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Yes, Support "Red Tails;" Just Don't Forget Spike Lee, AFFRM & The Black Indie Film Scene

by Tambay A. Obenson
January 18, 2012 10:42 AM
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So here's the billion-dollar question that's been keeping me (and I'm sure several other independent filmmakers) awake at night in recent weeks: how can we replicate the same kind of nationwide enthusiasm for smaller independently financed black films as we've seen lately with the George Lucas-financed & produced Red Tails?

That's been part of the film's (and essentially Lucas') marketing strategy hasn't it? Emphasizing the fact that Lucas financed the $50-something million film all by himself (add another $40-something million for P&A costs), and the relevance of that seemingly altruistic act where black cinema is concerned.

And while I certainly applaud Lucas for investing his own funds into a project that, as he's stated, Hollywood studios weren't interested in financing, thanks to its all-black cast, I should remind everyone that, first, this certainly is something we all were already aware of (Hollywood's bias); and secondly, according to Forbes magazine's annual list of the 400 richest people in the USA, Lucas is ranked #107 as of 2011, with an estimated networth of $3.2 billion!

So, quite frankly, a $50-something million investment in a project really isn't a lot to him. It's certainly a lot to us, the so-called 99%; but it's nothing to him. He probably makes that much in Star Wars royalties every year (the movies, toys, and games; even the name "DROID" is a trademark of LucasFilm, and is licensed to cellphone companies; meaning Lucas likely made a few pennies from that Motorola Droid in your pocket).

You get the point.

I'm certainly not unnappreciative of the act, especially since so few individuals in what we call the film industry (although I think most of us mean the mainstream when use those 2 words) actually invest monetarily in their own work, much less the works of others; I'm just not-so impressed by it either for reasons stated.

But I get it; it's a big-budget mainstream film with an all-black cast that will open on 2500 screens nationwide; how often does that happen? Almost never. The closest we've gotten to similar figures in recent years are with Tyler Perry films. So that alone is something to be excited about. And well, I was...

However, I'm not one of those who subscribes to the belief that Red Tails' success is black cinema's success, and Red Tail's failure means disaster for the future of black cinema. Sorry. That's absolute rubbish, and you should get that out of your heads if you actually believe that to be true.

Lucas is really the face of this film; forget the actors in it; forget the stories of the real men they portray. It's a George Lucas project, and the hope is likely that his name and face will help attract audiences - especially younger white audiences who may have otherwise skipped the film altogether, because it's a "black film."

So, as I see it, if the film opens strong and has legs in successive weeks, it doesn't mean that Hollywood studios will suddenly see the light, and investment in black films will rise. If anything, it'll do more for Lucas than it will for black cinema.

Maybe because I'm one of those who's long given up on looking to Hollywood for the kind of change we often talk about here on S&A, and, as you've noticed, I'm unabashedly biased, in favor of, and far more interested in the men and women toiling away in the black indie filmmaking scene, as I see real change coming from there, not Hollywood; and with good reason. 

As I posted on this site a few days ago, Spike Lee revealed that he financed his latest work Red Hook Summer entirely on his own for the very same reasons that George Lucas has given for his decision to finance Red Tails himself.

Will Spike and Red Hook Summer get as much of a push when the film is released later this year? Will folks send me email after email reminding me of the fact that Spike invested his own money (likely nowhere the amount of money Lucas spent on his) in Red Hook Summer, and why it's so important that we support Red Hook Summer on opening weekend, and what the success or failure of Red Hook Summer might mean for black cinema?

Will my Twitter and Facebook feeds bleed with retweets and shares of every post that encourages audiences to support the film when it opens?

And will audiences rush to theaters helping to solidify box office success, believing in its significance?

I certainly hope so, but that probably won't happen; we've been here before haven't we?

I'd argue that it's actually far more crucial that the black indie film scene receive this same kind of relentless, fervent support, because, as I've said, it is from there (from the so-called 99%) that I believe change has to come, given that Hollywood has already told us repeatedly, over the last century, that it is not very interested in showcasing a fuller, wider variety of our experiences on screen, both the big and the small.

Pioneers of industry like the Lincoln Motion Picture Company and Oscar Micheaux fought this very same battle 100 years ago. So what's really changed since then? And if the answer to that is "not much," then why do we continue to insist that change come from a hegemony that hasn't at all demonstrated much willingness to rethink its credo, as film content has become so ridiculously homogenized in recent years, compared to say 20 years ago. 

But this brings me back to my original question... how can we create a similar kind of nationwide excitement for, as an example, Spike's film when it's released; or all those black films that will debut at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival over the next week; or the next AFFRM release later this year?

Where was all this fervor for Kinyarwanda and Pariah - both independently financed films (just like Red Tails) that probably wouldn't have been made by any Hollywood studio (just like Red Tails)? 

As I've been saying for sometime now, your support for these independent black filmmakers and films (especially when they're actually quite good, as most of the films we write about here are) is absolutely crucial to the success of black cinema. Revolution often comes from those at the bottom of the pyramid.

So, go ahead and see Red Tails this weekend, whatever your reasons are; I'm certainly not discouraging it. I'm simply asking that you show the same kind of enthusiasm for those black filmmakers laboring away in near-silence, with far less money, name/face recognition, far less marketing power, who are actually producing well-made, important AND entertaining work. They are just as important, if not more-so, to the success of this thing we call "black cinema."

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  • Malaika Mose | January 24, 2012 1:31 PMReply

    " can we create a similar kind of nationwide excitement for as an example, Spike's film when it's released; or all those black films that will debut at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival over the next week; or the next AFFRM release later this year?"

