movies

“Yikes! I think I’m in over my head.” Or…making your first movie.

Camera and Laptop

by

Sheree L. Ross @womenfilmofcolr

Sheree L. Ross

November 14, 2017

So you we wake up one morning from a fevered dream with what seems like a brilliant idea, “I want to make a movie”. And then miracle of miracles, somehow every day you move forward on it. It actually starts to take shape as you call in favors from friends, even the ones from first grade. Everyday it looks more and more like you are really going to make this movie. You do all of the steps, which include writing the most brilliant script ever written. How do you know? Because all of your friends and family who you let read it, say so. You even go one step further and actually let people who know what they are talking about (because you found a writing group in your town) read it and they give you feedback that is sometimes painful (yeah, you cried once…maybe more than once), but you listen, do the adjustments, write a few more drafts – and now you have a solid working script.

And even though you’ve never directed anything before in your life you decide that you are going to be the director. You want to be an Auteur and this film will be your first shot across the bow. But one thing you didn’t know about yourself is that you’re not much for the tiny details and after two days of doing the stuff good producers can do in their sleep you put an ad on Craigslist and take the first person that will call you back.

At this point, of course, you don’t have any money but somehow they’re willing to work with you and wait until you’re able to raise some. And for the first month or so they’re completely on board and you get through most of pre-production. You get casting done, you find locations, and you put together a pretty solid crew. You are feeling great. Now you are three weeks out before you shoot and suddenly the producer gets a gig that will actually pay them their rate and they quit. But hell, you’ve got this. You’ve got everything in place…who needs a producer anyway? You can just add this as another feather in your cap. You’re sure now that you can direct and produce this script better than anybody because you know it better than anybody. You still don’t have enough money but you are moving forward as if you do as…Thanksgiving approaches. And what luck, your favorite aunt – who loves movies – overhears that you are doing a film and says she’ll give you the rest of the money. What a relief! But a week out you call her and she doesn’t remember the promise, blaming it on the several glasses of wine she had before dinner was served.

Now you’re a week out and everybody wants something. The art department is calling you to try to figure out how to do your sets, the wardrobe and prop people need to start shopping. And you get a text from one of your actors asking about rehearsals and blocking. It’s too late to crowdfund, you didn’t even know you should do a rehearsal, and one of the locations that you were promised just fell through. The next night you wake from another fevered dream with a thought that could possibly get you disowned. You have a savings that your parents set up for you with just enough to get the movie shot and you’ll have to edit it yourself. After thinking about the pros and cons of this conversation at Christmas next week, you decide to go ahead and do it.

Yay! You are making your first movie, congratulations! Now this is just one example of how crazy this process can be, and this should in no way stop you from making your first film. If you are in the middle of this process I hope this makes you feel better about what you may be going through right now. If you’ve already finished your first film (web series, short, etc) I hope it made you smile. Filmmaking is not for the faint of heart, and many filmmakers struggle their first time out (and even the second and third time before they find a rhythm). There is no right or wrong way to make a film, web series, or short, etc. If you think you’re in over your head but you keep moving forward and you keep focused on your idea, as well as communicate with everybody as often as possible…more times than not, no matter how crappy things might get, the people that you have brought on board to help you will do their best to help you see your vision come true. People are more forgiving and flexible than you might think, as long as you are honest with them.

The other advice I’d offer is don’t lie about paying people. If you intend to pay people and then your money falls through, be honest about it. You may lose half of your cast and crew (maybe all!) but you’ll maintain your reputation and this industry is smaller than you might imagine. Another bit of advice is that though it is not impossible to produce, direct, and act in your first movie (in fact it might be wise to do so for your first project, you will learn a whole bunch) don’t spend a lot of money on the project. Let this be an experiment that you can share with your family and friends, and maybe put up on YouTube. But the chances that you will be able to sell it or make your money back might be very low so let it be an opportunity to learn. Ultimately, if you’re new to this make a short film. Something that doesn’t cost you over $1000. Maybe you can engage some of your friends over the weekend and feed them for pay. Bill Murray once said (highly paraphrased) that no matter how crappy the movie is, the fact that it has made it into some form of watchable content is a miracle and should be appreciated as such because it takes so many people to make a movie. It can sometimes feels like you’re drowning (you’re not). It’s a lot of balls to keep up in the air no matter how much money you have (or don’t). So learn from your mistakes, learn from your successes, and be proud of whatever you create. And most of all, please have fun. Why do it otherwise? Because it’s just a step in a long line of many steps that will culminate into being your career.

