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S&A Takes A Look At What Black Films You Should See This Fall...

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by Tambay A. Obenson
August 28, 2012 12:08 PM
27 Comments
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Emayatzy Corinealdi (Middle Of Nowhere) 2012

With the USA 2012 theatrical summer movie season coming to an unsatisfying end (to me anyway), and the fall/awards season films begin their hopeful campaigns for glory, what's there for us to look forward to with regards to what we call black cinema; or films that tell stories primarily about (or center heavily on) people of African descent?

Well, not a lot, which shouldn't be a big surprise. But instead of lamenting what we don't have, let's instead get excited about what we are looking forward to seeing. 

In terms of films with stories that center primarily/heavily on black characters, there are very few; but you'll find a number of films that feature black characters in co-starring, supporting or peripheral roles.

But my emphasis here is on the former, not the latter.

I'm looking at both Hollywood releases as well as indies, here in the USA; obviously I don't have information on every single indie release, in every city around the country (I rely on you folks to alert me to any screenings that we don't already know about, as more indie filmmakers take matters into their own hands, releasing their films independently, without much fanfare, whether 4-walling, or via initiatives like AMC Independent).

From the list of upcoming releases I do have, here are 6 that I recommend you have on your short list of must-see films, along with my reasons for why they should be on your list.

1. Ava DuVernay's Middle Of Nowhere: This one shouldn't at all be a surprise. We've covered the film well enough, since its Sundance Film Festival 2012 debut, where I saw it. I later reviewed it here on S&A, and, in short, it was one of the stronger films I saw at Sundance this year, and is definitely worth your attention. Working with a larger budget than she did with I Will Follow, as well as a strong cast of actors, one thing I really loved about Ava's slow-burn of a drama, is its mature depiction of adult relationships. It's what I'd call a no-fuss work, but it gets the job done, thanks to the believable, seemingly natural performances by its cast (Emayatzy Corinealdi - photo above - David OyelowoOmari Hardwick, Lorraine Touissaint, and Edwina Findley), as well as award-winning DP Bradford Young's warm cinematography. The film was acquired jointly by Participant Media and AFFRM, to be released on October 12.

2. Django Unchained: Certainly not in need of an intro... I've already expressed my concerns with this movie in 2 or 3 different lengthy posts, so I won't rehash. But you may wonder why then, it's on this list. Well, simple enough - months before its release, it's already one of the most discussed films of 2012. I suspect it'll be polarizing nationally, but also within the black community, when it's released in December. It's one film I just couldn't ignore in coming up with this list. Obviously, I'll definitely be seeing it, because I need to be able to talk about it when the time comes. But I anticipate comment threads running into the 100s when the first S&A review of the film is posted (likely from either Sergio or myself). You should see it, because we'll most certainly be talking about it. You wouldn't want to be absent from the convo that will surely follow.

3. Brooklyn Castle: It's a documentary - one of two on this list of 5. As announced earlier this year, Sony Pictures and producer Scott Rudin purchased the remake rights to the doc that premiered at SXSW this year, where it won the audience award for best documentary. I saw it; I loved it. You can find my review of the film hereBrooklyn Castle (directed by Katie Dallamaggiore) is a documentary about I.S. 318, an inner-city public school that's home to the most-winning junior high school chess team in the country. But a series of deep public school budget cuts now threaten to undermine its hard-won success. It's an incredibly moving, portrait of black (and other minority) youth we rarely ever get to see on screen. I can understand why Sony would want to turn it into a scripted feature. See the doc before then. Indie distributor Producers Distribution Agency will release it on October 19 debut.

4. RZA's The Man With The Iron Fists: The rapper turned actor/director's feature film directorial debut, and one of the higher profile projects on this list. It stars RZA himself, Russell CrowePam GrierLucy Liu and others; Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth served as producers on this $20 million project. In feudal China, a blacksmith (played by RZA) who makes weapons for a small village is put in the position where he must defend himself and his fellow villagers. We've seen the explosive trailer, but I'd say that it's still somewhat of a mystery at this point what the entire piece is going to look, sound and feel like. But I'm definitely curious. RZA learned from Tarantino, shadowing him on film sets, with Roth assisting in suring up the script. What could RZA have taken from the other 2 gentlemen and blended into his work, or how much influence they had on RZA's choices, remains t be seen. But, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't dying to find out. 

