Monday, April 21, 2008

The Sad State Of Black Film-Making

What is up with black films? Where are black movies of the caliber of There Will Be Blood or No Country For Old Men? Love them or hate them, these films were great movies with great characters. Where are the risk-taking and innovative black filmmakers? We have great stories to tell and great heroes to tell stories about. The Great Debaters was good, but not great. American Gangster was over-rated. A Raisin in the Sun was disappointing and a remake. I can't name one black film that I am looking forward to seeing in the near future. It not that we don't have black stars or the money. That's just not true anymore. Our black filmmakers need to step up their game.


Nicole J. Butler April 21, 2008 at 4:22 AM  

Until we (black audiences) demand and support better films (by putting out money where our mouths are) AND stop bootlegging, we'll continue to get what we've gotten.

It's unfortunate.

Jill April 21, 2008 at 8:42 AM  

I'm venturing to make my first comment so I hope this is ok!

Have you followed or heard about Debbie Allen doing an all-POC cast on Broadway with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? Here's a Boston Globe article about the latest cast addition.

This isn't to say that Broadway or the stage is doing any better - you make a great point in this post. And I bet for WOC, it's even harder - especially older women of color, since older women in general have fewer screen choices too.


Miss Issues April 21, 2008 at 10:52 AM  

Professor Tracey, first let us take a look at black literature. The two films you mention above started out as great books. We don't have too many of those either.

The professor (who is black) in my grad program of creative writing and I often discuss the said state of black literature. We are selling our children a superficial view of life. We are too caught up in keeping in 'real' so to speak. Hopefully, I and the two other only blacks in our program will become published.
It's sad when we don't value creativity and imagination.

Professor Tracey April 21, 2008 at 11:31 AM  

Hey Miss Issues,

I agree with a lot of what you say here, but I think there are plenty of great black books out there that have been forgotten about or overlooked. We need to stop promoting and reading "beach reading" like Zane and Omar Tyree as "black Literature" and find all the great black authors that write different stories.

Professor Tracey April 21, 2008 at 11:32 AM  

Hi Nicole and Jill,

Thanks for your comments. I wanted to see that play, but too much $$$ for me right now. Sigh...

Professor Tracey April 21, 2008 at 11:33 AM  

Hi Nicole and Jill,

Thanks for your comments. I wanted to see that play, but too much $$$ for me right now. Sigh...

Miss Issues April 21, 2008 at 12:38 PM  

I agree there is a some great black literature out there. My favorite is Martha Southgate's Third Girl from the Left. This would make a great movie.

I had to order her book from because all bookstores carry is Omar Tyree and Zane.

Nicole J. Butler April 21, 2008 at 12:49 PM  

I think 'beach literature' has it's place in society - sometimes I do just want a quick, easy read, but it's like junk food - if you crave potato chips every now & then, go ahead and have them - just don't make a meal (or a habit) of them or your mind will eventually become bloated and lazy.

Debbie Allen's producing "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" is GREAT, but productions with all- or predominantly- black casts aren't novel (no pun intended, I promise). I'll be glad when the majority of films targeted toward black people (specifically African-Americans) have more well-rounded characters and story lines that are universal. White people's issues are not the only 'universal themes'. HUMANITY is universal.

Nicole J. Butler April 21, 2008 at 12:51 PM  

AND, Miss Issues, I read an article in the NAACP's "Crisis Magazine" that talked about the fact that lots of publishing houses are forcing authors to 'sexualize' the covers of their books in order to appeal to a broader audience (i.e. - those who won't read a book unless there is bling or a half-naked person on the cover). Matha Southgate was one of the interviewees.

Jill April 21, 2008 at 1:28 PM  

I really appreciate the discussion space. And could not agree more about the pricey-ness of Broadway - I really don't think I've gone in 30 years and even then, I only went on high school trips once or twice. It's a bit cheaper in Cleveland where I am but still outrageous. Of course we have some great smaller companies - so there's always that.

Anyway, thanks and agreed re: humanity being universal.

Miss Issues April 21, 2008 at 1:34 PM  

Nicole, Martha wrote a great article in the New York Times about this. It's still on her website.
Also, a lot these big publishing houses are giving imprints to people like Zane and Vicki Stringer. Mainstream publishing's argument is they are just giving us what we are willing to pay for as readers.

We have to start exposing us and our children to others things beside what's available in pop culture. I see young girls reading Zane and a bunch of those Ghetto books, but want read the Color Purple if their life depended on it.

RockNRollSista April 21, 2008 at 6:43 PM  

Its so hard for black folks to get into the field of media. I wanted to make movies but I found it so hard to get into the field. Its crazy.

Sheryl April 22, 2008 at 11:53 PM  

This is the same story as with black music. The low quality fare is pushed constantly and we consume it because there are so few choices. Then we're told we get that junk because it's what sells.

I have been fuming about the lack of movies featuring black children or other children of color that are similar to the Harry Potter or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe movies. Why can't children of color be the main characters in these fun, fantasy filled adventures? Why does little Shaniqua or Javion in our movies have to be the product of poor struggling, single mother and an incarcerated father, grow up in gang infested, violent ghetto and end us as a teenage mother or juvenile delinquent?

I did hear that Will Smith is involved in bringing a movie to the screen that will feature his son and daughter in a fantasy/adventure movie. I can't wait and hope more like that will follow.

It's the same sh*t all of the time in every medium.

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