 

Advertisements

BlackStar Film Festival

…celebrates filmmakers of color

Six years after filmmaker and curator Maori Holmes started the BlackStar Film Festival as an ad hoc film club for a few friends, the annual event has grown into one of Philly’s most significant showcases of indie films.

Dubbed “the Black Sundance” by Ebony magazine, the four-day celebration of films by men and women of color includes screenings of 12 features and more than 40 shorts — including half a dozen films by local directors — at International House in University City from Thursday, Aug. 3, through Sunday, Aug. 6.

Most screenings include a Q&A session with the filmmakers, who also will be on hand for a panel discussion, several receptions, and even a dance party at various venues in or near University City.

“I’m especially happy that this year we have so many world premieres,” said Holmes, who is director of public engagement at the Institute of Contemporary Art and has curated film programs at Painted Bride Art Center, Scribe Video Center, and Swarthmore College.

Six of the 12 features and more than a dozen shorts will be screened for the first time ever.

“And I’m proud that [Selma director] Ava DuVernay has found time to be with us this year.”

DuVernay, whose film 13th was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary feature, will appear Saturday night to receive the fest’s BlackStar Award.

‘It’s gratifying to see that we have a growing reputation in the industry,” Holmes said.

“I don’t want to sound corny but we got here because we led by intention and not because we’ve been chasing things simply because they are glittery or high profile.”

This year, the festival also includes a comprehensive youth program, a series of screenings of films by directors between the ages of 11 and 23.

Revisiting a revolutionary film

Among this year’s highlights will be a repertory screening of Wilmington 10 — USA 10,000, a 1979 documentary by Haitian-born activist-artist Haile Gerima.

Shot guerilla-style on a shoestring budget, Gerima’s controversial film reexamines the case of the Wilmington Ten, a group of nine men and one woman convicted of arson and conspiracy in 1971 in Wilmington, N.C.

“It will be the first time we will show an actual film print” as opposed to a digital file, Holmes said.

Gerima, 71, who will be unable to attend the screening, said in a phone interview he’s excited that his film, which has never been distributed for the home-entertainment market, has piqued renewed interest.

“It was shown recently in Paris at a retrospective of my work,” said the director, who is best known for his 1993 feature Sankofa, a drama about a narcissistic model who is transported back in time to a plantation in the West Indies, where she has to live the life of an African slave.

“[Wilmington 10] was shown recently at a retrospective of my work in Paris,” he said. “And I think more than anything, people were impressed that the people who speak up in the film about the struggle African Americans have had in America weren’t professors or officials but ordinary people.”

Gerima’s film will screen at 1:15 p.m. Thursday.

Dramatic politics and sexy comedies

Other notable entries this year include Hello Cupid: Farrah, a feature-length spin-off of the popular web series Hello Cupid from Black & Sexy TV cofounders Dennis Dortch, Tina Cerin and Numa Perrier.

“Black & Sexy TV started out as a YouTube channel,” said Perrier, 36, who will attend the screening at 9:45 p.m. Friday.

“Now we’re a full subscription service with original programming, a a black-owned and black-operated network that tells black stories.”

The film stars Gabrielle Maiden (Sexless) as “a very passive, but eccentric virgin,” Perrier said, “who hasn’t learned really to stand up for herself and who doesn’t know what she wants from life.”

Nor, it seems, does the twentysomething heroine know if she wants to have sex with men or women.

Her life is turned upside down when she joins an online dating site.

“It’s a coming-of-age story,” Perrier said. “We follow her story as she goes from being a virgin to dating a variety of men and women, and as she gets a crash course on dating in the modern world.”

