What film with a black lead hit number 1 at the US Box Office? Oh, and didn’t star Denzel Washington or Eddie Murphy?
Well, this feature by Lee Daniels, coming soon after the truly amazing Precious will give proof to the Studios that this kind of intelligent cinema can be a hit and an investment in black filmmakers is an important step for everyone involved.
Let’s hope the floodgates truly open up and the UK follows suit.
I am a big fan of Spike Lee and totally understand the constant battles he has to take in trying to get his films to screen but his latest attempt in trying (and winning) in the crowd funding battle leaves me in two minds on the overall landscape.
For Mr. Lee, rather than go hat in hand to the studios he can make his films sans interference and get his vision out to the public faster with total freedom for the kinds of stories he does. This is a plus as i don’t think Do The Right Thing would get the green light today and films such as this need to be made. Also to mention that Spike has been honest about his intentions including the obvious question, why crowdfund when he is rich and successful already? Read his page to get the answers.
I feel the downside is that the studios/ Distributers will now wait for these established filmmakers to get their films crowd sourced and then do a ‘Negative Pickup’ and push it to market without having put up any initial outlay at the beginning. Esentially the fast money to production with a slight feeling that the entire enterprise is being hijacked. Where does the money go?
That said, i am in Spike Lee’s corner as he deserves the money and it’s better that it goes to him than a Michael Bay-esque mindless travesty.
……And what the UK can learn
I read a recent New York Times article where in 2013 no less that 13 films made by and starring black talent are coming to a cinema near you. It doesn’t sound like a lot but is a significant improvement and no longer a marginalized festival friendly niche playing in small markets with the only mainstream fare being serviced by Eddie Murphy, Spike Lee and Denzel Washington among the steady few. Hopefully you will longer get a middle-aged white women directing such trash as Driving Miss Racism or a return to 70 exploitative Blaxploitation films.
Why are the studios suddenly making a judgment call that there is a wider (read: profitable) market for these films? It has to be the recent successes of the lowbrow but money making Tyler Perry franchise among others that has made them look closer.
The point I am making is that producers in the UK readily assume there is no long-term market to cater to Black and Asian audiences and such cinematic hits as Bend it Like Beckham and Kidulthood are seen as exceptions to a rule. Their way of thinking is that making similar themed films will not amount to any large box office returns in their eyes to warrant the investment in talent. The ones that are released and do dismal box office are generally down to the fact that they are poorly made and deserve to be on the Morrissons 99p aisle and dare I even mention any of them. Do people read scripts anymore? I have personally read scripts written by two Asian talents that are good as anything that has come out.
Now, I have a script that I am writing that has an Asian and British Lead. Even though the story is predominantly about the Asian lad I have to have an equally large contribution of his friend so it is considered a saleable commodity. Bend It and East is East is East applied the same rule. This does make sense so the British audience has somebody to connect with. We will neglect to mention Goodness Gracious Me, which had very few white characters and was a cultural phenomenon without conforming to these rules.
There is always a market for a good story. The Americans are seeing that but when will the UK look at it in the same way?