Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Support Black Films - The Great Debators

Actor Denzel Washington's latest directorial effort, The Great Debaters may or not be a great classic film, I will leave that decision to other moviegoers, but it certainly is a good one. It is an old-fashioned film with traditional moral messages and hard-hitting life lessons. All the acting performances are top notch, particularly Oscar winner Forest Whitaker and all the young actors portraying the Wiley College debaters. As the strict and highly committed Professor Melvin Tolson, Denzel Washington gives a reserved, but solid presentation.

As director, Washington delivers a family-friendly holiday film purposely meant to appeal to a mass audience. The Great Debaters is a visual history lesson that offers passionate and positive portrayals of African Americans working together to achieve a worthwhile and long-lasting triumph. While not a perfect film, The Great Debaters like The Pursuit of Happyness or Talk To Me gives Africans Americans something to talk about, something to be proud of, and something to share with each other....if only for a short while.

Additionally, if you saw The Great Debaters already, you like myself, suffered through the positively awful film previews. Hollywood clearly prefers to portray African Americans in the same repetitive and stereotypical modern-day coonfests that too many black actors and actresses seem all too willing to appear in.

Do black folks need to see Ice Cube in another buddy picture as one half of an irresponsible, feeble-minded, and bumbling duo, willing to rob a church to solve their financial problems? Do black folk really need to see to a female version of Stomp the Yard, especially one that seems to suggest that mastering stepping will deliver you from a hard life in the hood? Do black folk need to see any film by Martin Lawrence at all, particularly one with the additional treat of Mo'nique continuing her trend of playing overweight, loud-mouthed, and violent black women? Aren't black folk bored with these cookie-cutter crap films?

If African Americans truly desire to see different presentations of black life, we must get behind films like The Great Debaters with our pocketbooks and boycott negative portrayals of black people in movies with our absence in the theaters. We must cease buying bootleg movie copies and go see black films when they are first released. We must support young and talented black actors like Nate Parker, Denzel Whitaker, and Jurnee Smollett, looking out for their next film projects. We must support veteran black actors as they spread their wings in other areas such as directing. It does not matter how many Oscars black actors win, if their chances to have diverse acting roles and opportunities remains limited and narrow.


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