I had a brief Twitter discussion the other day in regards to Will Smith’s later feature film titled “Focus.” Based off the trailer, Smith plays some sort of con man and brings in a young woman (Margot Robbie) under his wing, who together they try to swindle the wrong guy and all hell breaks loose. Being that this is Hollywood, it seems fitting that Smith’s character and Robbie’s have some romantic dealings with each other over the course of the film.
What’s striking about this to me is that once again Will Smith, one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood, (save for a few duds) has a white woman as his romantic interest. Some of you may be reading this wondering what exactly is the problem with this in 2015? The problem is that we still see far too few examples of black men and women loving each other in major Hollywood motion pictures.
Will Smith himself lamented about this very issue 10 years ago when the film “Hitch” was released. In that film, Smith plays an elite level matchmaker who meets his equal in his female counterpart played by Eva Mendes. Smith said something along the lines that Eva Mendes was chosen as his love interest because had they cast a white woman in the role, it may not have gone over too well here in the States, and had a black woman been cast, the movie might not do well in Europe with two black leads. So the studio decided to play Solomon and chose a Latina instead.
This has been an issue time and again in Hollywood and it’s something that still persists at a time when the Oscars are as white as they’ve ever been going back to 1998. I remember Gina Prince-Bythewood mentioned that when she was originally pitching her 2014 film “Beyond The Lights” to some of the major studios, they pushed her on why did she have to have two black leads. Why couldn’t she just cast Channing Tatum in the role that ultimately went to Nate Parker?
It’s questions like these that bring me to the photo above. It’s a magazine cover from 1955 depicting Harry Belafonte and the magnificent Dorothy Dandridge. ‘When Will Hollywood Let Negroes Make Love,’ was the pertinent question at the time. 60 years later, the answers aren’t any more clear.
A few weeks ago director Gina Prince-Bythewood, penned an open letter urging audiences to see her latest film, “Beyond The Lights.” Having had the chance to view the film twice myself, I wholeheartedly agree more people should see this film.
“Beyond The Lights” stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw as pop star Noni, and Nate Parker as Kaz, the police officer who saves her life after an apparent suicide attempt. After saving her life, Noni and Kaz become close and their relationship evolves, much to the chagrin of their doting parents.
Throughout the film we see the evolution of their relationship and despite coming from two completely different worlds, we see them as just two people in love attempting to put aside the distractions.
What we really struck me with “Beyond The Lights” is that as the film progresses we see the varying layers of Noni and Kaz’s lives peel off as both are struggling to find themselves while exploring each other. Another underlying theme of the film deals with the hyper sexualization present within the music industry, specifically as it relates to female artists. “Beyond The Lights” is probably out of theaters at this point but should be coming out on Blu-Ray/DVD in February. I definitely recommend giving it a look.
2014 was a year of progress and one of resolve for me.
It was during that calendar year I really upped my camera equipment game: camera mount, overhead light, microphone, and a new tripod. On top of all that I got some editing software as well. Even picked up some books on producing in the process.
In terms of covering films and Hollywood, I was happy for Lupita Nyong’o winning an Oscar at last year’s Academy Awards. I made proud to see another woman, and former movie of the year winner on this blog — Ava DuVernay — receive critical acclaim across the board for her film “Selma.” Not to mention Gina Prince-Bythewood and her moving film, “Beyond The Lights.”
In 2014 there was the continued rise of the web series and we can began to see web success spill over into the more traditional medium of television. Issa Rae is working on a show for HBO and the creators of BlackandSexyTV are doing a show for HBO as well. TV shows like “Blackish” and “How to Get Away With Murder” showed network TV executives (again) that shows featuring characters of color can not only succeed, but thrive, especially in the realm of social media.
Despite this progress, most films released from the major studios are still overly white and male focused. That old door however is being pushed against harder and harder every year. People want to see themselves on screen, and in 2014 people of color are making that happen through many different forums. Let’s keep this going in 2015. Let us continue to get educated.