    Well the excitement I saw on my Facebook timeline and elsewhere was coupled with a call to action "go see the film on opening weekend" You can create all the fervor you want but if there's nothing for people to do with that energy it's pointless. Why get people excited about a film they don't have access to? There's a way to compete with Lucas' 2500 screen opening: day and date your film. Pariah could have been made available to everyone everywhere all at once by day and dating. Instead here I am months and months after having first heard about Pariah, still unable to watch it. More of my rambling on this topic here:

  • Juan Shannon | January 24, 2012 10:00 AMReply

    As a Black filmmaker myself and seeing simply the motivation of people to create and promote, etc., it all comes down to money. If the marketing dollars were available to spend on a few people to be "enthusiastic" about promoting these black films, then that would create the social media buzz that "Red Tails" and other big budget movies receive. Not very many people get excited about the cause and what it can change or mean. They get excited about getting paid. Not realizing that enough sweat equity will bring about not only change, but the dollars we all seek. I promoted my first feature film for a year and many people around Michigan and a few other states know about it, but it hasn't translated into the availability or sales of the film being more than a few hundred...and YES, I financed it myself. No one believed I could do it.

  • Golden Dollar | January 23, 2012 5:17 PMReply

    Yes George might be worth 3.2 Billion , but 50 million is still 1.5% of his net worth While if you compare the amount that Spike invested, its about 2% of HIS net worth, so to be honest, it is about even. Maybe Will Smith, Oprah, and others can put 1-2 % of their net worth into a movie, and we would start having more higher budget films.


  • Holly | January 22, 2012 12:09 PMReply

    What ever happened to the black film maker's hall of fame? If that started up again, or have a black film festival in the United States and make it an annual event, we could get more exposure for our indie films.

  • M2 | January 29, 2012 1:03 AM

    The oldest black film festival in the country (and therefore likely the world) began in Newark, NJ and still runs strong every summer at the Museum. And there are other black film festivals thru out the country and world.

  • Juan Shannon | January 24, 2012 10:02 AM

    There are small black cinema festivals. Even my company is working on creating a new festival, beginning with the Women in Film and Media conference on March 8th at The Charles H. Wright museum in Detroit, Michigan.

  • Cynthia | January 21, 2012 11:34 PMReply

    Has anyone ever wondered why the black "powers that be" or "powerbrokers" HAVE NOT supported the black indie scene??? Things that make you go hmmm...

  • Juwan Torrell Dickerson | January 21, 2012 11:02 PMReply

    I was literally thinking bout the exact same sentiments that you've expressed in your article this morning as I was driving to work. I was about to do my own write up and I googled this phrase "Is red tails taking away from black indies" to see if there were any others who shared my sentiments. You beat me to it and in a much more eloquent way!

    I was thinking that 'Red Tails' (which I haven't seen yet) might be good "Black" cinema in theory might make it harder for Black indie filmmakers to get their films seen by mainstream Black audiences. Indie movies let alone indies made by Black filmmakers have limited (if any) theatrical runs, and hardly receive any marketing other than word of mouth, and internet, and audiences who otherwise want to see them can't because they aren't being shown in their city (like mine, Birmingham, AL) have to wait for DVD or VOD distribution which it may not always get, so the film just languishes on the shelf. I think the only reason 'Red Tails' is getting attention is because of George Lucas which is a double edged sword because I think it's good he's behind it and his intentions are well meaning but the large majority of any reward will go back to his well lined pocket.

    Also there's this nagging part of me that's wondering if this whole anti marketing campaign he's doing talking about how hard it was to finance because it's a "Black" movie, blah, blah, blah, is some sort of Jedi Mind Trick (see what I did there?). Because like you said, it's no secret of Hollywood's bias toward "Black" movies and the ones that do make it to screen are coon fests and do nothing to elevate the consciousness of Black people, there just money grabs because the mainstream Black audiences will go see them. And what kinds of "Black" movies do mainstream Black audiences go out in droves to see, Tyler Perry schlock and tear jerker historical movies made under the guise of Black empowerment, i.e. The Help. Maybe this is one of those things, maybe a money grab. But like I said I haven't seen the movie to attest to it's quality that's just the conspiracy theory believing brotha talking.

    In any event, I do hope that the success of Red Tails does bring a spotlight on more Black Filmmakers like Dee Rees, Ava DuVernay, Spike Lee, and yes Anthony Hemingway because I'm sure he doesn't want to be a shill for LucasFilm and has his own ideas he wants to put out there. We'll just have to see in the coming months.

  • Donella | January 22, 2012 3:47 PM

    I don't believe George Lucas is a threat to Black cinema. Neither is he the saviour of Black cinema. Red Tails is an ADDITION to Black Cinema that has existed since the history of film and will continue into the future. It's another brick in the wall. There's a bizarre amount of defensiveness and anger directed towards the Red Tails project. Fortunately, there's also a large amount of hope and support. I looked at the sheer number of jobs and opportunities created in front and behind the camera--actors, crew, director, music score, writers, production--and saw an opportunity for me to support future careers. I believe in Nate Parker. I think he's going to go many wonderful places and do many wonderful things with his acting career. I'm also looking forward to Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, for which Anthony Hemingway is the writer. I don't believe George Lucas has hurt anyone else's opportunities with the release of Red Tails.

  • Bummi | January 21, 2012 7:38 PMReply

    One thing I think we have failed to see in this whole thing that Hollywood will even say "no" to George Lucas!

  • Juan Shannon | January 24, 2012 10:06 AM

    VERY good point!

  • Jaidaveon | January 21, 2012 7:18 PMReply

    I enjoyed seeing the film today with a young men's group from church and last night with a lot of industry people. It was incredible to note the difference in the post film discussions. Some of us are so close to things we cannot accept films purely as entertainment; personally I understand this very well. As for the impact of this film, anyone who makes a prediction carries no weight with me. If they knew so well, they'd likely be more successful at prognosticating their own careers.

    So many people talk about indy films. Is there a big difference for Black indy films vs. White indy films (whatever they are?) People who seek out mainstream films do so consistently, every now and then an indy film is successful moving from the festival circuit and getting the marketing support of a major theater. I still don't see the $$$ put behind our up and coming Black writers, directors, actors etc. I shook my head at a preview for the film "Girl in Progess" about Latino characters and wondered what the Latin communities response to this film is going to be. (Check out the trailer here: I haven't seen a major theater produce a film like this with Black characters in the lead, unless we count Akeelah and the Bee.

