All Articles Tagged "black film"
Each year, the theater organization The New Black Fest, hosts a week-long festival of panel discussions, play readings, and workshops in celebration of Black theater. This year, the event is running from March 16-22 in partnership with the Lark Play Development Center in NYC.
The kick-off panel discussion included poet social activist and politician, Kevin Powell; political pundit and TV writer Keli Goff (Being Mary Jane); Pulitzer Prize finalist, playwright Eisa Davis; and professor Frank Roberts. The conversation centered around the NEW Civil Rights and covered gender parity, creative leadership and decision making, #BlackLifeMatters and the LGBTQ community. The rest of the week’s itinerary includes readings of new plays by six Black playwrights.
On March 27, the celebration of Black art will continue by way of New Black Shorts: Eight Short Films From the African Diaspora, a screening of short films centered around issues of faith, family, race, sexuality, and self-image at The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York.
We chatted with the New Black Fest’s Artistic Director Keith Josef Adkins and Geoffrey Jackson Scott, Director of Community Engagement at the Museum of Moving Image about the festival’s impact.
MadameNoire: What inspired The New Black Festival?
Keith Adkins (KA): The New Black Fest was inspired by the lack of complex and diverse roles and narratives for people of African descent in theater. In American theater there tends to be an interest (consciously or not) to encourage and qualify stories and roles that play in the pathology of Black life. Not to say pathology doesn’t exist. It’s a component of all human life, but there tends to be a marketable interest in pathology when it comes to Black stories. The New Black Fest gave itself the responsibility of advocating and celebrating diversity within the Black narrative and to encourage Black theater artists to qualify themselves and encourage their own authenticity.
Black TV and film have conquered the domestic market (we’re looking at you, Empire!), so isn’t it time to expand our reach and make big bucks overseas? According to The Hollywood Reporter, foreign buyers are still a little hesitant about inking film deals with Black lead roles.
Let’s rewind to December 2014. Do you recall a certain email hack that revealed Sony execs’ reluctance to cast Denzel Washington in leading roles? A producer — who admitted that Washington is “the best actor of his generation” — suggested that he would decrease the global appeal of films because of his race.
“I believe that the international motion-picture audience is racist—in general, pictures with an African-American,” he wrote.
Despite the home successes of Selma, Chris Rock’s Top Five, Fox’s Empire, THR reports that Black-led TV and films are indeed, as the Sony producer noted, a tough sell in the international market.
“Any major international sales company attending Berlin’s EFM will admit foreign buyers have a harder time committing to a title with mainly black faces onscreen,” THR reports.
Lee Daniels, the mastermind behind The Butler and Empire, says that the push-back from foreign buyers leaves him stumped.
“I think people everywhere are fascinated with African-American culture,” he says. “Clearly, Beyonce is a hit. Clearly, Obama is a hit everywhere except in America with white people. African-American films should be making money overseas.”
The Butler, by the way, grossed $60 million outside of the United States.
With Empire’s shocking domestic success, Daniels is striving to pitch the hip-hop drama to the international market, but it’s not going to be easy.
“Empire’s success speaks for itself, but it will be a tough sell because we haven’t had a black TV show go global since The Cosby Show and that was the first,” one European television buyer said.
Sure the international film market might be a bit stubborn, but thanks to the successes of a few recent Black pictures, they’ve been willing budge — at least just a little bit, according to Cameron McCracken, executive producer of Selma. He says films like The Help, The Butler and 12 Years a Slave have helped.
But according to James Simien, creator of Dear White People, it only seems like the ol’ struggle, we-shall-overcome films do well globally. What about other aspects of African-American identity?
“Black movies seem to only come in a couple of forms: the historic, tragedy-tinged story of our history, our struggle, and the superfluous, light fluffy comedy,” he says. “Our people have a broad range of experiences and our cinema, our culture, should reflect that.
Every year, a couple of Black films are championed and suddenly Hollywood’s racial problems are over, Simien pointed out.”The problems are still there.”
Maori Karmael Holmes, Founder Of The BlackStar Film Festival, Explains Why We Should Support Black Filmmaking
Maori Karmael Holmes says that when she conceived the idea of the BlackStar Film Festival, she wasn’t thinking about black films, but rather, showcasing the work of black filmmakers.
“I’m not sure if I believe in a separate land of black film,” she said, noting how Hollywood tends to define “black films” as just movies having black people in them or even working on them.
“There is just film, and there are makers, who represent different backgrounds. And their stories are often marginalized because the people who tell them are often marginalized. So I am doing this festival because I want everyone to have access to these filmmakers just like we have access to the mainstream media.”
And access is a huge deal, particularly for black filmmakers. During her (and her committee of other festival organizers’) own search for films by black filmmakers to showcase in the festival, Holmes said that she was never short on productions which fit the bill. However, what does come as a surprise is how many films have not even been shown in Philadelphia, which is the fifth largest city in the country.
More depressing is thinking about how many of these films will likely never have an opportunity to be seen or appreciated.
