‘The Best Man Holiday’ has the potential to become a staple of Christmastime movie watching in the ‘hood.” – Odie Henderson (Rogerebert.com)
“Be ready to reach for a tissue, say ‘amen’ and sigh more than a few times, for the film has all the chaos and clutter of a big holiday gathering.”- Betsy Sharkey (LA Times)
“There’s no denying that the maudlin, message-y machinery of ‘The Best Man Holiday’ often threatens to collapse of its own self-conscious weight. This is a one-two-three-four-hankie movie that misses no opportunity to wring a few tears, no matter how shameless.”- Ann Hornaday (Washington Post)
It looks like most can agree that the film was certainly a tearjerker.
Did you see Best Man Holiday this weekend? What did you think?
Jazmine Denise is an entertainment and celebrity news blogger. Follow her on Twitter @jazminedenise.
In Zoe Saldana’s recent Allureinterview, the Afro-Latina female actor has once again stated that she is unconcerned with any backlash she receives for playing legendary singer and activist Nina Simone. In a perplexing statement, she compares her controversial casting as “The High Priestess of Soul” to Elizabeth Taylor playing Egyptian Queen Cleopatra VII in the 1960s.
“Let me tell you, if Elizabeth Taylor can be Cleopatra, I can be Nina — I’m sorry,” Saldana, 34, said unrepentantly. “It doesn’t matter how much backlash I will get for it. I will honor and respect my black community because that’s who I am.”
Who Saldana is may be clear to her, but her understanding of who Nina Simone was and from where the criticism stems appears to be minimal.
Saldana: Out of touch with African-American audiences?
Contrary to Saldana’s personal beliefs, the vast majority of observers who have weighed in on director Cynthia Mort’s decision to cast Saldana, from India.Arie to Nina Simone’s daughter, Simone Kelly, are black and view it as the ultimate show of disrespect. Not only because it is an aesthetically horrific choice that relies on blackface and prosthetics to pull off, but because Nina’s rich, dark skin, kinky hair and full lips shaped her life’s experiences, subsequently shaping her music.
Nina Simone would not have been able to conjure “Mississippi Goddam” and “Four Women” from the depths of her soul had she been born with more European features and straighter hair.
Further, it is both fitting and unsettling for Saldana to compare herself to Taylor. Cleopatra, whose black African heritage has been passionately argued for and against, has been described as both “tawny” by Shakespeare and a “negress” in some historical texts. For Saldana to claim that casting the extremely pale Elizabeth Taylor to play her somehow justifies her own misguided role as Nina Simone is a slap in the face of the black community she claims to represent.
Her history of ignoring racial history
And this is not Saldana’s first time brushing off criticism as inconsequential.
“What keeps me focused and what kept me from getting stressed from being hurt by the comments is I’m doing it for my sisters, I’m doing it for my brothers, and I don’t care who tells me I am not this and I am not that. I know who I am, and I know what Nina Simone means to me,” Saldana said in an interview with HipHollywood.com.
“I can only rely on that and maintain as much humility as possible, so that when I have to face the world and we have to then give the movie to the world to see, and share it with them, that if it comes back in . . . a negative fashion or positive, I’m gonna keep my chin up. And Nina was like that too. I did it all out of love for my people and my pride of being a black woman and a Latina woman and an American woman, and that’s my truth.”
Colorist privilege with questionable consequences
That curious blend of arrogance and accessibility seems to be the root of criticism aimed at Saldana. She is not embracing her community; she is saying through her dismissiveness that how we feel doesn’t matter. By ignoring the hurt of Nina’s family and the pain of black women who have been deemed too dark, too heavy, too ugly to be portrayed on film as anything other than maids, slaves, and whores, Saldana becomes part of the problem.
Read more on TheGrio.com.
“Sit yo five dollar azz down before I make change.” There’s no way we can talk about this movie without that line coming up. Mario Van Peebles, in his directorial debut, struck gold. New Jack City was a cult and commercial classic, becoming the highest grossing independent feature of 1991. You know the story, you quote the lines but we bet you didn’t these behind the scenes secrets about the film. Check them out.
Ava DuVernay is one of the few Black filmmakers making waves in the industry. In January, she became the first black woman to win the best director award at the Sundance Film Festival for her film “Middle of Nowhere.” The filmmaker sat down with 24wired.tv to discuss why she supports Tyler Perry, the need for more black film directors and the honor of winning Sundance. She’s definitely a Black woman we respect and admire.
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I don’t have to know anything about the Hunger Games to know that it’s leaving its mark on American culture in some huge ways. This weekend, the movie made the third highest-grossing debut in North American box office history raking in $155 million. It’s also exposed something we knew was true about black men, women, and children in real-life but apparently also carries over into fictional cinema—we cannot be innocent, good, or cared about instinctively.
I know nothing about Suzanne Collins’ novel except for the fact that the book has cultivated a Twilight-Harry Potter-cultish-like following of which my little cousin is a part of. As is expected with diehard fans, there are going to be indiscrepancies between the way they visualized things in the book and how they are portrayed on film, but I don’t think anyone expected so much outrage over the character of Rue, played by Amandla Stenberg, a biracial black girl.