    I think articles like this, even if I don't agree, are good. Dialogue is healthy. Is this movie a big deal, I think it is foolish not to see this. A mostly Black cast and crew, director, writer, cinematographer etc. getting an opportunity is significant. When you have once success, it CAN (does not guarantee) open more doors. The entertainment industry (all facets from sports and films to music and theater) is about money. The investors want a return, and so does the film going public.

    I support AFFRM, Pan-African Film Fest, saw Pariah this week and don't pretend that films like Pariah are going to be box office blockbusters, they typically aren't. The biggest blockbuster and budget films are action ones, only The Passion of the Christ and Finding is in the all-time top 20 grossing list and you might consider part of Passion action packed.

    If you're around the industry, have dealt with financing, pitching films, etc. you'll know that this film matters to those who hold the purse strings. It also matters to the film going public as we'll be more encouraged when we see films that aren't just Madea or comedies. Finally, we've had people like Bill Cosby, Oprah, Sidney Poitier and others who are incredible successful and have millions. Somehow they haven't gone to NYU/USC (or other) film schools...worked with young, talented, writers, directors, cinematographers etc. and provided a budget or financing for smaller budget projects. Why not? I don't know. Bill has a writers program as USC, there are other "programs" but who is bringing product and creating legitimate opportunities. Just like the pilots in the film...once these people get their training they need opportunities to perform.

    I'm hoping this film will create more opportunities for you all to do what you're passionate about and bring me more films I'll be excited to support!

  • Film-maker | January 21, 2012 3:07 AMReply

    Please stop complaining and take action!!! If you have done any research about the movie (Red Tails) there were a huge contribution from blacks. The director is.....BLACK, the writer is....BLACK, the screenwriters....BLACK, and the cast, of course we all know.....BLACK! The film industry is 90% business and 10% art. We should not negate the fact of the art but study the business aspect to gain the attention of others (Advertisement and Marketing).

    *I wonder how many people complained about "The Colored Purple" which was done by a white man name Steven Spielberg? (Its time to stop look at color but just notice good work)

  • al | January 20, 2012 11:13 PMReply

    I just saw Red Tails at a theater in McDonough Georgia where I live. Why did they have a security guard, who happened to be black, announce to the seated theater audience that we must turn our cell phones off, be quiet and not talk during the movie?? I damn near couldn't enjoy the movie because I was thinking about that ish!!!! Anyone else experience this. Never in my life have I been to a movie where that was done..until tonight.

  • Mike | January 23, 2012 12:42 PM

    Happened to the all black line I was waiting in at the AMC in Columbia, MD. Never has that happened to me before.

  • Juwan Torrell Dickerson | January 21, 2012 11:04 PM

    Happens all the time at The Alamo Draft House it's their policy, no talking and no cell phones, no texting or you're kicked out immediately! For all movies. Also happened to me when I went to see The Dark Knight

  • Jane Doe | January 20, 2012 10:34 AMReply

    Some of this just sounds like sour grapes. Plain and simple. So what if the man is incredibly wealthy--he didn't get that way and wouldn't stay that way if he dropped $50 million any and everywhere. If he's not smart about it eventually his output would be larger than his input. Nobody is expecting racism in Hollywood to suddenly disappear because of this film, but that doesn't mean that we can't give Lucas credit for doing something beneficial. Best believe that if he or some other white person spent $50 million on a film that made black folks look bad we wouldn't be arguing about how insignificant the money and influence is.

    Fact of the matter is--because he's incredibly wealthy, white, and influential within the industry, this film is getting more attention than it would if someone else made it. That's life. It might suck, but that's the way it is. He has a bigger platform than any black filmmaker does currently, and while I may not like that, I am at least happy that he's using it to do something good. Whether it's $5, $50, or $50 million, he really didn't have to do it.

    Supporting Red Tails doesn't mean that we won't support Spike or black independent film. And let's be honest, most, if not all, of us have gone to see a movie or movies that were made by mainstream studios that didn't benefit black folks in any way. We do it all the time--mostly because we feel like film X or Y is something we would be interested in seeing, without regard to who made it. I would see a movie like Red Tails, period, and so that's what I plan to do. With no angst whatsoever. It's a worthy project that should be supported, and I hope, a pleasure to watch. Ultimately, that's what succeeds at getting me to cough up my hard earned money for a flick.

  • Nicole | January 21, 2012 6:56 PM

    @82 Kings: "Hence, supporting the Black independent scene to curtail the dependency of Hollywood to tell our stories. Why are we always depending on people who have the platform or the resources to disseminate our history?"

    -Independent filmmakers of all races understand that getting a foot in the door of Hollywood is tough. So they take the "independent" route not only to give voice to their stories but also to beef up their resumes. I do not believe for one second that the filmmakers who start out as indies want to stay indies. When Hollywood comes knocking on their door, they will answer. So they may not start out depending on Hollywood but they want them to take notice . Why do you think so many indie filmmakers dream is to get invited to Sundance? So they can get an audience with the "big boys" and some big studio will buy their film.

    "What George Lucas has essentially done is force Blacks into playing "prove yourself worthy", and what do we do, take the bait."

    -I have a hard time believing that for 23 years George Lucas has been determined to make this movie because he wanted to force black people into a corner to "prove yourself worthy". $53 million is a lot of money to waste on that type of effort. I'm sure George gets offers and requests from established as well as aspiring filmmakers to direct/produce/fund their films. He would not have been without a project to focus on had he dropped this endeavor all together and left it to someone else to bring this story to the screen. I think he did this because he wanted to. No more. No less.

    Besides, he's been in this business for a long time. And unlike most of us, he knows the inner workings of Hollywood. Why would he make a movie to make black people "prove themselves" when he already knows what the result will be? Again $53 million is a lot of money to throw away just to prove a point.

