Okay, I feel a need to address a matter of considerable importance. There is this trend. Well I can’t say trend really, because it’s been going on for years. Whether they are Indian, Chinese or any group with lack of representation. They have the ordeal of not being represented in the film/TV industry of their own culture what I’ve observed is othering when filmmakers make their own films to be represented. In India many films whether Bollywood, Kollywood (there are a few Kollywood’s) etc. the leads and many of the cast are light-skinned however a big portion of the population is brown/dark skinned etc one thing therefore I’ve noticed (I guess because of my experience watching American Black movies as an American Black person wanting representation) is audiences saying they are sick of not being represented. So, then someone decides you know what I’m going to create that representation. I’m going to make movies that represent us. We should make our own media. Everyone’s ecstatic about finally getting the attention they deserve. Then the filmmakers go and make movies that represent brown/ dark-skinned Indians, but then guess what they do. They do something discordant of what is popular, what the audiences go to see. Mainly b-wood, k-wood musicals depending on the country that is. So, b-wood,k-wood makes musicals, while the filmmaker(s) who said we need to make our own movies/media to represent us go off and make something completely different. They go and make non-musicals, social issues. There is nothing wrong with this. The problem is the audience who were waiting for that see the same type of narratives with people looked like them in the b-wood/kwood movies they see. Also you can make movies about social issues and make them entertaining at the same time. The filmmakers seem to be estranged from the audience. They didn’t observe the fact, what the people want is the same as the films with light-skinned Indians as leads. Why are they not making the Dil to Pagal Hai, Kabi Khabi Kushi Gham’s, Bluffmaster’s (Bollywood) etc even I Have Found It’s (Kollywood) (my fave adaptation of Sense and Sensibility) with us who are darker skinned Indians? What are the filmmakers that are supposed to represent us trying to say that is different about us that we can’t have similar films that the light-skinned actors are in? While audiences would appreciate films to be unique, they would also appreciate the films imitable style of the filmmakers.
The above stated is a seemly parallel with state of American Black films. Hell we don’t need Hollywood. We are good at othering ourselves all on our own without any help from the media. While I don’t think there is anything wrong with talking about issues within our community (btw Can someone tell me what is a black genre? Black theme? I mean seriously! Come on now!) We’ll get movies like Rosewood which I love. Here’s why I love Rosewood. It brings a tragic horrible experience on film, but at the same time shows black people as people. We “gasp” actually have black people who are successful, double “gasp” have a hero, triple “gasp” he’s black (say what!) a love story quadruple “gasp” etc. It doesn’t show us as being downtrodden, but a people who were successful, because of their hard work paying off, and later a people who had to survive or be killed like many of their friends and family. That’s also what I loved about Hotel Rwanda. The dynamic between the family and the people he sheltered in the hotel. It brought up a social issue, social injustice, but at the same time entertained and pulled us in.
But American Black people, we tend to do stories that can be jacked up (and I understand we need to get issues out), but we don’t have a lot of diversity of our image to do that constantly. And further more. I know people are going to be pissed at me, but we let our baggage in this country stifle our writing (not talking about Rosewood)) I’ve read screenplays, talked to writers that try too damn hard to make a work black. Or we keep coming up with movies like Soul Food. I love Soul Food, but I don’t want to see that 30leven times, nor The Best Man, The Wood, Brothers etc. Sometimes I wonder if the baggage that we keep (wether it be this insistence on keeping the one-drop rule alive etc.) keeps us from knowing how to tell stories for Hollywood or outside of Hollywood (well let’s just say commercial films). Or better yet let me say universal stories, because we are so wrapped up in a story being black. Whatever that means. I remember talking to a writer a few years ago, and I told him I could see the Sundiata epic being set in England or any other continent, country etc. You know what he said? He said that doesn’t make sense, because it’s an African story, about a black African and he envisioned an African face. Um what does story have to do with faces? Narratives enthrall people to watch read, listen where ever they may reside. He said I imagine him with west African features. That’s not my point. What does African features or facial features have to do with a story and universal appeal? My point is the story can be set anywhere. It’s a universal story. When I first told people of Ekon’s Adventure (an experiment I came up with a premise for a story to further understand the hero’s journey and trying to create a fantasy story) many people thought it was Hamlet set in an alternate Africa. Ha! I created this story using the hero’s Journey giving the characters names (if I was able to) that reflected their role. I came up with a premise. I was on a group of black sci-fi/fantasy writers, enthusiasts who said you should check out these epics. I read about Sundiata and was like wow, my story almost sounds like this, but with a different twist. Hell my story sounded similar to another screenplay someone wrote that was optioned to a big studio except it was set in a different galaxy.
Nigerians who run Nollywood, Gollywood etc., have the power to greenlight etc. and well have to make back their or someone else’s freaking money. They have to understand what audiences what. The fact is we don’t understand what audiences want, crave, need. Hell, it took a BET study to say that American blacks like to go watch the same movies that white audiences do. BET Study: Black Moviegoers Don’t Watch Just Black Films which I mentioned in a previous post. I was like duh! Seriously! You needed a study to show that? They showed that comedy, romance (especially with women. Well Duh!). Let’s say if was Pillow Talk came out today a lot of black women would go see that movie, just as white women, Asian etc. Okay, so let’s say It happened One Night came out today; we’d have the same thing! You know why? Because we are freaking human! We like to see the same things as everyone else. We have the same, similar, and not so similar experiences, but at the end of the damn day we are human.
