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Another Day, Another Op-ed Analyzing/Critiquing Hollywood's *Resistance* To Black Cinema... Snore

by Tambay A. Obenson
February 23, 2012 10:56 AM
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Another day, another article printed in a prominent newspaper/magazine analyzing/critiquing Hollywood's perceived "resistance" to black cinema; another day with my email inbox full of messages from readers alerting me to the aforementioned article, asking for my reactions to it. 

Like I said... bah-humbug!

Enough with this folks! I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.

As I've said a billion times - I've long stopped looking to Hollywood to provide the variety and volume of cinematic representations of our (black/African) experiences on screen. The arguments haven't changed; the solutions are still very much the same. But at some point, the words have to be put into action.

Enough with the talking about what's wrong with Hollywood; as I've pointed out on numerous occasions, these conversations have been had repeatedly over the years, since Birth Of A Nation was released, if not before.

Enough with the analyses and the dissertations on the matter. Tell me something I don't already know, then tell me how you're going to make a difference, and then finally shock me by actually acting on your words. 

Naturally, this new piece penned by Gavin Polone (a Hollywood producer) for New York Magazine's Vulture, will spread across the web like a disease, and will lead to the same old discussions and debates that we've practically exhausted at this point; and in about a week or so, it'll all be forgotten; no one would care anymore; nothing will be done... until the next time another one of these opeds is written - usually it has to appear in a prominent newspaper/magazine/website for it to have any kind of reach and thus impact. We've been chewing on these matters on S&A for the last 3 years, since the site launched, which long-time readers will know; the length of the comments sections of some of these posts often run into the 100s of individual thoughts and reactions. So none of this should be new (or news) to any of you.

Polone's piece is titled The False Circular Logic Behind Hollywood’s Resistance to Black Entertainment; it's certainly well-written; he makes many solid points; and he even ends with solutions. But as I always ask after I read similar opinion pieces: so, now what? We've heard much of this before, so what happens now? 

What tickled me most about the entire piece was his final solution to Hollywood's black-aversion *problem* in his last paragraph, which reads:

The best possible scenario would be if a new film and television studio were created that focused on African-American consumers. It would surely succeed, given how hungry and wide open the market is...

Gee, where have we heard that one before? I've been singing that same song for the last 7 years, since I penned an op-ed for NPR's now defunct News & Notes in 2005, in which I called for a black-owned and operated film studio - SPECIFICALLY one that rivals the 6 or 7 major studios (in terms of financial strength, primarily) dominating cinema across the world right now.

We're already on our way on the distribution side of things, thanks to AFFRM; so the question is, how do we replicate the collective, communal structure of AFFRM on the financing/production side? Imagine an AFFRM-like entity that churned out films by and about people of African descent - films that would then be turned over to AFFRM to distribute in theaters across the country? It certainly won't be able to compete with the mega studios and their billion-dollar+ annual output; but it doesn't have to. 

Individualism reigns supreme; and that's unfortunate because, for us to see the kind of change we are constantly crying for, at some point, profit will have to take a back seat to progress; and we're most certainly at that point. 

I'm just exhausted from talking about *the problems;* I'm much more interested in acting on solutions. So much for By Any Means Necessary. Somehow I don't think the Malcolm X we celebrate each year would be content with just penning op-eds about this *problem,* or lamenting it.

But if you'd like, feel free to read Gavin Polone's piece HERE. Just don't expect me to get all excited about it. 

Also, you can now stop emailing me about it. 

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  • Hassan Fuckry (@DLYDJ) | February 24, 2012 4:25 PMReply

    #preachchuuchtabernacle (Tambay? Anyway we can chat offline?)

  • KSL | February 23, 2012 4:26 PMReply

    If you had a group of black people in the media come together we could see another DreamWorks SKG. This is just my opinion.

  • Charles Judson | February 23, 2012 1:45 PMReply

    What is up with the spam blocker?