Call me crazy, but if I’d read page 45 of the novel and saw this sole description of Rue, Amandla is exactly who I would have expected to see on screen:
“…And most hauntingly, a twelve-year-old girl from District 11. She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that’s she’s very like Prim in size and demeanor…”
Apparently for “Hunger Games” readers, dark brown is like the “I’m the same color as you” comments I get from white people during the summer when they come back from an island vacation and think we’re skin twins. They thought Rue would be a dark-skinned white person, and to say they were disappointed that Rue was played by a black girl would be an understatement. The Tumblr Hunger Game Tweets, set up to expose people who talk a bunch of ish but aren’t really fans of the book, as evidenced by their lack of knowledge, caught a startling number of angry responses to Amandla’s character that weren’t just about being shocked that she was black, but more so her blackness changing their entire opinion of the character and the movie. Tweets ranged from:
“Why does Rue have to be black not gonna lie kinda ruined the movie” to
“I was pumped about the Hunger Games. Until I learned a black girl was playing Rue” to
“Kk call me racist but when I found out Rue was black her death wasn’t as sad. #Ihatemyself” to
“Sense when has rue been a n***er” I don’t even have time to go into all that is wrong with that statement.
The viewers weren’t too thrilled about Lenny Kravitz playing Cinna either, although since his dark skin wasn’t mentioned in the book, they weren’t totally blindsided into liking a black person. As for another character named Thresh, there apparently was no clue he’d be black either, despite this description: “The boy tribute from District 11, Thresh, has the same dark skin as Rue, but the resemblance stops there. He’s one of the giants, probably six and half feet tall and built like an ox.”
Another tweeter sent this reaction on the collective inclusion of black characters:
“Cinna and Rue weren’t supposed to be black. Why did the producers make all the good characters black smh”
The most ironic twist in all this discussion is when it comes to the lead character Katniss no one has said a word. That’s most likely because the producers cast a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl by the name of Jennifer Lawrence as a character that was described in the book as having olive skin and straight black hair. To their credit, they did manage to dye her hair dark— it all sort of reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor and Angelina Jolie playing Cleopatra. The lack of outrage over that change proves this argument is not about incongruences, it’s about the inability for black people to be seen as anything but villains in real life and in cinema.
What’s worse is we talk day in and day out about how we need to change the images on the screen. We need more positive images of black people, we need to be seen in leading roles, but will it make a difference? If we’re talking about black films the people who need to see these images likely won’t even bother to watch the movies. And in this case we see that having positive images didn’t challenge any of the viewers internalized ideals about black people, it simply made them view the portrayals as unrealistic, even making them angry that they had somehow been tricked to care about a little black girl when they didn’t think she was a little black girl. If we can’t soften the youth when it comes to stereotypes and prejudices about black people through an entertainment medium of all things, what can we possibly do that will make a difference?
Since buzzfeed and other sites have run stories about these fans’ racist reactions to the film, Hunger Games Tweets has proudly reported that the number of tweets about Rue and Thresh being black has greatly reduced, but I wouldn’t count that as a victory just yet. I’m willing to bet those people have only stopped commenting because they don’t want to see their twitter accounts blasted across the Internet. No one has had a sudden change of heart about the audacity of movie producers invoking sympathy for a black character. Of course, the fans’ reactions aren’t totally startling considering all that’s going on around us in black America today, but to say they’re disturbing, yet sadly, somewhat expected, would be an understatement.
Are you familiar with The Hunger Games at all? Do you think having more positive images of black characters in films is really the answer in situations like this?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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We caught up with the beautiful and dynamic actresses Tatyana Ali, Anika Noni Rose, Nia Long, and Yvette Brown at the Eye on Black event in Hollywood and asked them about their thoughts on diversity in cinema and the state of African-American representation in Hollywood.
by Steven Barboza
Great black stories almost never get shown at America’s megaplexes. The reason? They are an endangered species.
In a perfect world, major studios would green-light a dozen films per year with mostly black casts, and audiences of all persuasions would pay to see them. But Hollywood moguls seem stuck on the color of actors’ skin. Either major studios don’t think white audiences would pay to see universal human dramas played out by black actors, or studios are bewildered by black films. Many fail at the box office for a host of reasons, including lack of audience development and badly hatched advertising and publicity campaigns.
“Ultimately, to reach an African American audience, there needs to be a cross-section of tactics,” said Ava DuVernay, filmmaker and publicist. DuVernay, who helped to market such Hollywood releases as “Dreamgirls” and “Invictus,” has formed an alliance that aims to bring more black films to commercial theaters. The African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (or AFFRM) uses social networking and grass-roots tactics to reach its marketing goals.
The alliance hopes to overcome a host of mistakes being made by otherwise savvy producers and film makers. Many black films fall victim to their creators’ good intentions but inept marketing practices. “I think that a lot of people overshoot in terms of the number of screens that they put a film on,” said DuVernay, “and I think that a lot of people undershoot in terms of the type of marketing that they apply toward certain types of films. But in cases where there’s been a happy marriage of distribution and marketing, you’ve seen modest and successfully distributed films that give nice returns to investors.”
