It seems like yesterday when actress Alfre Woodard delivered a solid performance as Carolyn Carmichael in the Spike Lee-produced film “Crooklyn.” Her strong-willed character ruled over her family with an iron fist and taught that the black family is sacred.
Oh man, remember movies like “The Inkwell,” “Boomerang” and “Boyz In Da Hood”? Better yet, think back to television shows such as “Living Single,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “New York Undercover” What happened?
Now, we are all forced to watch re-runs on Nick @ Nite and hope NBC plays an afternoon matinee of “Waiting To Exhale.”
There must have been a mishap within the past 10 years in the black entertainment industry.
Clearly, BET has failed us by mainly delivering music videos seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and the box office has seemed to only enlighten us with the resurgence of science fiction horror thrillers.
There was a time when the black film industry was known as the “Black Renaissance,” filled with many movers and shakers.
Filmmaker Spike Lee’s 1986 release of “She’s Gotta Have It” sparked a turning point in black filmmaking and opened the door for many other filmmakers like John Singleton and Darnell Martin to influence black culture. Many of their films paved the way for A-list actors such as Laurence Fishburne, Halle Berry, Eddie Murphy and Jada Pinkett-Smith.
But those days seem to be over and the “Black Film Renaissance” has made a rapid decline.
Just think back to Singleton’s “Boyz In Da Hood.” On the surface, the film was about a young man who lived with his father in the ghettos of California. Right?
The movie tackled social issues like the importance of safe sex, HIV awareness, higher education and violence that still affect black culture today.
The movie tactfully conveyed these problems to both young and old audiences through a movie in which many blacks could somehow relate. The result? The film will always have its rightful place in Hollywood as a black cult classic.
OK, I understand movies like “Dreamgirls” – a remake of a Broadway musical might I add – and “Something New” are geared toward the black audience, but these movies lack substance, quality and a message that surges through black culture and stands the test of time.
I know what the problem may be. It has to be the economical and political factors of the film industry that caused the decline. Yes, that’s it!
Back in the 1980s, the release of black films did more than break down color barriers, it was a movement with the purpose of opening the eyes of all people, especially to those major distribution companies that would not release or support black films.
It never was about the box office sales or the amount of Oscar or Golden Globe nominations, which seem to be at the top of everyone’s priority list. The black film was about touching those people who will take the time to watch and soak in the underlying messages in the masterpiece.
Black films such as “Roots,” “Queen” and “Amistad” reminded people of their African lineage, so they would stay grounded and true to their ancestry.
In the mid to late 90s when black films were at their peak and made it onto the big screens with “The Wood” and “The Best Man,” grossing large sales, filmmakers proved their point, right? That was when black filmmakers became comfortable and said “We have done our part. Now let’s just sit down.”
I dread watching another release of “White Chicks” or “Beauty Shop” – black films thrown together in order to garner huge profits without a true message or foundation. Give me a movie with substance that tackles pertinent issues within our society. This is a cry for help.
We need it now more than ever!
Nyerere Davidson is a 21-year old Junior public relations student from Milwaukee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.