5. Detropia: the second documentary on this list of 5. Another film we've lauded here on S&A, since its Sundance 2012 debut, where I saw it and reviewed. In short, I was moved by it. Co-directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, create an almost otherworldly look at a diminishing city - once a vibrant metropolis with almost 2 million inhabitants not-so-long ago, as workers (including many African Americans escaping the Jim Crow south) migrated north in search of jobs within all those then flourishing auto manufacturing plants, leading to a rise in the middle class; but now a city with around 700,000 people, a ghost of its former self, littered with abandoned buildings (skyscrapers and homes), empty lots and streets, that make it look as if a war broke out, or, as one person noted in the film, as if a bomb was dropped in the middle of the city. It's a film that must be experienced on the big screen. The filmmakers are releasing it independently - first in select theaters on September 7, and will continue to expand throughout the fall.

6. FlightDenzel Washington as an alcoholic and drug-addicted pilot, on course towards a life-change who saves a flight from an engine malfunction, rescuing the plane and the passengers, and becoming a hero, only to find his non-public substance abuse problem, brought to light, thanks to an FAA investigation into the case. Oh, and by the way, the film reunites him with Don Cheadle. Directed by Robert Zemeckis - his first live-action film since 2000's Cast Away, with Tom Hanks - this one should be a bit of an unexpected dramatic doozy, from what I hear, and the trailer doesn't even begin to tell half of the story. I haven't seen it yet, so I'm just going based on what others who know more than I do, have said. But it's not a *pretty* role for Denzel. It's not necessarily a *bad* guy roles either. It should be a worthwhile character study. Besides, any movie with both Denzel and Don should be worth watching. Garcelle Beauvais also co-stars, playing Denzel's wife.

So there are 6 films to add to your list, if they aren't already on it.

Of course, there are others that we will surely discuss, like Tyler Perry as Alex Cross; I will certainly see it, but from all I've seen of it thus far, and what I know of Tyler Perry's past work (even though he didn't direct this one), I can't say that I have high expectations for it. But maybe we'll all be surprised!

And as for films that don't necessarily center on primarily on characters of African descent: Zoe Saldana plays Bradley Cooper's GF in The Words, Viola Davis shares screen time with Maggie Gyllenhaal in Won't Back Down (although I'm told that it's more Maggie's character's story, and Viola's role is more of a supporting one), Lee Daniels' The Paperboy (David Oyelowo co-stars), Halle Berry, David Gyasi and Keith David in Cloud Atlas, David Oyelowo again, S. Epatha Merkerson and Gloria Reuben in Lincoln, Chris Tucker in The Silver Linings Playbook, and a few others.

And of course, there are a few film festivals premiering several black films, but we'll tackle those in separate post, as we always do with film festival coverage. 

What did I miss that's definitely on YOUR short list?

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27 Comments

  • Jason Sloan | September 7, 2012 1:03 AMReply

    Is Spike Lee on the outs or something? Is Red Hook Summer that bad to not even get mentioned in the bottom paragraph?

  • Kramer | August 31, 2012 1:22 AMReply

    I'm interested in The Words, Middle of Nowhere and Detropia, but not Django at all in anyway shape or form.

  • julijay | August 30, 2012 6:40 PMReply

    WOW how could you leave Beast of the Southern Wild off the list? This black film is probably the only one on that list that will make it to the oscars. Possibly Denzel's film as well :)

  • Wow | August 31, 2012 12:02 AM

    Julijay: if oscar attention is what defines good to you, honey you're so far gone it don't even matter.

  • ALM | August 30, 2012 10:13 PM

    @ Julijay: "Beasts" was not included because this is an article about unreleased, UPCOMING films.

  • CareyCarey | August 30, 2012 6:30 PMReply

    It was Hustler Magazine... no, it was Playboy... no,no, it was Hustler because I remember them being more controversial and hard core. Anyway, they had a rating system in which they used a drawing of a man's "johnson" to rate porn flicks. Instead of using the five star system, they used the position of a man's penis. So I'm going to borrow that system (don't ask me why o_O) to speak about my excitement of upcoming movies. 1) Django Unchained --> Rock hard stiff! Can't go wrong (dong) with Quentin, Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Samuel Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio. They're all proven commodities. 2) Flight with Denzel Washington as an alcoholic and drug-addicted pilot... and Don Cheadle --> 3/4 stiff. I've been in the Air Force and I've been addicted to drugs, so I can relate. And again, you can't go wrong (dong) with Denzel AND Don Cheadle. This may not be a "Devel In The Blue Dress" and Don Cheadle is not playing the part of Mouse, nor is a black man directiong ( no Carl Franklin) but I am excited nevertheless. 3) Middle Of Nowhere --> Flaccid :-( There's nothing I can do with this. I mean, again I can relate to the subject matter because I've been locked up and had a woman waiting for me but I can't find anything else to draw me in (or pump me up *wink*). I wasn't overly impressed with Ava's I Will Follow, nor can I lay all my eggs in Tambay's basket. Look, I've been reading Tambay's reviews for quite some time and I think I have a feel for what he's saying and more importantly, what he does not say. Okay, he said Middle of Nowhere is a "strong" film. What does that mean. And then, quite naturally, he puts a little more juice on black films than I believe is necessary. And sometimes he speaks about this great cinematography thing. Who goes to a movie with their focus on the cinematography? Heck, when I hear those words I think of a blind date. You know, the person (the blind date) has a great personality but **hush-hush** they're ass-butt-ugly. I'm just saying, there's nothing to get me excited about the movie. Somebody will have to tell me something that I don't already know. Really, I'm open for suggestions... school me - please.

