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Shadow & Act 2011 Black Cinema *Hot List* Revisited... How Did We Do?

by Tambay A. Obenson
November 28, 2011 2:44 PM
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It's not the end of 2011 yet, though we're about a month away... so you can expect all the usual end-of-year summaries, and "best of" lists to start turning up online very soon.

I figured I'd get things rolling, but instead of a "best of the year" list, I thought I'd revisit an entry I posted back in January this year; a post that took a look at what was then the upcoming 2011 year in *black cinema,* highlighting films that I thought could make a splash this year, or films that we'd likely be talking about a lot here on S&A. 

Looking over that post today, some 9 months later, I'd say I did fairly well with my predictions; missed a few, but overall, not a badly concocted brew of titles and names.

The original (USA-centered) post follows below; and next to each title or talent that made the cut in that initial post, and the notes I made for each, you'll find, in parenthese, a 2011 end-of-year status update for each film/actor/actress/director...

So, here we go...


Compared to recent years, 2011 is shaping up to be one of the better years for black cinema, or blacks in cinema, in terms of both volume and variety.

With For Colored Girls now mostly behind us, I'd like to look ahead to what we can expect to see in theaters in 2011; Films that I think could make a splash this year, or films that we'd likely be talking about a lot here on S&A.

I did a bit of research, and these are the titles I came up with.

I should note that I'm only counting films in which the characters that black actors play are central to the film's plot, or films directed by black filmmakers, regardless of whether the cast is comprised of black actors or not.

First, on the indie front, titles that could make enough of a splash:

- Rashaad Ernesto Green's feature-film debut, Gun Hill Road. Debuted at Sundance 2011. Acquired for distribution. (Not bad; grossed about $150,000 during its summer release; received a Gotham Award for Breakthrough Actor for Harmony Santana; winners to be announced Monday 11/28)

- Dee Rees's Pariah, based on her short film of the same name. Debuted at Sundance 2011. Acquired for distribution. (Will be released 12/28; Focus Features, its distributor, pushing it as an Oscar contender in several categories; Dee Rees also reveived Gotham nominee for Breatkthrough Director)

- Victoria Mahoney's feature debut, Yelling To The Sky. The film stars Zoe Kravitz, Tim Blake Nelson, Gabourey Sidibe, and several others. Made its worldwide debut at the Berlin Film Festival in 2011. (Lots of prominent festival play, winning accolades and fans along the way; finally acquired for distribution with a spring 2012 release expected)

- Julius Onah's feature debut titled, The Girl Is In Trouble, being executive produced by Spike Lee, currently in post-production in NYC; Julius says he's aiming for a latter half of the year festival debut - possibly Toronto. (Not screened anywhere yet; See my Sundance 2012 potentials post HERE for status on this one)

- Alrick Brown's Rwandan genocide drama Kinyarwanda. Debuted at Sundance 2011. (Picked up festival Awards at Sundance and AFI most recently; AFFRM acquired with December 2 theatrical debut scheduled)

- Ava DuVernay's I Will Follow, which stars Salli Richardson and Omari hardwick. (Theatrical release in spring via AFFRM to much critical acclaim; grossing about $150,000; now available on DVD)

- James Richards' (Co-director of 6 Things I Never Told You) first feature solo effort, The Bicycle, which he’s currently (and has been) in production for. (Not quite ready yet; hoping for more in 2012/13)

- Darius Clark Monroe's Evolution Of A Criminal, which is executive produced by Spike Lee. May debut at Tribeca in the spring. (Still in post-production; also hoping for 2012/2013 debut)

- Byron Hurt's soul food examination (health advantages and disadvantages) documentary, Soul Food Junkies. He's currently in post-production, and is working on pitching it to distributors. (still in post; See my Sundance 2012 potentials post HERE for further status)

- The Tested, starring Aunjanue Ellis, directed by Russ Costanzo, which my Shadow And Act Films LLC business partner Rodney Parnther did some consulting producer work on. Playing festival circuit. Acquired for distribution. Release later this year. (Still playing film festival circuit as recently as last month)

- Restless City - Andrew Dosunmu's directorial debut. Debuted at Sundance 2011. (also still on film festival circuit; not sure on official theatrical debut; Andrew is already in post-production on his second feature. See my Sundance 2012 potentials post HERE for further status)

- The Black Power Mixtape. Debuted at Sundance 2011. Acquired for distribution by Sundance Selects. (In theaters for 9 weeks, grossed over $268,000; very well received critically; A Sundance Selects pickup; on DVD/Blu-ray next month)

- Aaron Burns' feature film debut, Blacktino. Debuting at SXSW. (Been on film festival circuit; no word on distribution prospects)

On the studio/big money front:

- Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family. (Grossed $53.5 million, about average for a TP movie). 