  • 82 kings | January 20, 2012 7:36 PM

    I think you have missed the overall point. The argument was based on the premise that people are using the logic that if this film fails at the box office, then our future on the big screen can be considered doomed, therefore we need to support it. The author refutes this conditional by saying Hollywood has never cared about seeing us in a heroic or well rounded light in the first place. Hence, supporting the Black independent scene to curtail the dependency of Hollywood to tell our stories. Why are we always depending on people who have the platform or the resources to disseminate our history? I don't care how much money he used to bankroll this film. The author used the monetary aspect as a vehicle to combat the notion that we should see this movie because of his kind gesture. The author is correct in saying that this $50 millions investment appears to be the main means of marketing this film. What George Lucas has essentially done is force Blacks into playing "prove yourself worthy", and what do we do, take the bait. Indie filmmakers finance their films all of the time but the fervent response they hope to see doesn't resound in our community. So what if he has a larger marketing budget. We should be a major factor in the promotion of our films. This speaks to a deeper set of problems within our culture. The sooner we learn how to discriminate just a tad bit and support each other in all aspects, not just film, the better we'll be as a people. We have to get out this mindset that "that's life. It may suck" because that constitutes as a cop out in my mind. It is our responsibility to put ourselves on that platform that you speak of. Anytime you place your recognition or adulation within the hands of outside groups, you are at their mercy.

  • Ash | January 19, 2012 10:27 PMReply

    " can we create a similar kind of nationwide excitement for as an example, Spike's film when it's released; or all those black films that will debut at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival over the next week; or the next AFFRM release later this year?"

    You can't generate that kind of excitement because they don't have George Lucas money which was obviously the point you made earlier. The only way would be for the indie film to generate "buzz" and start gaining recognition at film festivals and make it's way up to bigger award shows, etc. That's if you're talking about going "mainstream". And maybe that won't happen unless people voting for the films at film festivals actually cared and recognized black films as being of value. You know, like "Precious". LOL, IDK Tambay, I think we should start our own film festival =D.

  • Jane Doe | January 21, 2012 5:26 PM

    @82--I don't think I've missed the point at all. I still think the logic is faulty and that the author is swinging at strawmen. The author is assuming that 1) people who have and are urging support of this film are doing so guided by "the logic that if this film fails at the box office, then our future on the big screen can be considered doomed, therefore we need to support it." I have urged people to see it and intend to do so myself because it sounds like a worthy film and should be supported, especially considering all the drama it took to get it made. Our "future" on the big screen will likely continue to look a lot like our past, because as a community we just ain't got our ish together on a larger level. Racism is and has been doing its part, but we aren't necessarily doing ours. I don't know of anyone naive enough to believe that racism in Hollywood will disappear if Red Tails does well at the box office. 2) There seems to be an assumption that the "people"--whoever these phantom individuals are--also support George Lucas *instead* of black independent films. Again, strawman. I personally have supported in the same way that I have done with Red Tails--by word of mouth and by going to see the movies, a bunch of black independent films over the years. (In one case even personally organizing a screening).

    You may not like the line "that's life" but fact of the matter is you can rail against the rain all you want--you will still get wet if you go outside without an umbrella. Call it a cop-out if you want to, but we live in a world where money (and influence) talks. George Lucas just happens to have a lot of both. He happens to have more of it than most black (white, red, or purple) independent film makers, and therefore his project is getting more attention than most of theirs ever will. Should I as a black person not support it for that reason, or try to make others feel guilty for doing so? The author seems to be talking out of both sides of his/her mouth--support the film, but you ain't really revolutionary unless you got some salt to throw in the man's game. That mess is tired, and contrary to what many of us think, doesn't really do much to advance "the cause". It just makes some of us look like professional complainers and perpetual victims (not to mention haters). And let's keep it real, just because a film is "independent" doesn't make it good (in terms of artistic quality or in terms of contributing to better portrayals of black people on the big screen).

    So back to the point--I'm not supporting the film because I'm under some mandate from George Lucas to "prove myself worthy" as a black person, but because it sounds like a good film.

  • simone | January 19, 2012 6:42 PMReply

    the debate is there every time, and this question will stay without any answer, and we don't need to focus our mind in this problematic, Hollywood was upset in the late 70 by a movie call Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song because with a small budget the film won big at box office, it's was unbelievable for Hollywood that an independent black movie made by Melvin Van Peebles can earn enough money, i remember that this movies earned 10 millions and cost only 100 000 $, people went to see this movies on theater because it was good, the story tell by film very was good. In this time there's no internet, no cellphone, no high technologies, just one thing, when you saw the movie, you was going to tell that this movie is great and you send people to see it. Now we stop talk each other, and black movies has a small place in mainstream medias, we help black cinema get popular and become mainstream for every people. our cinema need to represent every people black actors can plays everything, some friend of me aren't black but they have most of the good black movies. I the same late 70 Shaft save Mgm to the fail. we don't opposite red tails to the independent movies , we need to have more theaters, and stop wait that something is gonna come from Hollywood, may be they can give you an Oscar, don't ask them to give you role, Oscar Michaux fighted to do movies, we most continue the fight, that what shadow and act do everyday, every people can just do a small act to support black movies.

  • Neziah | January 19, 2012 10:48 PM


  • Kevin | January 19, 2012 11:54 AMReply

    Great article--Mr. Lucas name is now synonymous with a world wide licensed trademark for the creation of the Starwars phenomena. It has instantaneous cache--and with that a certain undeniable provenance in Hollywood and for that matter worldwide. His creative product(s) have mass global appeal. His body of creative work cuts across traditional cultural boundaries and it seems incredulous that to me and perhaps others that he would have faced any sort of denial to raise funds to make this current indie film.

  • Miles Maker | January 19, 2012 9:34 AMReply

    Thanks for this article. We all know this to be TRUE. The Color Purple was made 27 years ago and NOTHING has changed. Red Tails will be written off as nothing more than an action-packed star-studded power-backed anomaly NOT a new status quo. Hollywood is NOT poised and waiting in the wings with a slate of Black films just itching to greenlight.


    Us Black folks are so simple sometimes and so easily manipulated too.

