Disclaimer: I want to be sure folks understand that my overview of Black Film history is extremely brief here and I do not profess to be a film history guru. I will fully admit that many of the things stated here are generalized for the sake of brevity, and that an entire book could be written on this subject. I simply tackled it for the big picture affect. This idea was sparked from my last entry regarding my review of Red Tails, and the ensuing clamor I saw happening the weekend it premiered. Enjoy.
George Lucas appeared in various places to promote Red Tails, a film paying homage to the Tuskegee Airmen. In a viral explosion, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and various other media quoted Lucas on how he couldn’t get financial backing from major studios for Red Tails because of its all Black cast. In the minds of major film studio execs, an all Black cast for any story would not generate enough sales domestically or internationally. Lucas shared the logic of the execs with blunt terms, and said that he put $58 million of his own money to distribute the film. Lucas had confirmed the racism within the Hollywood system, and it became a rally cry to support Red Tails with its dollars to disprove “the suits”. Various other Black writers and bloggers were skeptical as to why they should see the film, even using Lucas’ interracial relationship as fodder for their criticism. Nevertheless, the primary voices seemed to shout, “We have to show Hollywood that Blacks have a voice! If we don’t support this with our money, we can say goodbye to high budgeted, good quality films!” It was a call to action to prove the power of the Black audience and their desire for positive portrayals, that all black casts were just as equal to the primarily all White films distributed, as well as pay homage to these Black war heroes. If people didn’t see the film, it would prove the studios right and we would pretty much say goodbye to all Black films. One must ask, is Black cinema truly in danger of extinction? Through a brief look at Black film history we see that if extinction were possible, it would be less about the restrictions from major studios and more about the Black community that has diversified in many directions.
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