Obligatory Support Doesn’t Get “Black” Films Made

* Despite my personal thoughts about George Lucas and his remarks made on the Daily Show, I will be supporting Red Tails because the story is amazing.

* When I say “black” films, I’m referring to either A) a film with a predominantly black cast or B) a film where the director, main screenwriter, and/or producer is black

The original Tuskegee Airmen

Now that that’s out of the way…

Can we please cut the sh!t??? People complain and whine about how Hollywood won’t finance “black” films. Despite the amount of outrage against that guy who wears dresses and puts his name before everything he does, people continue to go see his movies, plays, and buy his DVDs. If I could count the amount of times I’ve read “well at least T.P is giving black actors work and backing his own films”, I’d have enough money to start my own studio.

You cannot demand better when you don’t financially support better. You cannot demonize the predominantly Jewish-ran film industry, when you as a consumer choose to put your money (and time) behind coonery and poorly-written, horribly-acted films. Just because you’re a minority doesn’t mean you to have throw your money at a subpar producer of color, as means to somehow prove a point.

The fact of the matter is Hollywood has a hard time respecting and investing in “black” films because we don’t tell stories the mass audience wants to see. In the past few years, several independent “black” films have been released with little commercial success and no major studio backing. The 1st that comes to mind is Mooz-lum starring Nia Long and Evan Ross. The film’s stars made media rounds to promote the film; just as a major motion picture have their stars do. The film delved into the family of a double-minority; black and Muslim in America. It was well-written and Evan Ross did an outstanding job in his 1st major dramatic role. Sadly, it didn’t show in many cities. According to IMDb, it only grossed $140,000 for its opening weekend! I’m sure the film itself costs more to produce than what it took in.

The newest buzz on the indie block is Pariah. Now this film deals with yet another double-minority and underrepresented population in storytelling; a teenage lesbian who’s black. I haven’t seen it yet, but honestly, I’ll see it before I see Red Tails. From the reviews, it’s highly acclaimed by many respected movie critics. However, I don’t see many black bloggers jumping to promote it the way they’re doing with Red Tails.

Lucas touted this film as the 1st of its kind in the sense of having a major budget: $58 million. But let’s be real here! I’d estimate at least 60% of that hefty price tag went specifically to stunts and the special effects paramount to tell the story. It’s not like any of the actors were demanding a $10+ million dollar salary, as is the case for most major studio films. The only thing I’m really intrigued about when it comes to seeing this film is Boondocks creator, Aaron McGruder is a part of the screenplay. McGruder takes alot of flack for his controversial satirical talent with his own show, so I want to see how he handled writing for a mainstream film.

As for George Lucas’s comments on The Daily Show…dude, stop it! I feel like he was trying to take the stance that if this movie isn’t a blockbuster, that Hollywood will banish black filmmakers to a deep abyss. Uh, Hello! It’s been an uneven playing field way before Red Tails. Just because he took a chance making this film doesn’t make him some type of savior to the black voice in cinema…he said —

“I realize that by accident I’ve now put the black film community at risk [with Red Tails, whose $58 million budget far exceeds typical all-black productions],” he said. “I’m saying, if this doesn’t work, there’s a good chance you’ll stay where you are for quite a while. It’ll be harder for you guys to break out of that [lower-budget] mold. But if I can break through with this movie, then hopefully there will be someone else out there saying let’s make a prequel and sequel, and soon you have more Tyler Perrys out there.”

Red Tails is just a microcosm of a bigger issue. To me, it’s not even about having big budgets or gaining the approval of Hollywood executives. It’s about the lack of creativity and options for us to support. The industry doesn’t need more Tyler Perrys! What the film industry needs are talented writers and directors of color who will stop pressing the “easy” button. It’s effortless to tell the story of “girl meets boy, girl is afraid to open up to boy, boy lays it on thick, boy gets girls, things end happily over some corny love song”. There’s so much more out there in terms of content and ideas that would be easy to sell to a studio, if that’s desired.

We have to stop treating black movies as a “separate but equal” entity. We have to stop begging to be allowed to sit at the big boy table. As a black director or producer, if you make a visually outstanding movie that tells an interesting story with exceptionally skilled actors, the community will support it without feeling forced or obliged to do so.

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