Philadelphia voices

Philly filmmakers represented at BlackStar this year include M. Asli Dukan, writer-director of the short Resistance, the Battle of Philadelphia (Prologue), the first part of a web series set in West Philly starring local stage actor Jennifer Kidwell.

“I have been part taking part in activities for social justice and resistance to police violence for years and I’ve been thinking about who to make a film about” the topic, said Dukan, who grew up in Harlem. “I usually work in speculative fiction, horror, fantasy, and science-fiction. I came up with this story set in the future that asks what would police brutality might look like in the future.”

The short is one of six episodes that will follow the experiences of different characters in West Philly as they have confrontations with authority, Dukan said.

The film will screen as part of a shorts program at noon Saturday.

Not everything at BlackStar will be so heavy or so political.

On the comic side, there’s Tales From Shaolin: Pt 1 “Shakey Dog”, which will be shown as part of the same shorts program.

The first part of a planned series of shorts inspired by hip-hop superstars the Wu Tang Clan, the story is the brainchild of director Louis Moore, a Philly native, and writer J. Michael Neal, who grew up in Camden.

“All the films will pay homage to the Wu Tang Clan, and each will be based on different members” of the group, said Moore.

The first part is inspired by Wu Tang’s Ghostface Killah.

“We take the lyrics to their songs and reinterpret them through little stories,” said Moore, who learned the craft at Los Angeles Film School.

The film, he said, “is a comedy about a drug heist gone horribly wrong. … Ghostface takes along a young accomplice and things take a comic turn a that will be totally unexpected to both Ghostface and the audience.”

The BlackStar Film Festival

Thursday, Aug. 3 through Sunday Aug. 6 in University City. Most screenings will be at International House, 38th and Chestnut Streets.
Tickets: All-access pass: $150. Single tickets: $12; $8 students and seniors.
Information:

267-603-2755, blackstarfest.org.

SOURCE

84 Films By and About Women of Color

… Courtesy of Ava DuVernay and the Good People of Twitter

If you were on Twitter recently, you might have seen
director Ava DuVernay’s clever call to social media to name films with “black,
brown, native or Asian women leads” which were also directed by women.

Though it seems like common sense that these films exist,
the question proved to be a serious challenge for Twitter, with many listing
the same handful of titles.

The clear point is that there are too few films that fit the
above criteria, and that those of us claiming to support diversity in
entertainment should do our part to change that. All of this helps bolster the
case for DuVernay’s AFFRM + Array
Releasing
, which distributes black films and is in the midst of an annual
membership drive.

With efforts like AFFRM, the ACLU’s
push for an investigation into Hollywood’s hiring practices
and other recent
initiatives for the inclusion of women and diverse voices in film, change
appears to be on the horizon.

In the meantime, here’s a list of the films that Twitter
came up with starring women of color and helmed by women directors. When
cross-referenced with data sources from The Black
List
, Shadow
& Act
and others, there were about 85 titles that fit the bill.

Find them below. Watch, enjoy and most importantly, support!

“35 Shots of Rum” by
Claire Denis (2008)

“A Different Image” by
Alile Sharon Larkin (1982)

“A Girl Walks Home Alone at
Night” by Ana Lily Amirpour (2014)

“Advantageous” by
Jennifer Phang (2015)

“Ala Modalaindi” by
Nandini Bv Reddy (2011)

“All About You” by
Christine Swanson (2001)

“Alma’s Rainbow” by
Ayoka Chenzira (1994)

“Appropriate Behavior”
by Desiree Akhavan (2014)

“B For Boy” by Chika
Anadu (2013)

“Bande de Filles/Girlhood”
by Céline Sciamma (2014)

“Belle” by Amma Asante
(2013)

“Bend it Like Beckham”
by Gurinder Chadha (2002)

“Bessie” by Dee Rees
(2015)

“Beyond the Lights” by
Gina Prince-Bythewood (2014)

“Bhaji on the Beach” by
Gurinder Chadha (1993)

“Caramel” by Nadine
Labaki  (2007)

“Circumstance” by Maryam
Keshavarz (2011)

“Civil Brand” by Neema
Barnette (2002)

“Compensation” by
Zeinabu irene Davis (1999)

