Here’s your daily 12 Years A Slave piece for today.
To answer the question, I don’t see why
not. And I have a theory why it will. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
In today’s New York Times, there’s an article on the “International Fate of 12 Years,” or in other words, will people in Iceland, Italy and Romania go see the film?
The article brings up the old canard, which Andre Seewood and S&A collectively have constantly disputed on this site, that black films don’t sell overseas, despite what the Times article says; that “the experiences of black Americans may be seen as too remote by audiences in countries that have little cultural connection to the subject matter.”
Of course there was Django Unchained, which made over $425 million worldwide, over 60% of that from foreign countries. But the Times attributed that to the fact that, it was an action film, a genre for which there is always a huge worldwide audience, and because of the massive popularity worldwide of Quentin Tarantino’s movies.
However, to counter the idea that black films don’t sell, the article does also quote Stuart Ford, who is chief executive of IM Global, which is handling foreign sales rights to Lee Daniels’ The Butler, who says that “Despite the perceived wisdom that African-American films don’t travel, a great movie is a great movie, and great movies are at a premium right now.”
And according to Ford, The Butler is performing “solidly” overseas, and will rake in as much as $50 million to add to its almost $115 million take so far here in the U.S.
And Victor Loewy, who was the former chief executive at Alliance Films, and who bought the British distribution rights for the film, said “It’s guaranteed 100 percent to perform in in the United Kingdom… and territories like Australia.”
So what is this about black films not selling overseas?
And keep in mind that 12 Year’s very modest production budget
of $20 million (less than what it cost to make The Butler) is guaranteed to ensure that the film will
make a sizable profit when you compare what the film will make domestically and in foreign countries.
In addition, producer Stephanie Allain believes that there definitely is a market for black film overseas if the studios were just willing to market them as they do with other films: “If studios are willing to spend the money to build awareness for black movie stars and directors, black American film culture will travel.”
Her comments remind me of what Wesley Snipes said years ago, that he actually had believed that black movie stars had no following in foreign markets until his Blade films were released there, and he was overwhelmed by the massive response and popularity of the films, and realized that that he had a worldwide fan base.
But there’s another reason why I predict 12 Years will do well overseas, and that’s because foreign audiences love any film that makes America look bad. And, boy, does 12 Years do that.
Now of course I don’t need to tell you that Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Australia, Belgium, Brazil and many other countries have their own ugly and brutal history of slavery and oppression against black people and other people of color. But somehow, they still feel that they are morally superior to the depraved and hedonistic United States.
So they can watch 12 Years and think to themselves: “What a degenerate, sick bunch of people. Why, we would never do that here. We’re too cultured and civilized.”