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The One Thing That All Of Chiwetel Ejiofor's 2013 Projects (5 Of Them) Have In Common...

by Tambay A. Obenson
August 19, 2013 4:22 PM
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I realize that it's merely a coincidence, so I'm not necessarily implying that something sinister is afoot. But I thought I'd share one interesting characteristic that runs through the handful of projects that Chiwetel Ejiofor stars in this year - unquestionably the celebrated thespian's biggest year ever!

He stars in 3 feature films that are set to debut sometime in the next 4 months - 12 Years A Slave, Half Of A Yellow Sun and Savannah

He stars in 1 TV series: Dancing on the Edge

And he stars in Aimé Césaire's play, A Season in the Congo, playing Patrice Lumumba, at the Young Vic in London - a production directed by Joe Wright.

What do all these projects, despite being in different segments of the "entertainment industry," have in common? 

They're all set in the past! And, coincidentally, in 4 of them, he's playing characters that did once live in real life.

But like I said, I'm not suggesting that this isall part of someone's master plan. It was just something I realized recently that I thought was worth sharing.

Although I'll go ahead and throw in the many conversations we've had on this blog over the years, about what might seem like an industry affinity for historical dramas where films that tell stories about black people are concerned; As if to suggest that black people don't exist in the present; and let's not even get into representations of the future on film and TV, where black people are concerned - people of color in general.

Still, we're happy for Mr Ejiofor - an actor that I think most who read this site like and respect. He's working, and, I'm sure, for him, that's good for now. 

We'll be seeing a lot of him over the next 4-5 months, with multiple films debuting; and assuming we get to interview him for one of those release, I'll be sure to bring this up and get a reaction from him.

Maybe in 2014, his slate will comprise of a films and TV shows set in the future, or, *gasp*, the present.

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  • kty | October 12, 2013 3:48 PMReply

    Ejiofor has been in a number of movies in contemporary settings: Dirty Pretty Things (which was the first film I saw him in), SALT, 2012, Talk to Me, Inside Man, Love Actually, Kinky Boots . . .

    I certainly agree that we need more films made by and starring African Americans, but I'm not sure Ejiofor actually supports Obenson's case.

    Like Melody, though, I'd love to see some Octavia Butler SF. Fledgling? Can someone please make this into a film?

  • Andrea | September 6, 2013 3:13 PMReply

    Chiwetel Ejiofor will win the next Oscar for Best Actor!!! 'Nuff said!

  • mawon | August 20, 2013 9:23 AMReply

    What affinity for the past? That's

  • mozzie | August 20, 2013 7:28 AMReply

    He is also directing a short film that is set in the past. Should see that soon.

  • Melody | August 20, 2013 7:01 AMReply

    Here's something to really consider: How many stories of THE FUTURE do we star in, write, direct, produce? Where are OUR sci fi stories? If you think we don't exist in the present, the future is even bleaker. As a writer in the genre, I'm glad to see webseries like The Abandon, and yes, Chiwetel was in Serenity (as, of course, the Bad Guy), and After Earth was a marginal success (though not great sci fi)... but we are often relegated to the Sacrificial or Noble Negro in sci fi (i.e. Morgan Freeman in Oblivion). Where are our protagonists? And where are our women? Where are our superheroes? Why don't Storm or Black Panther have their own films?? Writers like Octavia Butler and others have laid beautiful ground work. Imagine the possibilities of seeing our African ancestry and present social situation explored through the inspirational and cautionary tales of the future, new technology and advanced science. What does the colonization of a planet look like through a black man's or woman's eyes? We have to create these stories, support them and demand they be made, if not by other, than by ourselves (Lee, throw some Kickstarter spotlight on my struggling sci fi director friends!) Otherwise we will be stuck in films as only historical pieces and current events commentary. These are not bad things... it's just not good to be limited to them. We need to also create our own future. Literally.

  • Del | August 20, 2013 3:07 AMReply

    You just wasted my time out of my present day. Please get a life and Leave Mr Chiwetel alone. I will step away now so this item does not impinge into my future time!

  • Akimbo | September 4, 2013 5:31 PM

    I laughed, too. I actually can't stop.

  • LL2 | August 20, 2013 1:43 PM

    LOL! Thanks for the laugh.

  • CJ | August 19, 2013 11:01 PMReply

    It's because he already went so far into the future with 'Serenity' (duh).

