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Black Inequality In Film: An Infographic

by Tambay A. Obenson
April 8, 2014 2:55 PM
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Screenshot - black inequality in film

A nice infographic below put together by the folks at New York Film Academy for which Shadow & Act was a source for data, titled: LOOKING AT BLACK INEQUALITY IN FILM: AN INFOGRAPHIC.

As the blog piece states:

In defining "Black Film," we are referring to films in which the story centers around lead characters who are of African descent. By putting together this infographic on the state of Black inequality in Hollywood, our goal is to present a series of talking points to initiate a discussion on the role of African Americans in Hollywood and what performers, filmmakers, and audience members can do to promote real equality in Hollywood.

The info presented here may not be entirely new to you, given that we've tossed around much the data, names, titles, etc, continuously on this blog; but it's nice to see it all compiled in a single graphic. So without further ado, courtesy of the NYFA:

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  • Nadine Patterson | April 15, 2014 12:42 PMReply

    This is a start but the list should include pioneers Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Charles Burnett, Bill Gunn, Kathleen Collins and Haile Gerima-- the progressive side of black filmmaking in the USA. Documentary filmmakers such as Henry Hampton, St. Claire Bourne, Louis Massiah, Shola Lynch, Stanley Nelson, and Camille Billops, should also be included, since documentary films have a wide impact on television and in the classroom. We also need to acknowledge the work of Amma Asante, Euzhan Palcy, Darnell Martin, Raoul & Hebert Peck, Andrew Dosunmu and Mariette Monpierre, examples of our brother and sister filmmakers of the Diaspora. I would urge a survey that includes all kinds of black films, not just films with mainstream appeal and mainstream support.

    We have a whole underground of seriously good black films that never gets covered. If we amplified what was actually happening out in the field, we would be surprised at the variety and breadth of the work. If we continue to measure ourselves by mainstream standards of success, we will forever be frustrated.

  • James | April 9, 2014 4:34 PMReply

    Perhaps the question is where are all of the new black talented film makers at? Only in a handful of schools? Hell I know one black person that graduated from New York Film Academy.

    Where's the black version of Tarentino? Never went to film school but is just as good as any MFA grad? If Hollywood won't give him or her a shot what about the already established black Hollywood elite? (As was the case with Brooklyn's Finest writer Michael Martin and Antwon Fisher neither of whom were film school darlings).

    Is this lack of representation a problem we can fix internally as suggested by Anthony Mackie?

    Part of me feels with the web and drop in equipment cost we can do lots of things to shake up the old order but I don't see it just yet. However I do see some signs of change. With that said I want to see that change become the norm in the next few years.

  • Donella | April 10, 2014 12:47 PM

    And maybe Michael Jai White. Given the same access to capital and industry support, who knows where White and RZA would be today?

  • Donella | April 10, 2014 12:43 PM

    "Where's the black version of Tarentino? Never went to film school but is just as good as any MFA grad?"

    The closest equivalent is probably RZA, but he is not provided access to opportunities and funding that were provided to Tarantino when he started out. However, RZA works hard and has imagination without boundaries so while he'll have to work 2x as hard as Tarantino to receive 1/2 as much, no doubt, he'll not stop til he gets enough.

  • 9jah | April 9, 2014 12:56 AMReply

    So a miscellany of racial facts, for what purpose exactly? What is the racial relevance of sexuality depiction/nudity? Ridiculous. In any event, like someone already mentioned what is "equality" in film and how is Hollywood to solve such an amorphous issue?

    We need to approach issues in a more constructive, critical way than put percentage points on how many black people are speaking characters in top grossing films. Our deep insecurities won't let us see how much we've already accomplished and work around that success to achieve more progress: what other communities have had a sustained output of films in the past twenty years and elevated actors like Morris Chestnut, Nia Long, Sanaa Lathan and Gabrielle Union many who go on to become global names? How many other communities have sustained a Tyler Perry?

    I'd rather see analyses of Tyler Perry's model, why it worked and what can be extrapolated for other independent directors. What are the prevalent cinematic tastes for African-Americans and how should this inform our choices. Are there any surveys reflective of this? What does a compendium of African-American film over the decades look like, are there technical and plot improvements? What is the likelihood of film as a career choice for African-Americans, should there be greater grooming of kids in this area as part of the arts? How do technology or other developments allow African-Americans to circumvent historical challenges in the film industry?

    Beyond our community, is it at all possible to engage other minority communities, especially given that they have little to no representation? Even white folks. Are there strategic approaches that could see black films capture a greater share of the white audience or do they just not care?

    Moving on from the U.S., Nigeria has a burgeoning movie industry and a lot of people that watch films. Are there potential synergies in working with this industry that mutually benefits both communities? Increasingly, cineplex theaters are being built in Africa. In the next ten years, more people from the continent will be watching movie premiers than ever before. Do we start laying the foundation to promote African-American film art?

    I just think an approach where we take the reins will work better than the decades of begging that seems to get us no where. On the other hand, a knowledgeable and critical assessment will allow us to pinpoint where the mainstream representation fails us and make concrete suggestions as to how minorities may be effectively plugged in to Hollywood. Rap is instructive; it is one of our few organically derived systems in this country and it now pretty much encompasses pop music and has made multimillionaires of many out of nothing.

    Anyways with apologies for the long as heck post, I bow out.

  • Random Commentary | April 10, 2014 5:53 PM

    I completely agree with your analysis. The real statistic that needs to be compared is our physical population in the USA versus our presence in Hollywood and see if its proportional or not.