  • LeonRaymond | January 19, 2012 2:24 PM

    @Miles Maker , True 100% and I have read post by Black folk that cast Lucas as a complete SAVIOR of Black Film Black folk simple yes, easily manipulated, so true, ignorant oh hell yeah, I would have expected much praise heaped on Ava DuVernay for just doing what she did with AFFRM. But I should have known Black folk want to go back to the plantation!!!

  • Joe Doughrity | January 19, 2012 9:28 AMReply

    Had to post given all the discussion... ;) Enjoy

  • Cynthia | January 19, 2012 12:29 AMReply

    Right on Tambay!

  • Ghost | January 18, 2012 11:57 PMReply

    For black indy films to really make it. They have to be at venues we can get to or air on a network we can watch. Could some of these movies air on IFC? After thier runs in theaters? Even some of the film festivals don't promote enough to attract people. And could some of these film promote themselves outside of black related media? Not everybody watches BET or uses black related media.

  • Andre Robinson | January 18, 2012 11:29 PMReply

    While I agree with many of the writer's points, I think he is missing the overall by making false comparisons. Spike Lee and George Lucas are not occupying the same space in the Hollywood biosphere. The point of supporting Red Tails is that a story worthy of $100M of investment has happened and even Lucas is now aware of challenges we independents face. He is exposing the raw racism and discrimination faced by artists of color every day...and his films have made billions. If Red Tails is good then Lucas should reap the rewards...and hopefully will find other talented filmmakers like Anthony Hemingway. So many people rallied around the false positives fomented by, The Help, that a story of black heroes, no matter how it gets into the lexicon, told with style, verve and the high production values it deserves, should breed more of the same and give other black and female filmmakers a shot at the incredible stories still waiting to be told.

  • Donella | January 19, 2012 5:33 PM

    "He is exposing the raw racism and discrimination faced by artists of color every day..." **This is probably one of the most significant aspects of Red Tails--that George Lucas finally faced what Black directors and producers have known for decades. Fortunately, he has not been silent (unlike the directors involved with the Hollywood Reporter Roundtable) about what he knows is true.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | January 18, 2012 11:03 PMReply

    Micheaux did just about everything that Tyler Perry's peter-puffers claim he "pioneered" -- so did Melvin Van Peebles, real talk.

    Still, they'll probably front on Spike's film and rush to see a movie produced by the same man who brought us Jar-Jar Binks. Because...

    White people never get tired of seeing black people cooning -- and there is always a coon-in-waiting.

    "How ya like that, Mista Hitler?!"

  • Ghost | January 18, 2012 11:49 PM

    All those guys along with Dwayne McDuffie, Ralph Farquhar and others have done what Tyler has been praised for. However they proved we can be more than stereotypes and you know a certain faction of our race doesn't like that. Because it encourages us to get up and do something instead of yelling racism or following the race baiters.

  • richboy | January 18, 2012 5:15 PMReply

    How can this be a 'black' movie while all of the Black women (Jazmine Sullivan, Edwina Findley, and Stacie Davis) were edited out? Why are BW urged to support a film that replaces black women for white women? White war movies don't ignore or replace white women. White men see fit to have white women represented on some level in their war films. I think the producers need to go ask white women to support this film, since they are the ones being represented in "Red Tails."

  • Nadine | January 20, 2012 11:35 AM

    @IGBO - "the issue that does not affect Black men, but Black women" ... What I meant to continue to say was that the issue affects Black men in the long-run... without fail.