The film “Just Wright,” starring Queen Latifah and Common, was “on too many screens,” DuVernay said. “And it was a campaign that didn’t integrate any kind of grassroots effort or real local outreach. They had a very national campaign, and they were relying on their stars. If they would have had some boots on the ground, it might have made some difference.” The film only grossed $21.5 million.
Other black films succeed if producers employ the right marketing mix. “You look at something very successful like ‘Jumping the Broom’ — they had a full-fledged publicity campaign, a very aggressive advertising campaign and local support on the ground — and you get a hit,” DuVernay said. “Same thing with ‘The Help.’ With the right marketing, the right push, the right kind of perfect storm of elements, you can actually have a successful release.”
She herself has left nothing to chance. She has written and directed a film titled “I Will Follow,” starring Salli Richardson-Whitfield, who plays a woman sorting through memories of a dead aunt. The film was the first to be marketed by the AFFRM. “We couldn’t afford big advertising so we upped our ground game,” DuVernay said. “We did more grassroots organizing. We did heavy, heavy publicity. We were in a market for six months, when you’d [customarily] be in a market for 3 or 4 months before opening.”
by Charing Ball
Spike Lee has a new film, Red Hook Summer, premiering at the Sundance Movie Festival, which runs through January 29th. Lee told the New York Times that “it had been too long since I’d done a film, and I couldn’t wait on Hollywood anymore.Too many meetings, too many false starts, too many stuck projects.”
In the same article, Lee revealed that he didn’t bother taking the film to any of the major studios and had opted to financed his latest project on his own, much for the same reason as George Lucas. Likewise he is hoping to walk away from the festival with a distributor. Will Spike and Red Hook Summer get as much of a push when – and if – the film is released later this year? Will folks flood my Facebook timeline with the same urgency to see this film because Lee invested his own money? Will folks debate endlessly about the future of Black cinema if Red Hook Summer bombs at the box office? Probably not. That’s the point that I was making earlier this week in regards to Red Tails. This mad dash to “show Hollywood” that we could be good consumers has dulled the conversation on why we haven’t been out here supporting independent Black cinema.
But let’s not rehash that debate again. Instead I am more curious if we as a country are emotionally ready for a film, which has Lee reprising his role as Mookie and is said to be a sort of follow up to “Do the Right Thing?
There are no clips or a trailer for the new Spike Lee Joint as Lee wants to keep this one under wraps. However, published reports suggest that this film chronicles the gentrification of Brooklyn New York. And according to the synopsis of the story, which had been co-penned by Lee and James McBride (Miracle at St. Anna):
“When his mom deposits him at the Red Hook housing project in Brooklyn to spend the summer with the grandfather he’s never met, young Flik may as well have landed on Mars. Fresh from his cushy life in Atlanta, he’s bored and friendless, and his strict grandfather, Enoch, a firebrand preacher, is bent on getting him to accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior. Only Chazz, the feisty girl from church, provides a diversion from the drudgery. As hot summer simmers and Sunday mornings brim with Enoch’s operatic sermons, things turn anything but dull as people’s conflicting agendas collide. Playfully ironic, heightened, yet grounded, Spike Lee’s bold new movie returns him to his roots, where lovable, larger-than-life characters form the tinderbox of a tight-knit community. A story about the coexistence of altruism and corruption, Red Hook Summer toys with expectations, seducing us with the promise of moral and spiritual transcendence.”
It has been 23 years since Lee’s groundbreaking film, Do the Right Thing, aggressively illustrated the very real realities of a racially and ethnically divided America. It was the film that garnered Lee the label of Angry Black filmmaker. In the film, Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, N.Y would act as a microcosm of America in which a mix of African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Italian-Americans and Koreans lived and worked and sometimes played together. I hadn’t watched Do the Right Thing in over a decade, but I remember it being both groundbreaking and inflammatory.
From the first few scenes of Rosie Perez feverishly dancing over Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” to the scene in which Radio Raheem, a towering young Black man with Love and Hate tattooed on each hand, gets choked out by the police for refusing to turn down his ghetto blaster at request of Sal, the Italian American pizza shop owner to the powerful final scene when Mookie throws a trash can into Sal’s Famous Pizzeria, the entire film served as reminder that despite our best efforts to co-exist peacefully together, there lingers inevitable chaos. A chaos that has resulted from our inability to deal with and address issues around race and power.
No better landscape in the flick illustrates that more than the scene where five characters, all belonging to different racial and ethnic groups, turn directly to the camera and furiously spout off a laundry list of racial slurs, stereotypes and generalizations, ultimately leaving us, the viewers, wondering what just hit them and yet scratching our heads, wondering about if the stereotypes are exceedingly untrue than why do we still hold on to them?
2011 was a good year for blacks in film. From comedy to drama, to independent films gone mainstream, we did our thing this year.
If you don’t believe me and need further proof, check out this list of stars in black who dominated this year at Black Voices.com.