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'Why Can't Black Filmmakers Make...?' And Other Worrisome Questions About Black Filmmakers

Shadow and Act By Courtney | Shadow and Act November 8, 2012 at 1:06PM

This is something I've been thinking about lately and how I would approach it on this blog; I wanted to think about it some more to properly gather my thoughts, but I reached the conclusion that I'd just put it out there and see what kind of discussion follows.
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Eric Deggans

This is something I've been thinking about lately and how I would approach it on this blog; I wanted to think about it some more to properly gather my thoughts, but I reached the conclusion that I'd just put it out there and see what kind of discussion follows.

Often when we post what we (and other people who read this blog) consider very good films about black people, but that are written and directed by non-black filmmakers (usually white filmmakers), or films in genres that black filmmakers don't dabble in as much as others (like fantasy, sci-fi, horror, speculative fiction, etc), again, directed by non-black filmmakers, there's almost always inevitably a comment or two (or more) asking why we (black people, specifically black filmmakers) can't make films like those; and then the conversation expands, and the general feeling I get from them suggests that many of us don't think black filmmakers are capable of making really great films, or films that are in genres other than the usual dramas and comedies. 

That bothers me, because it implies that there's something wrong with us and our abilities, or that there's some kind of inferiority in black film talent, or that we're just not as creative when it comes to telling stories on film; and there's often a shock or surprise when we make *superb* cinema, or genre films with black people in them (as in, wow, I can't believe a black filmmaker made that; or I've even read some people say that they assumed a filmmaker wasn't black when a certain kind of film is posted on this site).

I feel like the wrong questions are being asked in those instances. It's unsettling to think that some of us believe that the same race of people who begat the many music styles celebrated globally today, as well as dance, and who come from the tradition of the griot, having written a long history of great novels, and continue to produce great literary work, telling wonderfully rich and varied stories about us, all over the world, and in various eras (in some cases, alternate universes, and timelines), are, for some reason, limited or even inept, when it comes to cinema.

I think the question to ask, or the discussions to have should focus on what forces might be getting in the way of that great, imaginative, space opera starring black people; or why none of Octavia Butler's novels has ever made it to the the big screen; and more.

As for the "quality' issue, there are lots of black filmmakers making technically sound films; or what you call "quality" films. We write about them on this site regularly. The films may not immediately appeal to you, but you might want to give some of those films and filmmakers a closer look, even if you don't care for the stories they are telling. They may not all be as prolific as Tyler Perry, but they're working, often in silence. 

But I'm interested in reading what you guys think about what I'm saying here. Does anyone out there actually, truly believe that black filmmakers are somehow "behind" or have some talent deficiency that's getting in the way? Or that black filmmakers aren't imaginative or creative enough to think up some fantastical idea of a story and put in on film?

And for all you black filmmakers out there, how do you react or respond to this?

Am I making sense? I hope so. I'm working this through... maybe you can help.


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