But now in its third year, the BlackStar Film Festival, which will run from July 31 to August 3 in Philadelphia, will host more than 40 feature and short films by black filmmakers hailing from four different continents. The theme for this year’s festival is “Music is The Weapon,” and will highlight the “intersections of the two creative industries.” Documentaries featured include Time is Illmatic, which is about the making of Nas’ 1994 classic debut album, Illmatic, and Til Infinity: Souls of Mischief, which highlights the 20th anniversary of the critically acclaimed Souls of Mischief album, 93 ’til Infinity.
However, Holmes says that the festival’s main message has always been to support black creatives telling a wide range of stories. Diverse stories like the experimental documentary Dreams are Colder than Death, which is directed by Arthur Jafa and revolves around the philosophical questions of what it means to be Black in America today. And there is They Die by Dawn, directed by Jeymes Samuel and stars Erykah Badu, Nate Parker, Michael K. Williams, Rosario Dawson and many other notable black actors. The film tells the story of a showdown between real life black cowboys and outlaws.
There are also films, which grapple with identities outside of stereotypical blackness like the documentary film Little White Lie, which shares the story of Lacey Schwartz’s upbringing in a typical middle-class Jewish family, harboring a secret about her biological father (here’s a hint: he’s black). And then there is Black and Cuba, another documentary film by Robin Hayes, which follows three street-smart Ivy League students as they run off to Cuba in search of revolution.
There’s also the tale of two Nigerian sisters finding love and trying to survive the Biafran War in Half of a Yellow Sun, which is directed by Biyi Bandele and based off the book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Despite this film receiving critical praise for its acting work (specifically Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor) and screening at film festivals internationally (the film’s original release date was May 16, 2014), this will be the first time audiences in Philadelphia will have a chance to see it on the big screen before it’s released on DVD.
As Holmes notes, it is those kind of opportunities for support and exposure, which she hopes the BlackStar Film Festival will create for both audiences and filmmakers.
“Independent filmmaking has definitely made the filmmaking process more accessible for more people. But that doesn’t mean the distribution has expanded that much. In some ways, there is so much in the market place and people don’t know where to get it. So the festival for us is a way to provide a targeted platform. You know you can come to the festival and you trust our vision. You can definitely see these films in this place and on the big screen,” she says.
Holmes hopes that in addition to supporting black films, and more specifically black filmmakers, people will come and support talented artists in general. And by supporting these projects, Holmes says that we are bypassing the tastemakers and creative powers, who are charged with green-lighting projects but don’t always find stories told from marginalized groups to be relevant.
“There are certain stereotypes and tropes that get play. And if you don’t fit into those, then the gatekeepers will say, ‘I’m not interested,’ rather than seeing that there is incredible diversity in everyone’s story. And that is what I feel like we are trying to do, is to share that diversity because it doesn’t always make it in the mainstream.”
BlackStar Film Festival screenings will take place at various locations in Philadelphia, and the full schedule of events is available here. Passes available until July 30th. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit: blackstarfest.org
Despite the numerous successful black films as of late, it is still hard for black productions to get greenlit in Hollywood, Taye Diggs said in a recent interview with the Associated Press.
According to The Best Man Holiday star, major film studios hold black film projects to an unfair set of standards. Diggs charges that studios will not proceed with black-oriented film productions unless box office numbers are favorable for other similar productions. Other films are not held up to this standard, and it’s particularly unfair to tie one black film to another when they aren’t similar.
Take Diggs’ track record, for example. Guardian Liberty Voice notes the actor was in the 1999 hit The Best Man and the 2013 sequel, The Best Man Holiday, which made about $70 million at the box office and should’ve made the decision to run with another Best Man movie an easy one. This was not the case. Instead of looking at box-office results from the second installment, film studios are comparing it to films in theaters now that are totally unrelated, such as Think Like A Man Too, before agreeing to make a third Best Man installment. The only connection between films like Think Like A Man Too and the Best Man films is that they star black actors.
Diggs, who is now starring in the new TNT series Murder In The First (he talked about that show with Hoda and Kathie Lee on Monday), says that film studios find black films too risky, even though they have proven success.
Logically, black films should be judged on their own, individual merit. But they have also shown they are revenue generating. There were 48 “black films” released theatrically in 2013 (48 out of 669 total films), according to calculations by Indie Wire. The top grossing black film domestically was Lee Daniels’ The Butler at $116 million. In fact, it was the only black film to gross over $100 million last year. “And total box office (domestic) for all 48 black films is around $670 million, or about 6.2 percent of the total 2013 box office for all films ($10.8 billion),” reports Indie Wire.
By now we know you’ve heard about the new Whitney Houston movie in the works on Lifetime and we’re sure, like us, you’re wracking your brain on who could play our beloved Whitney. Actresses and singers such as Rihanna, Tika Sumpter and even Paul Patton have been thrown into the mix of possible Whitneys! However, it isn’t just Whitney that needs to be cast, but also Bobby! Check out a list of actors who might could maybe play both — emphasis on might and maybe.
‘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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