“Daughters of the Dust”
by Julie Dash (1991)

“Double Happiness ” by
Mina Shum (1994)

“Down in the Delta” by Maya
Angelou (1998)

“Drylongso” by Cauleen
Smith (1988)

“Earth” by Deepa Mehta
(1998)

“Elza” by Mariette
Monpierre (2011)

“Endless Dreams” by
Susan Youssef (2009

“Eve’s Bayou” by Kasi
Lemmons (1997)

“Fire” by Deepa Mehta
(1996)

“Frida” by Julie Taymor
(2002)

“Girl in Progress” by
Patricia Riggen (2012)

“Girlfight” by Karyn
Kusama (2000)

“Habibi Rasak Kharban”
by Susan Youssef (2011)

“Hiss Dokhtarha Faryad
Nemizanand (Hush! Girls Don’t Scream)” by Pouran Derahkandeh (2013)

“Honeytrap” by Rebecca
Johnson (2014)

“I Like It Like That” by
Darnell Martin (1994)

“I Will Follow” by Ava
DuVernay (2010

“In Between Days” by
So-yong Kim (2006)

“Introducing Dorothy
Dandridge” by Martha Coolidge (1999)

“It’s a Wonderful
Afterlife” by Gurinder Chadha (2010)

“Jumpin Jack Flash” by
Penny Marshall (1986)

“Just Another Girl on the
IRT” by Leslie Harris (1992)

“Just Wright” by Sanaa
Hamri (2010)

“Kama Sutra” by Mira
Nair (1996)

“Losing Ground” by
Kathleen Collins (1982)

“Love & Basketball”
by Gina Prince-Bythewood (2000)

“Luck by Chance” by Zoya
Akhtar (2009)

“Mi Vida Loca” by
Allison Anders (1993)

“Middle of Nowhere” by
Ava DuVernay (2012)

“Mississippi Damned” by
Tina Mabry (2009)

“Mississippi Masala” by
Mira Nair (1991)

“Mixing Nia” by Alison
Swan (1998)

“Monsoon Wedding” by Mira
Nair (2001)

“Mosquita y Mari” by
Aurora Guerrero (2012)

“Na-moo-eobs-neun san
(Treeless Mountain)” by So-yong Kim (2008)

“Night Catches Us” by
Tanya Hamilton (2010)

“Pariah” by Dee Rees
(2011)

“Picture Bride” by Kayo
Hatta (1994)

“Rain” by Maria Govan (2008)

“Real Women Have Curves”
by Patricia Cardoso (2002)

“Saving Face” by Alice
Wu (2004)

“Second Coming” by
Debbie Tucker Green (2014)

“Something Necessary” by
Judy Kibinge (2013)

“Something New” by Sanaa
Hamri (2006)

“Still the Water” by
Naomi Kawase  (2014)

“Stranger Inside” by
Cheryl Dunye (2001)

“Sugar Cane Alley/Black Shack
Alley” by Euzhan Palcy (1983)

“The Kite” by Randa
Chahal Sabag (2003)

“The Rich Man’s Wife” by
Amy Holden Jones (1996)

“The Secret Life of
Bees” by Gina Prince-Bythewood (2008)

“The Silence of the
Palace” by Moufida Tlatli (1994)

“The Watermelon Woman”
by Cheryl Dunye (1996)

“The Women of Brewster
Place” by Donna Deitch (1989)

“Their Eyes Were Watching
God” by Darnell Martin (2005)

“Things We Lost in the
Fire” by Susanne Bier  (2007)

“Wadjda” by Haifaa
Al-Mansour (2012)

“Water” by Deepa Mehta
(2005)

“Whale Rider” by Niki
Caro  (2002)

“What’s Cooking?” by
Gurinder Chadha (2000)

“Where Do We Go Now?” by
Nadine Labaki  (2011)

“Whitney” by Angela Bassett
(2015)

“Woman Thou Art Loosed: On
The 7th Day” by Neema Barnette (2012)

“Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down
Girl” by Joan Chen (1998)

“Yelling to the Sky” by
Victoria Mahoney (2011)