Okay, So lets say that movies from he 30’s 40, 50’s 60’s etc. were coming out such as It Happened One Night, Palm Beach Story, The More the Merrier, Sound of Music, The Lady Eve, Sunset boulevard, The Thin Man, My Fair Lady or whatever movie. These aren’t remakes mind you, but let’s say the first time these movies come out is our era of the 21st century. And for movies that did come out in the 21st century 50 First Dates, Two Weeks Notice, Bridget Jones’ Diary, What a Girl Wants, XXX, The Bourne Identity etc. Do you think black people wouldn’t go see these movies? Many black people go to see these Hwood movies, so why the hell do black filmmakers not give us these types of movies. Why do we have to feel like we are walking into baby mama drama every time we go see a movie made by and for American Black audiences? Come on now people! Give us our Two Weeks Notice etc. Give us our Pride and Prejudice (remember when I mentioned Sundiata?) As mentioned before there is a Latter Day Saints version of Pride and Prejudice. Now some things were taken out when shown to non-Mormons, because the humor not transferring (as not all humor does), but it goes to show that many stories are and can be universal and timeless.
Case in point about othering ourselves. I remember reading some article saying that black people respond to darker colors and that’s why magazines for black people have darker colors, ads etc. I was like WTH? I know magazines like BOP etc. caught my eye, because of the hot pink, aqua etc. caught my attention more than Right on!. While I read Right on! I mostly was attracted to magazines such as BOP and others, because of the layout, colors etc. So, what the hell is up with that mess?
Black people got to look at things like studies (not the crap above), but there’s a reason you have companies like Baseline that looks at what audiences go see. Please study that and stop going by silly shit! Look at what black audiences in the U. S. like to go see! Also experiment by making movies to see what audiences like. The very last video below talks about this very thing. Create a product and see how the audience responds. Find out why the audiences didn’t like these films. So use the studies, but go beyond them and look at the human element.
Again my point is that black people don’t need anyone to other us. The media, society, because we are doing that anyway. For those who don’t know what othering is, it’s doing something or accepting things that are totally polar opposite of what most people view as normal, are doing etc. Now, don’t get me wrong, being different is not necessarily a bad thing, but there is a point where you can other to your own detriment.
Black Americans as I said before have our Undercover Brothers etc. like white Americans have Ace Ventura, but unlike White Americans we don’t have a wide variety. So, it’s a disappointment when we do get the chance to have films made by and about us that are jacked up movies like Precious, He Who Finds a Wife, Outrighteous, Kiss the Bride, Diary of a Mad Black Woman (though I do love that movie) there are too many clones of it and clones of TP films. Those aren’t the only types of films I want to see. American Blacks could have created our own animated films instead of waiting on Disney or some other studio, company or what have you to do it for us. Instead when Disney does American Black people complained about everything from the girl’s name to who her love interest was. You know what? I know a Nigerian filmmaker who makes animated movies. He used to hang out in a couple of forums that I frequented. Just google African Tales. Better yet go to YT and search African Tales. Then there are others who doing animation. American black people. We are way behind! We seriously need to get our shit together!
I’m not going to lie. Nollywood, Gollywood etc. can have some jacked up stories, hell Tyler Perry, David E. Talbert ain’t got nothing on Nollywood, Gollywood etc. Seriously! LOL but you know what? I enjoy watching them. Even when the ending sucks. I’m like WTH? Why? NOOOOO! Even then I enjoy these movies so much. I even got family members hooked on Gollywood after watching a Majid Michel movie. I’m actually on this kick to watch all his movies. You know why I enjoy them even when the sound can blast until you miss dialog, or the music can override dialog, or even when the lighting etc. ain’t always the best? Because they are actually entertaining. No baggage about being black, black stories, or the black thought police in these movies, and thank freaking goodness. You even have very high prod value, Nollywood, Gollywood etc. and those are great too. Nollywood, Gollywood and other African movie industries are moving forward, while we are still complaining about Hollywood. And I understand we have a history and baggage when it comes to our interaction with whites in America and the treatment we have received in the past to even today, but there is a point where we have to move past this, heal,and free ourselves, and move the hell on. Create something new.
You are probably going to be like WTH, because I’m about to contradict myself a bit here. Most black filmmakers are trying to get theatrical releases. We also rely on film festivals instead of creating a viable industry in order to release our films to an audience. I think American black people should focus on the direct to DVD, Blu-Ray, VOD etc. market. In fact I think we should have been the first ones releasing straight-to-video when the VCR and VHS came out. We should have jumped on the bandwagon when the porn industry did (not saying make porn. LOL, but that’s how it got big (yeah I know what that sounds like. LOL), they took advantage of the new medium when the big wigs didn’t when it first came out. Course they were waiting and watching to see how it panned out ( and I don’t blame them, who wants to go through format wars!), and when they figured it out boy did they take over.) American blacks better do that now, before the studios do start to come around, because eventually they will. We should make movies and treat it like V-cinema of Japan which has a better rep than DTV here. Google V-cinema. While we are doing this I think we should be working on strategies to move up to releasing films theatrically. I have experienced having short films shown in a theatrical release, and I tell you there is no experience like it. That’s why I believe that theatrical will be here. I love DTV, On Demand etc., but seriously there is nothing like a shared experience like being in a movie theater. We are social creatures and if given the opportunity would go to a movie screening at a theater vs. home. First though we got some learning and growing to do.
We also need distribution that we control. I love Maverick and others, but American blacks need to own our own distribution companies, creating our own exhibition. Not saying these companies would only distribute black movies, but we need to have control of our image. Not have non-black people telling us what sells to black people. Or what black people don’t want to see as the case with the filmmaker of One Week being told black people don’t understand sophisticated comedy/humor. Yes, he was really told that mess!
In summary my point is while we should work to make sure we are not othered by Hwood and other media, we should also make sure we put the same effort into not othering ourselves.