  • Donella | August 20, 2013 8:24 AM

    and Children of Men

  • Celeste | August 19, 2013 10:54 PMReply

    This has not sat right with me for the longest: "As if to suggest that black people don't exist in the present; and let's not even get into representations of the future on film and TV, where black people are concerned - people of color in general." Chiwetel Ejiofor is one of those actors who gets a pass because of his versatility (he's very talented). Idris Elba, Forest Whitaker, and lately Jennifer Hudson has been capturing my attention. Sankofa translates as: it is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten. It would seem that we have forgotten much but what about acknowledging where we are now and making plans for where we want to go?

  • turner | August 19, 2013 9:38 PMReply

    Scab picking again...

  • QBN | August 19, 2013 9:00 PMReply

    Whatever happened to that Fela Kuti biopic he was supposed to do with Steve McQueen? That's one "past" project that I'd support fully.

  • Donella | August 19, 2013 7:03 PMReply

    Our history has been so dismissed, diminished, and distorted that I'm glad its being set straight. I'm really looking forward to this fall.

  • BURP | August 19, 2013 6:24 PMReply

    This is the year of good cinema with black leads.

  • CareyCarey | August 19, 2013 6:02 PMReply

    Tambay, this is an interesting post that gave me a big "Hmmmmm" moment.

    Maybe, given the context of this post, we should call Mr Ejiofor the great "past" man who most African Americans know little about? Well,while I discussing The Butler with my sister, I mentioned my anticipation of Steve McQueens' "12 Years". She asked who was in it. When I said Chiwetel Ejiotor, she said "who's that?". I reached in my memory banks to find a movie I thought she had seen. Bingo! I said, he was in American Gangster. BINGO!.... she thought, "oh, that guy Denzel shot in the head". Well, she was referring to Idris Elba, not Ejiotor. So, I said, "no, the guy who was driving when Denzel and they were pulled over with dope in the trunk". BINGO! "Oooooh, now I see his face". Anywho...

    While watching the trailers prior to viewing The Butler, another black face who's having a big year appeared on the screen -- 3 TIMES! Terrence Howard seems to be all over the place. He's in The Butler, he's appearing in to The Best Man Holiday and The Prisoner -- both were in the previews.

    And check this, two days ago I watched him play the lead FBI agent in Robert Redford's "The Company You Keep". AND... he was in this year's Dead Man Down. So the boy is one of the hardest working black men in the movies. However, unlike Ejiofor, who has been "playing" in the past, aside from The Butler (60's period), Terrence is generally chosen to play characters in the present. Hmmmm... wasn't there green eyed slaves? Maybe he's too pretty to play Kunta Kinte? Anywho...

    Big year for black directors seems to be this year's theme as well. Spike Lee (Old Boy), Steve McQueen (12 Years), Lee Daniels (The Butler), Antoine Fuqua (Olympus Has Fallen), Kasi Lemmons (Black Nativity)... and in the batter's box, Ava DuVernay's Martin Luther King.

    Hmmmm... that's quite a mix of styles, techniques and story-lines. But, of special note, following your lead, maybe in 2014-2015 their slate will comprise of films and TV shows set in the future? Hmmm...

    But OH HAPPY DAY! Black folks are having an amazing year in 2013.

  • No | August 19, 2013 5:39 PMReply

    It must be a slow news day... I betcha I could go through Ejiofor's IMDb profile and come across 4 films set in the present era. But what would that prove?

  • M. | August 19, 2013 5:32 PMReply

    This IS Ejiofor's year, I currently have him winning Best Actor. Yes I know, 'gasp'!

  • Andrea | September 6, 2013 3:15 PM

    You and I are here (eye to eye) on this one!!!

  • pattern | August 19, 2013 5:21 PMReply

    Slow news day

  • dee | August 20, 2013 3:49 PM


  • Peggy | August 19, 2013 4:43 PMReply

    Many people wished we didn't live in the present time. Those people are "maybe" trying to work through those issues by coming to grips with the past first. I just wish we had more American Blacks working on these films especially if it concerns our history, otherwise I have to say, our stories(Black American) are "still" not being told. No offense to Mr. Ejiofor or any others.

  • LL2 | August 19, 2013 4:25 PMReply

    Chiwetel is having an amazing year. So happy for him!

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