  • Nadine | January 19, 2012 11:54 PM

    @IGBO - Please note, there is an Italian woman with a pretty developed relationship storyline that takes place, apparently, off the Tuskegee airbase with David Oyelowo's character, so this WAR argument that some on S&A are making is a moot point. Also as I stated in a ridiculously long (stream of consciousness) response to a statement you made on a previous RED TAILS posting regarding the significance of a continued erasure of Black women from society, I wrote the following so that you could understand, if you so chose, the issue that does not affect Black men, but Black women: "@IGBO - the only thing with which I disagreed or thought needed some clarification in your earliest post was this sense that "Black People" aren't characterized as intelligent or heroic in films... I kind of get you because Black PEOPLE are not, but Black men, almost as A RULE, are which is why I'm not quite understanding some of the statements about this movie and its ties to some sort of "moment" for Black PEOPLE out there. This country is pretty clear on its thoughts about Black PEOPLE and it falls along gender lines. Black women are GHETTO and Black men "HAVE" COOL (which is to be coveted). Simple as that. Black heroic and intelligent males are in the Zeitgeist. The other night I fell asleep watching Iron Man 2 on Netflix. Cheadle was "the man"... No, he was not IRON MAN, but he was superior to Iron Man in decorum, dignity, leadership qualities, honor and was a warrior. Will Smith movies anyone? Even as an anti-hero in Hancock we saw that his true nature was a caring one and, not unlike I-Robot, his character changed after trauma where he became devastated by the loss of Charlize Theron's character in one movie and the loss of a little girl, not his -- a stranger, in I-Robot, which apparently threw him into the DEPTHS OF DESPAIR. Sidebar: What's also interesting about his movies are the incidents of jabs directed exclusively at Black women (Hancock - "Even YOU don't deserve this", I-Robot - "The Mammy"... "You...(puff...puff... are 'A" a$$hole" and his disgust at discussing his ex-wife whose name most likely belonged to a Black woman)...this permeates the subconscious of a society... In X-Men, they "watered" down Storm to the point where she actually became a babysitter and chauffeur; casting was horrible (can you say IMAN, Fatima Siad or Yordanos Teshager, at the very least Aisha Tyler please) and Storm's "powers", which were near epic in the comics, fizzled in the hands of the Hollywood writers, yet Riptide in X-Men First-Class, having probably 1/20th her powers, was near omnipotent. Let's not even mention the heroic/paternal, but ill-fated Darwin (I still don't understand that casting)... "The Incredibles", one of my favorite animated flicks (Brad Bird - dude never disappoints), had Samuel L. Jackson's character, Frozone who, at the end, saves the day, but even he has to contend with the disembodied voice of a nagging Black woman ("Where's my supersuit?!?!??!" dialogue). Denzel Washington movies? Hello? Anyone? Even back in the day, Wesley Snipes (TALENTED DUDE) was ON FIRE, Passenger 57, Demolition Man (I don't care what anyone says, I LOVED that movie), U.S. Marshalls, and more ALL Hollywood movies. I mean... where is the disconnect? What are Black men NOT SEEING in terms of positive imagery that THIS movie is providing... Is it that for once, it is just ALL about them? How is the formula of this movie different from any of the others I mentioned. Black male heroes with Black female absence or "castration" (with a White female presence). Again, this belief that Black men are not being seen as heroic, intelligent AND, VERY IMPORTANT, DESIRABLE is just not right which is why you'll hear a lot of non-Blacks scoffing about that complaint because they REGULARLY experience Black men in these roles. Let's not even start with all the Black male doctors on television. It's not the "Mystical Negress"... it's the "Mystical NegrO"... and Black men in SPORTS and MUSIC? Even shows for preschoolers... Black women and girls have Uniqua (some sort of animal) and Caillou's best friend; There are NO Black women on Sesame Street, have mercy, but two Black males; elsewhere there are a endless representations of Black boys for preschoolers on television. Check out Yo Gabba Gabba and sooooo much more! Yes, people please go see this movie, but I REALLY need someone to explain to me how this movie will change things for "Black PEOPLE" in Hollywood (as SOME are saying). Is it the CONTENT of this movie, because I don't think we should expect too many historical pieces coming out of the U.S., period, but Black men in actions movies...NOT NEW... As for the Star Wars comparisons below, can you say Princess Leia? Lastly, it just seems to me that this movie simply solidifies the continuing trend of the severing the relationship between Black men and Black women in an attempt to "own" and "sell" certain aspects of Black culture that are easily accessible through Black men. Forgive my stream of consciousness ... but I'M REALLY curious as to the Black male disconnect from the reality of the Black man's image in mainstream America. I do, though, think this speaks to a separate issue; Black men are NOT seeing themselves because they are not WATCHING THE SAME MAINSTREAM CONTENT that Black Women are watching. So when we, Black Women, see you all, Black Men, all over Grey's Anatomy and House and 90210 and Happy Endings and New Girl and Saturday Night Live and Community and the Practice and Psych and Lost and I Hate my Teenaged Daughter and the list goes on yet we don't see ourselves (unless we are unattractive or tragic), we find it shocking when Black men "ask for more". At the same time, I don't watch basketball, football, sports in general, not a fan of the Wire (yeah, I said it), but I know their television schedules are plentiful... I mean I'm just guessing, but I'd like to know what TOP 25 TELEVISION shows and MOVIES Black MEN are WATCHING or are familiar with given their perspective on the state of the industry for Black men and women. This is a new angle for me in thinking about this, but I cannot continue to believe that Black men are CHOOSING to be blind to what is CLEARLY a disparity of representation for Black women and Black men in the media. I have to conclude that Black men are enthusiastically included in MAINSTREAM American media, but don't know it."

  • Igbo | January 19, 2012 2:33 AM

    Richboy, since when does a movie have to have black people of both sexes to be considered a black movie? What if it's a movie set entirely inside a (mostly black) women's prison? If the only male in the film is a white prison warden would that film not be "black" as well? Characters are edited out for a variety of reasons, but usually it's related to the film's length or how the scenes relate to the main plot. In general, a war picture focuses almost entirely on the soldiers in battle and the local people in the country in which they are fighting. So unless they're fighting in Africa, one would not expect to see many black women in this film.

  • CreoleSista | January 18, 2012 3:49 PMReply

    Tambay, are you kidding me??? Haven't we been clamoring for a "black film" by a major studio for quite some time that doesn't delve into the steretypical? And now that we have one, we want to trash it. Black indy films have explored diverse topics for as long as I can remember, like most indy films. I see both indy and major studio films. I will continue to support black indy films and I will see Red Tails, a major film that depicts black men as heroes.

  • Joe Doughrity | January 18, 2012 3:44 PMReply

    Buying two tickets to RED TAILS on Friday but happy to report my film CORNERSTORE held over @AMC Southlake 24 in Morrow and expanding to a 2nd AMC in Atlanta on Jan.27

    If it's "hard out here for a Lucas" (one of my heroes) you can imagine what it's like for the rest of us!!! OR

  • Clayton | January 19, 2012 11:54 AM

    Please, also tell your friends in the ATL to check us out when they get a moment and Thanks...

  • Ghost | January 18, 2012 11:45 PM

    Not too hard for Lucas-check out what comes out from the Lucas camp in April-Star Wars Episode 1 in 3D. There is a contest by a certain tea brand to get you free tickets.
    If Red Tails bombs that Star Wars film will make back that budget the first weekend.

  • Joe Doughrity | January 18, 2012 6:01 PM

    Thanks Al. Tell your friends in the ATL to check us out before or after RED TAILS!

  • al | January 18, 2012 3:58 PM

    Congrats Joe! Glad to see that the effort was a success!!

  • Tamara | January 18, 2012 2:59 PMReply

    So it is official. I have to move to a larger city to be able to fully support Black cinema. New York, here I come. Maybe this summer? *taps chin* To the post, nicely put. I support as much as I can, but it is usually after the fact...when it really doesn't count. Which kind of sucks, but it is what it is. What you said about Lucas being the true face of this feature...yeah, I see that. Everyone's oohing and ahhing over the fact that the project was something he toiled over for years, finally come to fruition. Insomuch as you have stated, I never once thought Lucas would "save" Black cinema. And the more I've come to know and learn through discussion on this site, the more I "see" how the big Hollywood machine works; likewise how the smaller, lesser known machines have worked/are working/will work "outside" of the system (like AFFRM and other Black film distributors/directors/filmmakers/producers/etc. on the come-up). __________I want to see the film for the action and for the story and will see it because it is available to me, to my location, or will be. My enthusiasm for other of our features will be left to be reflected as you acknowledge in the form of Retweets and Facebook shares and supporting comments on this site and others (really, just this one. lol. S&A is where it's at, son!). I will continue to do the little bit I can to support a love for a medium (film) I've had since I was a wee one, many, many MANY moons ago. "Every winter a war, every day a battle." I may not be on the front lines, but I'm stockpiling ammunition back at base-camp. (apologies for making this post about 'me'...i tend to do that a lot. *sad face*) As you were, good people. Onward and upward, Spike Lee, AFFRM, Dee Rees, et al.