  • LeonRaymond | February 23, 2012 1:24 PMReply

    @ NADINE, I truly want that which you stated to become a reality, we owe it to ourselves, we need to create on all portals. I get filmmakers from the Middle East who have just arrived here contacting me and the group of Latino Filmmakers I work with about working together. We need to work together. I give TAMBAY a hell of lot of credit for pushing this conversation to the front and raising the temperatures to what could lead to the tipping point of us coming together as strangers to each other but creating each others projects and getting them into distribution!

  • Nadine | February 23, 2012 12:56 PMReply

    Basically, Hollywood is lazy and it seems, Blacks in the U.S. don't trust each other enough to work together which I believe is changing, but slowly. Grand sweeping statement, yes, but you get my drift.

  • LeonRyamond | February 23, 2012 12:22 PMReply

    Check this out, producers that I have worked with who are Latino , have produced three films in back to back progression, for the Latino community and audiences with out a damn care of asking Hollywood to help or let them in or get involved. They could care less about those walls of Resistance, they truly understand the concept of working together to get shit done, when we have a project we work together to get it done through re-writes of the screenplay and then cost it out and do a top sheet budget. Black folk need to stop being so averse to working together. We could take care of this problem in no time, as a Black man my problem was not white Hollywood who i figured eons ago was never going to want to do the types of films I want to do nor allow me to cross that large river known as access, my problem was the Black community who just didn't want to work together to move forward, and the walls of access was just as hard and resistant, but the Latino community have welcomed me with open arms and with this group of individuals I am working on a plethora of projects. in fact I rang this subject up on S&A and one of your readers hit right on the money when he said to me "Go where your celebrated not where your tolerated" We make this decades long problem go away if we were to once work together. For me I am going fast forward doing films and projects for the Latino community and Spanish speaking audiences. Check out one of the films one of the superb producers have done that hits theaters in March, it's called MUSICAL CHAIRS !!!

  • Logic | February 23, 2012 9:18 PM

    How many times are you going to keep saying the same ignorant ish? We get it. You work with Latinos - not the black ones, of course, because they were born sans the working together gene - congratulations!

  • Nadine | February 23, 2012 2:20 PM

    I can't post even 2 lines... this is getting out of hand...

  • get these nets | February 23, 2012 12:06 PMReply

    when has profit ever taken a back seat to progress?

  • Nadine | February 23, 2012 12:51 PM

    We can create our own projects and work in concert with each other to create something beautiful that can grow without this "aid" from Hollywood. They will come a knockin', if that is important to some, when the product is ready and has a steady, supportive audience.

  • Nadine | February 23, 2012 12:33 PM

    Tambay is stating the obvious. Something so obvious to Blacks outside of the U.S., but an impossibility here in the U.S. as long as we continue to not trust in our collective selves. CJ wrote an op-ed on Tanya Steele's Op-Ed on Viola Davis. My disconnect with his thesis was this sense that success could only be viewed through this acknowledgement in Hollywood (my take - he may not agree with my interpretation). (Cont'd)

  • Nadine | February 23, 2012 12:29 PM

    See hip-hop and rap music and how the bottom-line has shifted to the mainstream to the exclusion and victimization of its formerly core audience. See Precious and the Blind Side. See all the Black filmmakers using so-called "Black pathologies" to make their name in Hollywood (Sh!T Black Girls Say and he who shall not be named). Individualism is killing Blacks in this country.

  • Nicole | February 23, 2012 11:50 AMReply


    You and I are so >here< on this topic. *yawn*

    "...for us to see the kind of change we are constantly crying for, at some point, profit will have to take a back seat to progress..."

    If only we got this. If only we would stop whining and complaining and begging Hollywood to "let us in" and created our own successful film enterprise, Hollywood would treat us the same way they treat Bollywood. They are begging Bollywood for a piece of the action. Even Will Smith has created a production partnership with India so he can create original programming/movies targeting the Indian market.

    We have wasted enough time. It's time to DO something different.

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