So the last thing I did this weekend was go out and see Red Tails for myself. I thought it was cool; not the ‘savior’ for black cinema but also definitely not anything that set ‘the movement’ back a hundred years. The box office numbers came in well, which I think was the one thing everyone who had an investment in this film really wanted in the first place.
Whether you want to point the finger at Lucas or not, one thing I will say is that it’s been awhile since I’ve seen so many people express an opinion about a black film before it was released. As I told a friend today, the ‘conversation’ this film produced has been as worthwhile as the film itself. So now that the dust has settled so to speak, where do we go from here? Let’s pick apart some of the things that came up.
‘The future of black cinema is/was at stake.’ Um, no. My cynical side has to answer this one, but (like most Hollywood movies), anything short of record breaking numbers just means we’ll eventually get back to the status quo. Which means the next ‘big budget’ Hollywood film about black folks will come out…whenever another billionaire with a heart of gold decides to finance one. If I can go full Devil’s Advocate on you, I could make the same argument about nearly every decent drama, every film with a female protagonist that isn’t a romantic comedy, and on and on. The system as it is currently setup is Franchise/Tentpole or Bust. Before the screening I went to, there were trailers for the next Tyler Perry film and Battleship. Yes, ‘You sank my Battleship!’ Battleship. It’s the world we live in.
So does that mean the audience should give up? Not at all. Actually, in some ways the game has gotten better. I remember when ‘Daughters of the Dust’ came out, I heard about for a few years before, and eventually, my public library had a copy that I was able to check out. Conversely, thanks to these here interwebs, when a black project has great word of mouth (like the Awkward Black Girl series that I was late to the party on but enjoyed), we have YouTube and KickStarter to view and support the projects we want to see almost instantly. As a result of the system going in more of a corporate direction, the next group of filmmakers are coming out of the gate saying “Eff it!” I know there’s no way you’ll develop a film like Pariah, so we’ll find our own means to make it and get it to the masses. Like everything else in life, Hollywood goes in cycles, and there are more than a few signs to suggest we’re about to have a redo of that early 90s feel: ‘We’re telling our stories for our audiences, Hollywood can make all the crap movies they want’.
So I guess we’ll all see where it goes from here. Oscar nominations come out in the morning, this discussion may continue sooner as opposed to later…