- Tina Gordon Chism's We the Peeples, which Tyler Perry is producing. (Nothing on this yet; See my Sundance 2012 potentials post HERE for further status)

- The George Lucas-produced, Anthony Hemingway-directed Red Tails. (finally will be released in January 2012)

- Salim Akil's Jumping The Broom, which stars Angela Bassett, Paula Patton, Loretta Devine, and others. (made almost $40 million, which is pretty good, considering its reported $6 million budget; now on DVD/Blu-ray)

- Halle Berry's Dark Tide, as well as Frankie & Alice - although the latter opened in LA in December, to qualify for awards consideration. (nothing new on either; I'd say Frankie & Alice will probably be buried at this point, and will be quietly released on DVD eventually; we've seen the trailer for Dark Tide, but no word on when the film will actually be released; so look to 2012)

- Terence Howard and Jennifer Hudson in Winnie. (Praise for J-Hud's performance, and all the drama surrounding this film aside, reviews from those who've seen it - it screened at Toronto - were lukewarm. Not sure when it'll make its commercial debut, and where; look to 2012)

- From the Rough, starring Taraji P. Henson, currently in production. (Playing festival and screening series circuit; scheduled to make theatrical debut in early 2012)

- John Singleton is currently shooting Abduction, which stars Taylor Lautner, and a bunch of other folks. (probably one of the year's biggest studio disappointments; definitely not the blockbuster it was hoped to be, grossing just $27 million after 2+ months in theaters. Talk of a franchise for Lautner here, but I doubt that'll happen now)

- The Jamie Foxx/Martin Lawrence comedy Skank Robbers, based on the TV characters both created. (nothing on this... thank goodness; rumored to have gone into production, but we haven't seen or heard anything to prove that yet; it it's real, look to 2012)

- Martin Lawrence's Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, the threequel. (the weakest in the franchise, making about half of what the last one made, or about $37 million; also critically panned, though Martin himself was quoted as saying that he planned to "ride the Big Momma franchise till the wheels fall off." Let's hope that they officially have)

- Viola Davis, Cicely Tyson and Octavia Spencer in The Help. (maybe this year's biggest surprise - to me anyway; despite all the controversy leading up to, and during its release, the film has grossed close to $170 million thus far, making it one of the top 12 grossing movies of 2011. Who woulda thunk it? Not me; and awards buzz is deafening).

- Eddie Murphy and Kerry Washington in A Thousand Words. (Trailer recently unveiled, and not particularly encouraging; will be released, finally, in early 2012)

- Zoe Saldana in the Luc Besson-produced revenge thriller, Colombiana. (didn't do as well as I expected, though that could be because of mixed reviews when it was eventually released; grossed almost $37 million stateside; as with Luc Besson films, I expected it to do even better on the international market; but it actually did worse overseas, grossing a cume of about $24 mill; still a good look for Zoe in her first real high profile starring role. Hopefully more to come)

- Method Man in the 3D crime thriller, The Mortician. Made its worldwide premiere at Berlin 2011. (Still on festival circuit; look to 2012)

- 50 Cent & Mario Van Peebles in Things Fall Apart, directed by Mario. (Still on festival circuit; though reception hasn't been very strong; look to 2012)

- Carl Franklin's adaptation of Rudolfo Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima. (Info on this one has been scarce; nothing turned up on Google search for latest; not sure where exactly it stands. I know it's been shot; so must be in post. Look to 2012)

- Geoffrey Fletcher's directorial debut, Violet & Dasiy. (festival debut at Toronto in September was mixed; look to 2012 for release)

On the foreign film front:

- Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s Cannes Grand Jury Prize-winning film, Un homme qui crie (A Screaming Man). Film Movement acquired it for distribution. (one of those barely seen films that absolutely needed more exposure. We gave it as much as we could here; managed just about $10,000 domestically; another $150,000 overseas. On DVD this week)

