New year, new beginnings.
What does 2014 hold with regards to black cinema? What are are expectations for black cinema this year? What are our hopes and dreams? What will dominate our conversations as the year progresses? What or who will we remember most as the year ends 12 months from now?
These are questions I posed to my fellow S&A contributors last month - specifically, what their predictions and hopes for black cinema are in 2014 - and below, you'll find their responses.
As for me, first, in terms of predictions, I'll run with a call that I made a couple of years ago, which, at the time, seemed quite bold, and entirely improbable, but which now seems fathomable, and much closer to becoming reality: that Spike Lee and Tyler Perry will announce a collaboration on a project - whether in a producer/director (Tyler/Lee or Lee/Tyler) capacity, or both as producers while another filmmaker directs, or in some other way. The project won't necessarily be produced this year; but an announcement of a collaboration is possible.
Why do I say that the idea is far more probable today than it was 2-3 years ago? Well you might recall Spike's conversation with Oprah Winfrey, during an episode of Oprah's Next Chapter in November, during which Oprah asked Spike about his "feud" with Tyler Perry, and in Spike's response - which suggested a blossoming new friendship and admiration between he and Perry (after he visited Tyler's house, they talked, and apparently set aside their differences) - he shared that he and Tyler might actually work together some day.
His exact quote was "One day we might work together," and he wasn't teasing or being facetious either - at least, it didn't show on the surface.
Might that "one day" be closer than expected? 2014 will tell.
Another prediction (as well as a hope) is that we'll see more cross-continental collaborations, as black filmmakers from across the Diaspora, all over the world, continue to reach out and *touch each other*, all in the spirit of Pan Africanism. I'd love to see this happen more often; Black filmmakers around the globe emphasizing strength in unification, combining resources and producing content.
I'll also won't be surprised to see another black film, directed by a black filmmaker, break the seemingly elusive $100 million box office mark. Lee Daniels was the only one to do it last year, with The Butler. It's something that hasn't happened very much - a black film directed by a black filmmaker that does over $100 million in ticket sales. In fact, you can count the number of times its happened in the history of cinema, on 1 hand.
I hope that 2014 will see an even wider variety of films from black filmmakers, about black people - all genres, especially the more fantastical ones that we seemingly tend to ignore. Even if they aren't all made and released in 2014, I hope there'll at least be announcements of upcoming projects that'll get me really excited.
I can definitely see an AFFRM-style system that specifically finances black films. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Ava DuVernay is already working on something like that. To be clear, I have absolutely NO inside information on this, so it's all pure speculation on my part. I don't want this to become a rumor, that eventually becomes a "fact." But long-time readers of S&A will be very familiar with my desire to launch a fund of some kind - a deep well of cash created from contributions made by the so-called black elite, and others who are interested - whose sole mission is to finance films by black filmmakers, about black people. It's something that I've been wanting to make a reality for years, but, I don't have the funds nor the reach or connections. It'll take someone in the *right* position (with the access, the reach, the connections, etc) to make something like that happen. Ahem...
And finally, both a prediction and a hope, I plan to get behind the camera again, for the first time in many years, and direct my second film. The script is just about done, but, all of you writers will know that the writing is never really done. I've put it away for now, to let it sit for a few weeks, before returning to it, and re-reading it, to see how I feel about it then, and make any additional tweaks if necessary. But I'm aiming for a summer/fall shoot date, if all goes as planned, being very determined to make it all happen. It's been a while.
And with that, here are what my comrades had to say about the new year in black film.
First, here's Ms Monique Williams:
Hopes: Tyler Perry hangs up the bra for good;
Great success of more films with Black faces that are human stories, not necessarily about Blackness.
The only slave movies to come out feature Toussaint L'overture or Nat Turner.
A major sci-fi film features a Black lead and Black writers. And no white romance. Or bromance.
Predictions: Online petitions abound for sequels to Love Jones, The Wood, The Brothers, Booti Call and Woo.
