Monday, September 21, 2009

Where Have All The Black Films Gone???

You are sitting back watching T.V. and the next commercial that comes on tells the story of a young entrepreneurial, upwardly mobile couple of best friends who along the road to success in the music business realize their love for each other, despite the fact they are both romantically involved. This feature film isn't starring Jennifer Aniston or Shia Labeouf. It is an ensemble cast that just so happens to feature African-American actors and actresses. The movie is Brown Sugar and the year is 2002. Taye Diggs and Saana Lathan are the chief characters in this romantic comedy that also featured the thespian talents of Mos Def, Boris Kodjo, Nicole Ari Parker and Queen Latifah. This masterfully written screenplay not only told the age-old story of friends-turned lovers, but also deftly revealed the love affair of young black Americans with the cultural explosion that is Hip-Hop. Not only was this movie a fresh take on the romantic comedy, it was a positive display of African-Americans in the new millennium landscape.

Fast forward to 2009 and the idea of a Black Movie either involves a straight-to-DVD opus about a hair salon or an over the top big budget film prominently centered around an adult black male dressed in drag as a stereotypical grandmother. Gone are the days where we had multiple black films in the movie theater at the same time. Gone are the days of vivid and poignant portrayals of inner city life such as Menace II Society and clever and witty depictions of love and career in classics such as Boomerang. Now it seems that the Black Movie has lost its stance in the American market place, unless it has the Tyler Perry stamp on the film reel. I am not discrediting the work of Perry and the place that his films hold in the history and legacy of Black filmmaking, but the void in black films is painfully apparent when the marketplace has been reduced to merely a quarterly dose of Madea. Spike Lee, The Hughes Brothers, Malcolm Lee, Hype Williams, Rick Famuyiwa and the list goes on and on. These Black screen writers, directors and producers have injected popular thought, pride and entertainment into the theaters and homes of America through their timeless films and my only question is why has the production ceased?

Has Hollywood official done to the movie industry what has been done to the television realm - A virtual Blackout? I for one miss having a Black film on my list of must see movies each month and as much as Perry has his place in Hollywood and the history books for changing the game, I want that old thing back. I want those films that covered a diversity of distinctly African-American issues in a variety of landscapes and societal dialects. Judging solely by Madea's constant record breaking box office numbers, there is a wide demand for films that explore the Black American experience. So I am left to wonder, where have all the Black Films Gone...