- Abdellatif Kechiche's Hottentot Venus film, Venus Noire. (I doubt this will get a stateside theatrical at this point; saw it at NYFF in fall 2010. On DVD, but not in the USA yet; you can get a copy via Canadian and European online retail sites)

- A Man's Story, the Oswald Boateng documentary. (still on festival circuit; one film I was really looking forward to seeing this year; looking to 2012 instead)

A long-shot to open in 2011:

- Angela Bassett's adaptation of Percival Everett's novel Erasure, to be titled United States (last I heard from the screenwriter, Dwayne Johnson-Cochran, earlier this year, the script was being written). (still in script stage, last I checked in with Dwayne Johnson-Cochran; not sure if funding is already in place, so don't know if/when it'll eventually go into production; looking beyond 2012)

Lastly, some folks who will be noticeably absent in 2011:

- Lee Daniels - a surprise, especially after all the accolades he received for Precious. At one point, the feeling was that he could do almost anything he wanted after that; not-so-fast my friends... considering the hassles he's experiencing with getting Selma off the ground, despite a mostly impressive cast already attached. (well, he was still absent in 2011, although, he's attached to several projects; all of which we've mentioned on S&A; he's currently in post-production on what should be his next release, an adaption of a thriller titled The Paperboy, which stars Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, Macy Gray and Scott Glenn).

- Spike Lee - he's producing a couple of features for others, so he won't be completely absent; however, he doesn't have any films of his own expected to bow in 2011. (Things got a bit quiet there after Miracle At St Anna in 2008; in the last few months, he's wrapped production on a drama called Red Hook Summer, and cable TV pilot episode called Da Brick, which stars Attack The Block's John Boyega, and he's in pre-production for a US adaptation of Old Boy, which will star Josh Brolin; 2012 should be an interesting year for Spike) 

- Mo'Nique - the Oscar aside, she's got her TV show and her babies to keep her busy; so I doubt she's in any rush to return to the big screen. She does have that Hattie McDaniel biopic she's been talking about for a little while, which she wants Lee Daniels to direct. But that probably won't happen any time soon. (Well... her talk show got cancelled a few months ago, and she's since been attached to co-star in an indie drama set in an airport titled Bumped. Let's hope the role doesn't look anything like the one she played in Soul Plane :)) 

- Denzel Washington - he has several projects in the works, at various stages, but none that looks to be going into production any time soon. The only title listed to be past the script stage is Safe House, which he stars in with Ryan Reynolds; but IMDBPro says it'll be out in 2012. Though a 2011 release date is possible. (Safe House will indeed be Denzel's next film, out February 2012; we posted the trailer and reactions were mostly strong. He's currently shooting Flight with Robert Zemeckis and Don Cheadle. In that film, which should be out in 2012, Denzel is a hero pilot with a drug and alcohol addiction; could we be talking Denzel for Best Actor Oscar in late 2012, early 2013? I dunno... I haven't read the script)

- Will Smith he hasn't been in anything since late 2008, a stretch that'll continue through 2012, because he has nothing coming out next year. Though it's worth noting the work he's been doing behind the camera with his kids. Men In Black 3 is his next onscreen project, but that won't be out until 2012. (Men In Black 3 should make a splash next summer. SHOULD, but no guarantees of anything at this point. After that, he'll be teaming up with his son, Jaden, and M. Night Shyamalan for a sci-fi project called 1000 AE; that's expected in 2013).

- F. Gary Gray hasn't been behind the camera since last year, and, as of today, has nothing definite in the works for 2011. (And he still has nothing definite in the works for 20122, 2012, 2013, 2014... and adaptation of the violent video game Kane & Lynch is supposed to be his next, with Jamie Foxx and Bruce Willis starring, but nothing's really moving on that front it appears)

Alright, that wraps up a revisit of the titles and names that made my original post earlier this year; however, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention 3 films that didn't, but should have for very obvious reasons. The first is Djo Tunda Wa Munga's Viva Riva! I don't think I knew much about it at the time, so didn't at all consider it. The second is Attack The Block, which I also didn't know anything about at the time (I believe I first heard about the film at SXSW) in March). And the 3rd is Steve McQueen's Shame, which will finally be released commercially this Friday, though in a limited release.

All 3 films have been critical darlings, with the latter getting lots of Oscar buzz. Viva Riva was released over the summer in a few cities across the country and managed just over $61,000 at the box office, which, quite frankly, isn't too shabby for a film of its kind. It's on DVD/Blu-ray currently, and should do good business there as well.