    Our deep insecurities won't let us see how much we've already accomplished and work around that success to achieve more progress

    You hit the nail on the head.

    The only thing I'll add to your analysis is our under representation on the producer level. We no longer can say we don't have the financial resources to do for self. The vast majority of professional sports is dominated by black multimillionaires what percentage of that financial pool contributes to films being produced. Black millionaires enrich the coffers of Rolex and Cartier not Lee and Lemmons.

  • Donella | April 8, 2014 7:46 PMReply

    Missing also are Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil and Tracey Edmonds as producers.

  • Marcus | April 9, 2014 12:59 AM

    My bad! I was agreeing with you Donella. The Akils and Tracey Edmonds are way more relevant than Spike's ass. His movies keep flopping and cats act like Do the Right Thing came out in 2012. Stop it!

  • Marcus | April 9, 2014 12:57 AM

    Get off Spike's d*ck! Check how they put him in the sections he's relevant in. He may of influenced cats on a creative tip way back but this list ain't about all that. Peep the stats!

  • Floyd Webb | April 8, 2014 6:25 PMReply

    Love him or hate him, to omit Spike Lee from this information is very contrived, inaccurate and hateful. He has made a tremendous contribution to American cinema, like it or not.

  • Alias | April 8, 2014 10:59 PM

    Spike isn't missing, he's just not highlighted in a very prominent manner.

  • COADQ | April 8, 2014 6:18 PMReply

    Sad...but true! You have a lot of "best-seller" black books that don't get movie/film deals, yet most grossing actors/actresses have their own production companies. It was once said..."black celebrities are liquid cash...they give it away". Who are they giving it away too...definitely not to these "best-seller" black books for movie deals.

  • Alias | April 8, 2014 5:51 PMReply

    Spike Lee should be much more prominent in this information.
    He's, arguably, THE most influential filmmaker -- who happens to be black -- in the last 30 years, of his generation, and, quite possibly, the history of cinema. He's influenced a generation. Is an activist, not only for film, but for black people, in general. And he gave many of today's most well-known black actors their start in the medium. I know why many whites don't want to give Spike his due, but I don't understand why blacks are constantly trying to throw him under the bus.

  • No | April 8, 2014 6:09 PM

    I agree. This is a joke. As I said below, if you count the number of films that Lee himself has made and produced for others, it is probably more than those listed. There are things about Lee I like and don't like (his Red Hook Summer was awful), but he is one of the most influential filmmakers, black or white, in the last 20 years, but he's MIA on this so-called infographic?

  • Monique a Williams | April 8, 2014 4:35 PMReply

    Love to see the data presented like this. So many talking points.

  • BUT... | April 8, 2014 3:58 PMReply

    But... Um...

    What does equality look like?

    This should just be called Black Representation on Film.

    If blacks are 13% of the population, what is a "reasonable" expectation of representation.


    It sure isn't "White" people's. Why should it be?

    I'm over this. There are plenty black films out there. What I need now is nuanced and intelligent stories of diverse lives.

  • mk | April 9, 2014 12:56 PM


  • help each other | April 8, 2014 3:46 PMReply

    black people that are already successful are some of the most hypocritical people. they say there is a need for more emerging black voices and yet they don't offer any help to those that are trying to climb the ladder. they only take notice when they start gaining notoriety. successful black people in hollywood only care about themselves, it's a sad trend-when black people make it in hollywood, they change and become very selfish

  • help each other | April 8, 2014 6:50 PM

    thanks Alias! you are correct, I meant famous, I appreciate it!

  • Alias | April 8, 2014 5:47 PM

    "they only take notice when they start gaining notoriety. "

    You mean when they become well known or are celebrated. Notoriety means the opposite. You've used it incorrectly in your comments.

  • zurkonic | April 8, 2014 3:33 PMReply

    @NO Believe me, this was something that was fiercely debated, but seeing that we are in the middle of what appears to be a new "New Black Wave" we wanted to highlight directors and producers who have been active in the last 15 years and whose careers were shaped, at least in part whether as interning with or by being influenced by Spike; and that's not including Charles Burnett, Robert Townsend, the Hughes Brothers, John Singleton, etc. Does that make sense? Thank you for your comment!

  • ike | April 8, 2014 3:57 PM

    @ZURKONIC, with that same logic, you should be omitting the actors that have been around as long as spike lee.

  • No | April 8, 2014 3:49 PM

    I have mix feelings about Lee, but he is by far the MOST influential black filmmaker in the last 20 years. The fact that this info graphic claims to use facts and figures but neglects a major black filmmaker is mind-boggling. It underscore that the people who devised this are not evenhanded or historically objective.

    Lee has probably made more films than all the filmmakers mentioned on this infographic. As far as I'm concerned, this info graphic has historically erased Lee.

    You can't have it both ways: complain about how white Hollywoods either ignores or neglects black filmmakers, actors and audience, and then barely mentions a key black filmmaker.

  • slb | April 8, 2014 3:27 PMReply

    This is a great infographic. I'll read it in more detail later.

  • No | April 8, 2014 3:23 PMReply

    You have to wonder about an infographic re black filmmaking that barely mentions Spike Lee; he's not even listed in the influential black filmmakers.

  • Horrible | April 8, 2014 8:36 PM

    A stunning omission to not have Lee anywhere. The emerging area is also an eyebrow raiser without Dee Rees and Ava Duvernay one is doing a Toni Morrison film and another is doing an MLK film. Emerging section without Terence Nance or Issa Ras is clearly wrong. And where's the director whose grossed the most worldwide, Tim Story. Hot mess.

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