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'Precious,' 'The Help,' 'Django,' Etc - Candidates For 2013's Most Contentious Black Film...?

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by Tambay A. Obenson
January 3, 2013 11:01 AM
7 Comments
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It never quite fails, does it? It seems like every year (especially in recent times), there's been that one *black film* that's heavily discussed/debated by us (black people).

In 2012, even though it didn't open until the last week of the year, it was Django Unchained; from the script review, to the first trailer, to all the quotables from the cast and crew leading up to the film's release, etc. That's why it was the number 1 most discussed topic on S&A in 2012, with the conversation continuing into 2013, although I'm sure it'll start to fade soon enough.

I'd even toss Red Tails into that hat for consideration, because it was also heavily debated, although that was much earlier in the year.

In 2011 it was The Help; in 2010 it was For Colored Girls; in 2009, it was Precious; and so on, and so forth. 

It's certainly not a steadfast rule, and I think you'll find that it's not always the case once you dig even further into the past. But in recent years, it's been quite consistent, as you can see above. Obviously, this speaks to the lack of variety and volume in *black cinema* output, especially at the studio level - films that tend to have wider audience reach.

So it's only natural to wonder what that polarizing film will be in 2013. Or will there be more than one? 

We'll certainly see how it all goes; but what I can say with some certainty, given what the reaction to the project has been like since it was announced last summer, is that the upcoming Zoe Saldana/Nina Simone project, which is scheduled to debut some time this year, will definitely generate lots of discussion, whenever its released.

Each and every single post on the project was met with strong and numerous reactions, with comment threads running into the high 100s (we were even contacted by some TV shows who wanted to use S&A as a source for their reports on the film) - starting with our breaking story in August announcing that Zoe was replacing Mary J. Blige to star in the film, followed by 8 or so successive posts on the topic over the next 2 months, which included a review of the script, our coverage of all the reactions to the news - from Nina Simone's daughter's total rejection of the project, especially as she wasn't consulted, to concern expressed by the likes of Jill Scott and India Arie, to Emmanuel's essay on educating ourselves on race vs. ethnicity, to on-set photos of Zoe made up to look like Nina, and more. 

It's most certainly been quite the hot topic, and I expect it will continue to be in the new year, especially when the film's first trailer debuts, which I think will be sooner than later. It's been in post-production since mid-November. I expect it to debut at any one of the international film festivals taking place during the first half of the year; although it might not.

But, assuming its 2013 release year stands, and it's released here in the USA, I think this will be THE film of the year, and by this time next year, we'll be looking back on it, and wondering what will replace it in 2014.

Looking over my list of all the *black films* scheduled to be released in 2013, there really isn't any other that has the potential to generate the kind of explosive reactions that I think this one has shown. 

The only other film on the list that might be polarizing is Steve McQueen's Twelve Years A Slave. But I just don't think it'll inspire the same kind of strong division that Django Unchained has. It'll likely be seen by far fewer people, to start, given that, based on what we know of it thus far (source novel, script, talent), won't be the brand of *entertainment* Django is, going for a far more emotionally, psychologically, and realistically brutal depiction of slavery in these United States.

Am I missing any other potentially strongly polarizing *black films* scheduled to be released this year?

If not, I'm tipping my hat to Zoe Saldana's Nina

Instead of me summarizing everything we've written about the project, as well as your varied reactions, I'm going to point you to the links for each key post on the film, and in chronological order:

1 - Zoe Saldana Is Apparently Taking Over For Mary J. Blige To Play Nina Simone

2 - We've Read It! Shadow And Act's Thoughts On Nina Simone Feature Project Screenplay

3 - Confirmed! Zoe Saldana Will Play Nina Simone In Biopic + Some Realities To Consider...

4 - Nina Simone's Daughter Finally Speaks: 'Project Is Unauthorized; Simone Estate Not Consulted'

5 - We Need To Educate Ourselves On Race vs. Ethnicity (And Other Things I Learned From The Ongoing Zoe Saldana/Nina Simone Conversation)

6 - Nina Simone's Daughter Opens Up Even More About Biopic, Answers Questions That Fill Gaps

7 - New Photos Of Zoe Saldana In Full Nina Simone Regalia Surface; Convinced?

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7 Comments

  • dl | January 7, 2013 9:14 AMReply

    i think you missed the butler due out this year

  • eshowoman | January 5, 2013 9:39 AMReply

    I think whites will have a problem with 12 Years a Slave. I think most African Americans will avoid it. I for one, am looking forward to it with great anticipation.

  • Akim | January 3, 2013 8:02 PMReply

    What about Lee Daniel's ''The Butler''? I think tht's certainly a film that will become polarizing given that it's about a black butler.

  • lauren | January 3, 2013 10:54 PM

    It will be polarizing for the same faction of black folks whose criteria for acceptable portrayals of other actual black folks lives is as thin as one hair.

  • joy | January 3, 2013 11:15 AMReply

    i like zoe saldana but this is horrible. she is practically in black face. india arie makes waaay more sense. first of she can sing!

  • turner | January 3, 2013 10:47 PM

    Please! I really wish people will learn that a singer, even though one who looks similar to another singer is NOT an actor! And I do wish someone else was cast for Nina... but watching a bad performance by an acting newbie in the role would be just as disrespectful.

  • Michael Forbes | January 3, 2013 11:10 AMReply

    These films as odious as some of them are do absolute wonders, wonders for black cultural criticism, case in point Armond White is clear and sound...

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