  • Clayton | January 19, 2012 11:51 AM

    @TAMARA... Please go to and Thanks...

  • Igbo | January 18, 2012 2:29 PMReply

    First of all, I'll be one of those going out to see "Red Tails" opening weekend, but as several people have suggested, but it's success will not necessarily benefit African American filmmakers directly. It will be seen mainly as a success because of George Lucas's passion and involvement. That's exactly what happened with "The Color Purple." The film made just shy of $100 million (in 1980s dollars), but helped Steven Speilberg in his transition to more serious films than black films in general. As with "Red Tails," the success of "Red Hook Summer" will be more about the people behind the movie than a boost to other black filmmakers. Like Lucas, Spike is in the game. He's had his opportunities. He's made some great films like "Do the Right Thing" and he's made some dreadful ones. As far as his latest effort, I'm going to take a wait and see attitude. If there are good reviews and positive word of mouth, I'll see "Red Hook Summer," but if it doesn't I'll wait for video, if I see it at all. What we really need to do is focus our support on new and emerging filmmakers. That's why I supported "I Will Follow" last year. Too many black people seem to have this misguided notion that if a film was made on a low budget or is in limited release that it must not be good. They'd rather see some mediocre genre film with hardly a black face in it than support a quality independently produced black film that is screening in only a few theaters. If Woody Allen's film, "Midnight in Paris" can open in six theaters and go on to be a success, why can't black filmmakers do the same?

  • Nice | January 19, 2012 6:46 PM

    The director is Black. You are supporting him and his hard work as well. Any indie filmmaker of any color would give an arm for the chance to make a film with George Lucas as Exec Prod. This article is negative. It focuses on what won't happen and what hasn't happened. I guess we shouldn't have voted since electing a Black President didn't change politics. That attitude makes me sick. Fuck who put up the money, what difference does that make? It's a studio film about Black men who were pioneers and heroes. That's why I'll go see it. Remember this article next time you see a film with one token Black actor. Every step forward is a step in the right direction, even if it's small.

  • Neziah | January 18, 2012 1:39 PMReply

    I'll be supporting the film on day-one, but for some reason, most black audiences have lost interest in Spike, and he was never a big box-office draw anyway. The closest he got was Inside Man, which is a genre picture, so he'll need a miracle. I try my best to get more people interested in independent black films, including my own Mom, who is a Tyler Perry fanatic. I've bought her films like I Will Follow and Mooz-lum, with the hope that she'll sit down and watch them one day. Like Tambay, I sense a change coming due to these quality black independent films. There are so many ambitious ones out there, and they only seem to get more and more ambitious ever year. I'm tired of telling people to support them. If they want, change, they don't need anybody, let alone a website, to tell them to do so. Red Tails is just Red Tails, it means nothing in the long-run.

  • Clayton | January 18, 2012 12:52 PMReply

    @Tyson... I agree with you. Lucas isn't saying it will be the death of black cinema in general, he is saying that it will be a long time from now for anyone to invest this much in an all black cast film if Red Tails fail. I believe that. And good point about Pariah. That was one of the few films that did anything for me this year. It's on my top ten so far yet nobody is going to see it. Hopefully ,Meryl Streep's enthusiastic mention of Pariah during her Golden Globe acceptance speech might help, but all I can do is hope. Unfortunately, it takes the "elite" to say something positive or support a film that will get Black people follow suit. I don't really concern myself with the Oscars that much. I know how competitive this movie industry can be and accept it for what it is. But I am concerned about box office success, and anyone with $13.00 in their pocket can go out and contribute to the success of a film. When they don't, and people lose money, it can affect the whole dynamics of the way we do things as independent film producers.

  • Clayton | January 19, 2012 11:45 AM

    Thanks IGBO...

  • Igbo | January 19, 2012 2:36 AM

    I'll check it out.

  • Clayton | January 18, 2012 2:56 PM

    @IGBO... You said, "What we really need to do is focus our support on new and emerging filmmakers." Can I hold you to that? Lol. If you get a moment, check out my first feature film's fan page: If you like what you see, maybe you can support it even further while spreading the word? I'd appreciate it, as I am also moving into one of my next feature projects, which can be found here:

  • Clayton | January 18, 2012 2:55 PM

    "What we really need to do is focus our support on new and emerging filmmakers." Can I hold you to that? Lol. If you get a moment, check out my first feature film's fan page: If you like what you see, maybe you can support it even further while spreading the word? I'd appreciate it, as I am also moving into one of my next feature projects, which can be found here:

  • Christopher Everett | January 18, 2012 12:46 PMReply

    This is one of the best articles of the year. Telling it like it is.

  • al | January 18, 2012 12:31 PMReply

    With over 20 years of experience in corporate America and having dealt with wealthy people I have noticed something....generally, wealthy people give more thought to spending a dollar than you or I because they know the value of money. I understand the argument above but do not take lightly the fact that he spent about 100 mil of his own money. I may have missed it but what was the last project that he or any other billionaire invested 100 mil of their own money in? Particularly when studios told said person that they will not touch the film.
    I will see this film when it opens this weekend.

  • curtis | January 18, 2012 12:05 PMReply

    I would love to support Red Hook Summer but it is hard to support a film that never comes to your city. As for Red Tails I must say I have a lot of respect for Lucas. This man spent 20 years trying to make this film and when Hollywood siad no after no after no he shut up and put up 58 million of his own money out of his bank account into a film that he might not get his money back from. If he can spend 58 million from his own pocket then the least I can do is spend $10.