And here's Wendy (aka MsWOO):
1. More slave movies. Most of which will be directed by white directors and funded by mainstream studios. Most of which will aspire to "12 Years a Slave" social, moral and historical immersiveness, but fall short of "Django Unchained" historically dubious black torture porn. So, if you're looking forward to seeing earnest and uplifting films about Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas or Toussaint Louverture... forget it.
2. In the wake of the success of "The Butler" there'll be more films green-lite that centre around civil rights and black political activism, mostly directed by white directors, and almost always with a black protagonist who wants to work from inside the system, not fight against it. While said protagonist's views and actions might lose him friends, family and the respect of his community along the way, they'll all see eye to eye in the end, and love will save the day as they claim their rightful place in the history of the greatest country black people have ever had the luck of finding themselves in throughout history. God bless America.
3. More black romance and comedy dramas (though they may be described by some as "racially themed" dramas, or something). This will probably mean more work for Nia Long, and also see the demise (or sidelining, for a while, at least) of more stereotypical "black themed" comedies. In fact, it could be the year that the sequel to "Love Jones" finally happens. Go Nia! Welcome back beautiful black ensemble cast films - with their own special brand of upscale, bourgiefabulousness stereotyping.
4. Tyler Perry will do a Dave Chapelle and run off to Africa... or somewhere. It won't be because he was asked to wear a dress, it'll be because the dress no longer fits. No, not because of a massive surge in weight on his part (specifically his rear and midriff parts), but due to even his most loyal supporters getting tired of the dress, the cliches, the sanctimoniousness, the bad scripts, bad plots, bad filmmaking... With more options to see black people on the big screen, black people across the spectrum will suddenly become more aspirational and/or discerning about their popcorn and diet soda silver-screen accompaniments.
5. A small number of wonderful independent black films that almost nobody will get to see unless AFFRM steps in to save the day, but which will be covered by S&A, regardless, and whether or not they made a splash at Sundance (or even got into Sundance).
I was just going to stick to five, but here's a bonus:
6. Instead of the rallying cry of "the Brits are coming, the Brits are coming!" at the Oscars (although they are), cries of "the blacks are coming, the blacks are coming!" which, regrettably, will probably result in extra security at the doors and Chiwetel Ejiofor getting escorted off the stage as security waits in the wings to ask him how he acquired the little gold statuette in his possession.
1. More films portraying black leads (both in the films and on the posters).
2. Ideally, more black writers to write these leads (seeing as white Hollywood seems averse to writing black characters that have more than two dimensions to them).
3. Black female characters doing for film what Kerry Washington/Olivia Pope is doing for TV (though not quite so comically melodramatic, please - thank you).
4. Studios, financiers and distributors taking a greater chance on films made by black directors and/or starring black characters (again, with the posters... please and thank you).
5. To see Lupita Nyong'o in several more roles that will continue to showcase her immense talent.
6. Less weaves and lace-fronts. I know, I know...! But hey, it's a hope, not a prediction.
And here are thoughts from Cybel the DP extraordinaire:
I am certain we will see more black character driven SciFi and horror films. People have been clamoring for this for so long that I expect a deluge in 2014. Fingers crossed I'll be shooting my first horror.
I also expect to see more autobiographical documentaries. The power behind a personal doc is it doesn't have to represent everyone's experiences. Just one person's. I'm looking forward to Darius Monroe's "Evolution of a Criminal".
That is my biggest wish for black film in 2014. That we remove the burden and assumption that a black film must represent every black person's experience.
My other wish is that, although 2013 was an excellent year, no one rests. Filmmakers should raise the bar of their "aesthetic expectations". Tighter scripts. Stronger visuals. In particular, I hope directors/producers realize the value of Hair/Make-Up stylist. Especially for a period piece.
Here's what Monsieur Andre Seewood had to say:
Here are my "Fantasy Predictions of Films that I would like to see getting made in 2014":
1) A 200 million dollar 3 hour historical epic set during the Mali Empire in Africa which details the African exploration, trade and marriage into what the Europeans would later call the New World. It is to be directed by a Black man (my preference would be Carl Franklin).
2) A 100 million dollar science fiction/horror film adaptation of Octavia Butler's short story BLOODCHILD (or any one of her novels) with a majority Black (international and domestic) cast.
