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"Black Filmmakers Are (Or Should Be) Obligated To Tell Stories Primarily About Black People" (Discuss)

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act May 25, 2012 at 1:19PM

Slow news day, so how about a survey? :)
Eric Deggans

Slow news day, so how about a survey? :)

Revisiting a question I last asked in 2010, when the site wasn't as much of a draw as it is today, 2 years later...

Here's a conversation I had in the past with a frustrated black filmmaker friend... I'm paraphrasing here, but the gist of it is clear enough:

HIM: "I'm done! My next project, I'm casting white folks."

Silence. Not sure if he's just messing around, only to realize that he's dead serious.

ME: "Why?"

HIM: "They're more... umm... 'accessible.'"

Followed by a devilish grin.

HIM: "For real; Gotta do what we gotta do to make it."

I asked him to explain what he meant by "accessible," knowing what he likely did mean, but needed clarification; in a nutshell, revealing what I think most of us already know, and have been fighting against for decades... the notion that films with predominantly Caucasian-starring casts seem to generally have a better shot at being financed, and widely seen, than films that center around the lives of people from any other so-called "minority" group; unless your film, with an overwhelmingly black cast, fits a familiar or proven mold.

I'd like to read what the rest of you think.

In the context of this blog, are black filmmakers (or SHOULD black filmmakers be), first and foremost, obligated to tell stories primarily about black people, given the dearth of people of African descent on our TV and theater screens? Is that a fair expectation of them? And I'm really curious if the thinking of my friend in the conversation above is common among many of you black filmmakers reading this - essentially, that a lot of you are indeed frustrated with the state of things, and are feeling pressured into rethinking how you write/cast your projects, influenced by what you see are your odds at success being somewhat dependent on the skin color of the characters in your films?

I should also toss in August Wilson's argument that he only wanted black directors to direct film adaptations of his plays, as another angle to consider in this conversation.

So put all that in a pot, stir it, and let it cook.


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