Djo is currently shopping his next project aroun - a Democratic Republic of the Congo-based crime thriller; and McQueen is on the PR trail for Shame, but already has his next project set up (an adaptation of 12 Years A Slave with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt starring).

Attack The Block made just over $1 million at the box office, although I really thought it would be released wider, and do much better than that. It's on DVD/Blu-ray/VOD now.

I should also mention Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, which was released over the summer, and also did very well, with a $1.2 million box office take, and strong reviews overall; Qasim Basir's Mooz-Lum, which actually proved to be one of the year's better black indie performers, making over $369,000, thanks to great buzz and word-of-mouth. Qasim is already onto his next project; The First Grader, which starred Naomie Harris, doing about $332,000; Steve James' The Interrupters ($252,000), Being Elmo: A Puppeteers Journey ($145,000), South African drama Life Above All ($134,000), 35 And Ticking ($113,000), Rejoice and Shout ($100,000) and Crime After Crime ($60,000).

I'll write up a proper year-end summary, but, looking at all I've listed above, what did I miss, if anything?

If you can add to any, please do so in the comments section below, and I'll update the list. Keep in mind that, as I stated earlier, I'm only counting films in which the characters that black actors play are central to the plot, or films directed by black filmmakers, regardless of whether the cast is comprised of black actors or not.

And of course, if I mentioned you or your film above, and there are any corrections, please let me know, and I'll make the changes.

Also coming up, I'll post a 2012 outlook entry.

But, overall, not a bad year for what we call *black cinema*; certainly not a great year either, but I think we've seen far worse. Obviously, much of the action is coming from the independents; blacks are still severely lacking in representation on the big money/studio level. And it doesn't look like that's going to change much in 2012. 

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    


  • thefilmstudent | November 29, 2011 8:17 PMReply

    Paula Patton doesn't stand a chance of being nominated for "Jumping the Broom", however her co-stars Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine do. She doesn't really register all that much in the film, neither does her co-star Laz Alonso. Their coupling and wedding is really window dressing for what the film is really about: the culture war that pits Bassett's uptown matriarch against Devine's downtown matriarch. This is how the NAACP Image Awards best actress in a motion picture race will likely go:

    1. Angela Bassett "Jumping the Broom"
    2. Viola Davis "The Help"
    3. Loretta Devine "Jumping the Broom"
    4. Adepero Oduye "Pariah"
    5. Zoe Saldana "Columbiana"

    Viola Davis will win for "The Help" and deservedly so.

    And I'm in total agreement with Quentin about the overall importance of the Image Awards. How anyone can pick "Soul Food" over "Eve's Bayou" as the year's best picture is beyond assinine. It's like going to a 5-star restaurant and ordering porridge instead of the house special T-bone steak -- no one in their right mind would. The fact that "Eve's Bayou" received so many nominations that year and went home empty-handed while "Soul Food" pretty much swept is as sure a sign that the Image Awards are as suspectible to politics and favortism as any Hollywood award show, including the Oscars. How else do you explain Al Pacino's win over Denzel Washington back in '92? Geraldine Page's win over Whoopi Goldberg (and Jessica Lange) in '85? Tom Hanks' win over Morgan Freeman (and Paul Newman and Nigel Hawthorne and John Travolta) in '95?

    I knew something was amiss that year win Brandon Hammond won instead of Jurnee Smollett. No offense against Hammond, but his work isn't nearly as memorable as Smollett's breakout turn in "Eve". That young woman should be a star by now on par with Emma Stone or Anne Hathaway.

    And don't get me started on "Soul Food's" capable leading lady Vanessa Williams winning over living legend Pam Grier for her explosive turn as "Jackie Brown", a film and lead performance that have grown in stature in the years since its release! And for that matter, as much as I love Irma P. Hall, there's no way her turn as Mama Joe in "Soul Food" was better than Debbi Morgan's hypnotic turn as Aunt Mozelle in "Eve's Bayou". That scene where Mozelle recounts the murder of one of her husbands by one of her lovers is one of the greatest sequences ever captured on film, period. And in typical fashion, Hall's Image win was a consolation prize for a fuller, better performance she gave the year before in 1996's "A Family Thing" which the Image awards foolishly didn't even nominate her for. If they had, she surely would have won and rightfully so.