  • Arch | January 18, 2012 11:58 AMReply

    Honestly, I'm not sure this is any different from all the non black indie film makers "toiling away" in obscurity because Hollywood isn't interested in making their films. The reality is that the major studios make films they think the public wants to see (based partly on guesswork, partly on the history of financial success seemingly similar projects have had, and partly on ignorance/bias) or that can help burnish their artistic credibility. You can argue that the reason for such lack of interest might vary, but at the end of the day you are hitting the same basic roadblock.

    Having said that, I disagree strongly that $50 million dollars isn't a lot of money...for invest in a project and as much as I'm unimpressed by Lucas' latest round of work I commend him for putting his own money where his mouth is to support a project he cares about. In other words, he is doing exactly what indie film makers do to get their projects done. Just because he has far more money doesn't somehow make him less worthy of praise and to argue otherwise is a bit of a cop out. Either you support someone making the films they want to make and their willingness to take risks to do so, or you don't. The size of the bank account isn't the important part to focus on.

  • Arch | January 19, 2012 2:42 PM

    @Reg. I respectfully disagree. Why exactly does the fact that he is rich matter? He is using his own money, along with his connections/influence built over decades as a major Hollywood force, to make a movie he cares about. Nobody else would give him the money so he did it himself. If the movie cost $50 or $50,000,000 isn't really concerning to me. He finally made a project that he had in his head for years and did it on his own. How exactly is that not EXACTLY like every other indie film maker other than in scope of the project? Every filmmaker I've ever known who achieved any level of success (and by success I mean it can be something as simple as completing the film despite hitting walls) were willing to improvise and overcome obstacles as they came up, in order to tell the story they were passionate about.

    Of course he is in a unique position. Nobody, including me, has said otherwise. However, his response is, at its core, absolutely that of an indie film maker. Some people just don't want to give him credit for this film because he's rich, made some crappy movies before, or...gasp.....white.

  • Clayton | January 18, 2012 2:49 PM

    Well, I personally would rather BE a BILLIONAIRE first before I would say dropping $50 Million is like regular folks dropping $50. And even $50 is difficult to get from the average American. I just choose not to assume it's like dropping water, but I'll stay with the obvious: $50 million dollars is more money than most people in the past century made in their lifetime combined. It's a whole lot for anyone.

  • Reg | January 18, 2012 2:00 PM

    Please! George Lucas dropping $50 million is like you or I dropping $50 on any given weekend. It's all relative. Trying to argue otherwise just doesn't register.

    And this has absolutely nothing to do with supporting or not supporting the film or the filmmaker(s), or commending or not commending him. And his socio-economic status DOES matter. He's in a rare position that the majority of others aren't that allows him to make a movie of this size and have it shown on a national platform. The rules are different for people like him, so he'll be regarded differently. Why do you think there's all this talk about what the success of this particular film means for black cinema, when most haven't given a shit about smaller independent films that came before his? It's all relative.

    Besides, he's been commended 1000-fold already, and will continue to be.

    The last paragraph of this post sums it all up for me.

  • Clayton | January 18, 2012 12:59 PM

    Well said, Arch. Well said. "Either you support someone making the films they want to make and their willingness to take risks to do so, or you don't." That is basically the point I was making with my first comment. I also agree with you that $50 million is a lot for anyone to invest in a project like this. I don't care if you're Warren Buffet. When the $50 mil leaves your account, it will be noticed... and missed.

  • tyson | January 18, 2012 11:48 AMReply

    95% of black cast films cost less than 30 million to make. There has never been a big budget film with an all black cast until red tails. What Lucas is saying is saying is Red Tails will ether be the birth or dealth of big budget black films not black films. You may not like this but black people do not support black films unless it by Tyler PERRY. Look at PARIAH. That is one of the best reviewed films of 2011 and yet it is getting no love at the boxoffice or Oscars. If Perry would have gotten behind this film like he did Precious the. The film would have been a boxoffice and awards hit just like Precious. I am going to support Red Hook Summer but we all know the film will get looked over by our own people. Black people just don't support Mr.lee and I don't know why. We need to support our own product and we can start this weekend by sending Hollywood a message that we don't bootleg and we will support our own movie. Keep this in your mind. Red Tails may have been produced by Lucas but the film was written and directed by black men. Sorry about my rant but we have got to do better. Tyler Perry can not do it all.

  • Zeus | January 18, 2012 11:02 AMReply

    @Tambay --->"However, I'm not one of those who subscribes to the belief that Red Tails' success is black cinema's success, and Red Tail's failure means disaster for the future of black cinema. Sorry. That's absolute rubbish, and you should get that out of your heads if you actually believe that to be true." ---> Thank you! Pure BS.

  • Clayton | January 18, 2012 11:00 AMReply

    Answering your first question, I don't think it really matters either way. People are gonna support what they want. We can't expect people to be enthusiastic for smaller independently financed black films no matter what the filmmakers do. They'll either take the word of a "Shadow & Act" who supports a certain kind of black film/filmmaker (not all black films/filmmakers), they'll listen to word-of-mouth, or come to their own conclusion through one of the many other various ways people discover movies, big or small. Also, I might be mistaken, but the 50 something million came out of Lucas pocket, but the film was still backed by something else for another 50, making the budget 100 million something. I heard something like that. I could be wrong.

  • Clayton | January 18, 2012 11:11 AM

    Okay. I'm reading 58 million but hearing 100 million from other news outlets. That's why I don't listen to any of them.

  • Jon | January 18, 2012 10:53 AMReply

    Cosign! I was just as excited about "Pariah" and I am looking forward to "Red Hook Summer". I just hope that "Red Tails" succeeds and give studios a lot more confidence in African American cinema just as they did in the '90s. Let's hope that "Red Hook Summer" pick up a distributor that'll give it as much push as "Red Tails".

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