  • Cindy | August 30, 2012 5:09 PMReply

    I plan on seeing Middle Of Nowhere... I hope its good. I love David O and Omari Hardwick. What date does it come out? This post says one date and the Omari interview has another date. I will see Django Unchained... its a must!

  • anon | August 30, 2012 11:38 AMReply

    im surprised the butler wasnt mentioned or is that not gonna be out this year?
    anyway the only films im concerend about is half a yellow sun and 12 yeasr a slave when ever they come out lol!

  • JSLEDGE | August 29, 2012 8:08 PMReply

    I'm looking forward to Cloud Atlas, Middle of Nowhere and the RZA joint.

  • justsaying | August 29, 2012 4:48 PMReply

    Is it possible to create a tab like your "about" and "contact" tabs to list black films in theaters, coming up, films completed, films in principal photography etc so that one may continue to reference and follow?

  • sheldon candis | August 29, 2012 4:01 PMReply

    hey tambay,

    LUV releases in theaters November 9th... the trailer debuts on itunes very soon...
    appreciate you :)

    LUV,

    sheldon

  • FILMFLAM | August 29, 2012 12:10 PMReply

    You forgot "Booker's Place" -- it's personal and moving. Looking forward to seeing Detropia.

  • Huh? | August 28, 2012 10:53 PMReply

    Can't believe Django Unchained is on this list. I've heard enough about the script (have it but couldn't bring myself to read it), that I have no need to spend money or encourage other black people to spend money on it in the first weekend. Why don't you watch it first and tell us if it treats us with enough dignity to support it? If it's anything like what I've heard of the script, I highly doubt it so I'll either sneak in or at least wait until I know it won't piss me off and is worth my money. Encourage black people to spend money on actual black movies instead so maybe this list won't have to be so paltry and grasping at straws to present "black" movies we should see.

  • monkeysuit | August 28, 2012 11:47 PM

    Why don't you grow a brain and decide for yourself if it's problematic?

  • WhichDate | August 28, 2012 8:40 PMReply

    I feel like I've been waiting forever for Middle of Nowhere to come out. This sez October 12 here but Omari Hardwick sez October 17 in his interview on here. Can you say which one is right please? Thanks.

  • RA-EL | August 28, 2012 4:04 PMReply

    Is it me or does Denzel need a hit? It's prolly me. But Unstoppable was stoppable if you cat h my meaning.

  • Mark | August 28, 2012 10:32 PM

    Safehouse was a hit.

  • ALM | August 28, 2012 2:43 PMReply

    I plan to see Ava DuVernay's "Middle Of Nowhere", Denzel's "Flight" and possibly "The Silver Linings Playbook".

  • Priss | August 28, 2012 2:08 PMReply

    The only ones ringing my bell are Middle of Nowhere and Brooklyn Castle and of course Lincoln. Daniel Day makes my day.

  • FreshEst | August 28, 2012 1:56 PMReply

    Great picture for the movie. I hadn't seen this one yet. She's really very pretty. But can she act?

  • Mjjay | August 28, 2012 1:37 PMReply

    Has that film WOLF gotten distribution yet? I've been hearing lots of buzz.

  • justsaying | August 28, 2012 1:03 PMReply

    Great post! On the look out for many of these films....

  • ojie king | August 28, 2012 12:45 PMReply

    I am just so curious to see Winnie. To be honest, thats the film that brought me to this blog in the first place, and then i got hooked! Oh dear

  • Critical Acclaim | August 28, 2012 12:39 PMReply

    Good list. Middle of Nowhere tops my list too. I can do without Django. The Angela Davis documentary isn't coming out there year? I am INTO that already. What about that joint with Common?

  • Ash | August 28, 2012 10:54 PM

    Co-sign. When will Free Angela come out already??

  • Barry Canty | August 28, 2012 12:36 PMReply

    You forgot Sheldon Candis' "LUV"! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDQHMR8FFdw

  • Tambay | August 28, 2012 12:50 PM

    I didn't forget it. It doesn't have an official release date yet. At least, I haven't seen one.

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