    Then there's that whole "let's award Halle for 'Swordfish' even though she's getting deafening award season traction for 'Monster's Ball'" nonsense back in 2002. And they didn't nominate Viola Davis for "Doubt" back in 2009 either, even though she stole the show from perennial Oscar nominee Meryl Streep who admitted as such when she won the SAG award that year and during her speech said something to the effect "Somebody give [Viola] her own movie already!!!"

  • Quentin | November 30, 2011 1:31 PM

    I agree with everything here, except I probably thought a little bit more of "Monster's Ball" than most people. The Image Awards have no direction. A big, complete utter joke. They have to be the only awards that keep indie films out of competition with regular mainstream films, only making an exception for the mediocre "Precious." They would rather nominate "Why Did I Get Married Too?" over "Night Catches Us" because the latter is considered indie, yet they'll nominate Kerry Washington (Night Catches Us) in lead. In other words, they can nominate the actor in the main motion picture categories but not the film, keeping it restricted to the independent film category. And then they give the Outstanding indie award to "Frankie & Alice"? Are they out of their minds over there at the NAACP? Not to mention "For Colored Girls," as awful as the movie was, ending up sweeping everything, even beating out the enormously superior "The Kids Are All Right," which shouldn't have been nominated in the first place. Quite embarrassing if you ask me. I have no -- look at me, "NO!" -- respect for the Image Awards. I missed it for the past 6 years and I don't care to break that streak anytime soon.

  • that dude | November 29, 2011 2:08 AMReply

    Let me put your mind at peace now...there's no way the church hat committee that decides who gets an Image Award is going even see an indie black film, let alone give it an award.

  • sonofbaldwin | November 28, 2011 5:09 PMReply

    I WILL FOLLOW was EVERYTHING. If the NAACP doesn't nominate that film in its Image Awards, well then I'll know that the Image Awards ain't worth the breath it takes to say it.

  • Quentin | December 4, 2011 2:34 AM

    Also, I would like to add, I WILL FOLLOW will most likely get the NAACP Image Award nomination for indie film. Don't you worry about that. But if it were any other credible awards committee, I WILL FOLLOW would not get $***. The film should've been called I WILL SLEEP or WAKE ME WHEN ITS DONE or I WILL ZZZZ. I was bored to tears watching it. The production value was top-notch but that doesn't equate to a good film or good filmmaking.

  • Quentin | November 29, 2011 12:03 PM

    The Image Awards, for me, hasn't been "worth the breath it takes to say it" since 1998 when they gave Soul Food Outstanding Motion Picture over Eve's Bayou. It shouldn't take the film you mentioned to notice this.

  • Cordell | November 28, 2011 6:46 PM

    I agree also. Hopefully Ava submitted the film for consideration for the Image Award Committee. If so I can see the Image Award nominees for Outstanding Actress being:
    -Viola Davis (The Help)
    -Zoe Saldana (Columbiana)
    -Salli Richardson Whitfield (I Will Follow)
    -Adepero Oduye (Pariah)
    -Paula Patton (Jumping the Broom)

  • Neziah | November 28, 2011 5:56 PM


  • Miles Maker | November 28, 2011 3:24 PMReply

    I'd really like to see more ambitious mentions along with the pedigreed filmmakers of color; lesser-known yet equally talented filmmakers who as yet undiscovered by even the black publishing & broadcast media outlets. What I'm saying is I don't see any surprises here--these are all safe bets I could have read about any number of places, and what I truly appreciate is an 'eye' for unheralded emerging talent.

    Just my $0.02.

  • Angel | November 29, 2011 10:32 PM

    Name your picks, enlighten us! Who is on your list Mr. Miles.
    A few people that come to mind for me is director Akil Dupont and writer, Ariya Watty- filmmakers of UNDERGROUND. Set and costume designer of RESTLESS CITY, a key crew position that never get enough recognition or praise. Lastly, director, Erin Li of L.A. COFFIN SCHOOL. Her perspective is refreshing and needed in American Cinema. This is defiantly not my complete list but a great start. You can also through in all the lead and supporting actors from each of the film to the list. Again, what is your Mr. Miles...

  • Quentin | November 29, 2011 12:06 PM

    A $0.02 worth 1000's I would say. Well said. I couldn't agree more.

  • Akimbo | November 29, 2011 10:59 AM

    Did these unheralded emerging talents have films come out this year or coming in the near future? Please enlighten us. The article specifically asks commenters to to add whatever they feel is missing.

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