3)And finally, a 100 million dollar adaptation of any Phillip K. Dick short story or novel with a Black leading actor and Black director attached.
As you can see I don't ask for much when it comes to Black cinema!
And here are Ms Zeba Blay's thoughts:
Spike Lee's crowdfunded Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, about "human beings who are addicted to blood," will be horrifying. And not in a good way.
Alfre Woodard was asked during an interview ahead of the 12 Years A Slave release when we'll know things have changed for black actors in Hollywood. She replied: "You know that brilliant, stunningly beautiful, and poised Lupita Nyong'o? 12 Years a Slave is an incredible launch of a career. And this is her first thing. We will see if, [as opposed to] another brilliant young woman we saw, Jennifer Lawrence, we'll see the trajectory of [Lupita's] path and what she's offered after that. Then we'll know whether things have changed or if Lupita is consigned to playing second banana, ensemble person for the next ten years." I wholeheartedly agree. Of the many great black actors in 2013 Lupita truly stood out - I hope that in 2014, Hollywood respects her talent, and that she (and other actresses who look like her) is offered roles bigger and more complex than, say, a flight attendant overshadowed by a prototypical white, male, action star.
Jana Sante gives us her 2014 outlook:
2014 BLACK CINEMA PREDICTIONS
- On Sunday March 2nd 2014, atleast one Black attendee at the Academy Awards will emerge from the ceremony clutching an Oscar. If atleast seven Black attendees are nominated and atleast four among them emerge with Oscars and if this cycle is repeated in the year following, the history of American cinema will have entered a new chapter.
- Netflix will greenlight its first Black indie series as a direct challenge to HBO.
- Following the release of his forthcoming epic 'Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus,' director Spike Lee will rededicate his autership to making great documentary films.
HOPES FOR BLACK CINEMA IN 2014
- It is hoped that the cinema genre currently known as 'slavery' will be reclassified as 'horror' (or 'historical horror') to alleviate the stress that occurs when marketing teams feel compelled to make 'box-office friendly' visual tweaks to pr posters for 'slavery' cinema.
- It's also really hoped that someone in Black cinema will do something as visually interesting as director Terence Nance's 'Oversimplification Of Her Beauty.'
- It's hoped that someone in 2014 will greenlight a 5-part drama series based entirely on all the key players of The Harlem Renaissance. (See actor/playwright Ruben Santiago-Hudson's plea to Oprah, Tyler Perry & co. to make this project happen and note the reference to 'crabs in a barrel' - http://youtu.be/tsq7OrdA0pw).
- It's hoped that all the Black-British actors who exited Britain and excited Hollywood (and Black people) in 2013 will also find excitement (translation: work) back in Britain in 2014.
And finally, Nijla Mumin for the close:
Lupita Nyong'o wins Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars
12 Years A Slave will win Best Picture at the Oscars.
I would love to see some movement or updates on the Sam Cooke bio-pic, to be directed by Carl Franklin. I have a feeling that would be an amazing film.
I really hope that Steve McQueen becomes the first black person to win Best Director (for a feature film) at the Oscars, for 12 Years A Slave. About time, right? I hope John Ridley wins for Best Adapted Screenplay.
I hope that we see more movies written and directed by black women.
I hope (and predict) that Lupita Nyong'o will win Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars. I hope that Chiwetel Ejiofor also wins for Best Actor.
I would love to see a TV series comparable to Breaking Bad or The Wire developed by a black person.
I hope to see more innovation in film distribution and audience engagement, as championed by AFFRM.
I want to see Lupita Nyong'o, Emayatzy Corinealdi, and Adepero Oduye in more great films. #TeamBlackActresses!
I hope we see and hear the FELA bio-pic, or the status of it.
So lots of Lupita Nyong'o, Carl Franklin, black sci-fi/fantasy/horror love it appears, as those showed up on at least 3 different lists. AFFRM gets a couple of mentions as well; as do Tyler Perry, and "slave movies."
What about you - what are your predictions and hopes for black cinema in 2014?