“Young and Wild” by
Marialy Rivas (2012)

What are your favorite films that tell the stories of women of color, which are also directed by women?

jai tiggett is a
writer, content creator and curator. Find her at jaitiggett.com

SOURCE

Disrupting Hollywood

by Sheree L. Ross

Over a hundred thousand scripts will be written in 2017, as well as tens of thousands of independent films made. Hundreds of contests will be entered and most filmmakers will not move very far towards their goal of a distribution deal or theatrical release.
What once seemed like the “impossible dream” has now almost become a thing of the past.  Yet, so many filmmakers go forward as they make their films like the magical payday myths of the industry still, if ever existed.
Most distribution deals and all of Hollywood have created an accounting system where only they get paid and the creative winds up with accolades (hopefully) but empty pockets. Crowdfunding has been a big move forward to help mitigate the ever shrinking traditional access to funds but after a film is made the blue print to a sustainable business model is rarely understood. It is especially hard for women and women filmmakers of color, where financing a film can be a Herculean event – as well as finding access to, and building an audience large enough to not only pay cast, crew, and themselves but make enough to distribute it and then do it all over again.
The industry has changed even for Hollywood. This change began decades ago but was solidified when the markets crashed in 2008, and demystified with access unprecedented with digital cameras, the internet, and streaming platforms. This is a new and ever more inclusive frontier yet so many indie filmmakers still structure their business model like it’s the 1970’s – still believing in the big payoff yet never realizing that filmmakers getting paid on the net receipts has been an inside myth perpetuated by industry media to entertain the public and string along hopeful filmmakers since time began.
The power of the industry is shifting but the new paradigm must be created by the independent filmmakers themselves. Big business has always had too much of a say and taken all of the profits. We, as creatives, are the reason they have built fortunes, mostly because we have wanted others to take care of the business while we concentrate on the creative. The other truth of many creatives is we haven’t developed the emotional and mental stamina for the business side of our filmmaking and have often blindly handed the responsibility over to others. This is a wake up call to build that muscle and take full control of our careers and creations. Owning our IP and figuring out how to distribute in a way that puts the rewards back into our own business is key to growing and maintaining a healthy and striving independent film ecosystem for all of us.

Black Panther Footage Reveals the Ferocious Female Warriors

…of Wakanda

April 18, 2017 12:13 pm

Update 7:35 E.T.: A Marvel representative reached out to say that the nature of the relationship between Danai Gurira’s Okoye and Florence Kasumba‘s Ayo in Black Panther is not a romantic one and that specific love storyline from the comic World of Wakanda was not used as a source.

Whether or not he had the approval of Disney when he did so, Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon caused quite a stir in the April issue of Attitude—both of hopeful expectations and of conservative pushback—when he touted Josh Gad’s character LeFou and his “exclusively gay moment.” Though Condon surely had his heart in the right place, the phrase overpromised on what the film ultimately underdelivered: the moment comes when LeFou ends the movie by dancing, briefly with a man. O.K. However, early footage of Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther screened for journalists Monday night movie promises much more.

The scene in question features Walking Dead star Danai Gurira dancing on a boat with her fellow Dora Milaje, i.e., Black Panther’s personal female bodyguards. These women—first introduced to moviegoers in Captain America: Civil War— are the warriors who watch over Chadwick Boseman’s royal family. In Civil War, Uganda-born actress Florence Kasumba made an instant impression on audiences as one member of the select group when she curtly ordered Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow to “move” aside for T’Challa.

In the rough cut of this Black Panther scene, we see Gurira’s Okoye and Kasumba’s Ayo swaying rhythmically back in formation with the rest of their team. Okoye eyes Ayo flirtatiously for a long time as the camera pans in on them. Eventually, she says, appreciatively and appraisingly, “You look good.” Ayo responds in kind. Okoye grins and replies, “I know.”

This quick moment between two warrior women on their way to T’Challa’s coronation leans into a current very popular run of the Black Panther comic. A 2016 spin-off called World of Wakanda by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, and Yona Harvey is all about the relationship between two members of the Dora Milaje. The official description:

A Wakandan love story—its tenderness matched only by its brutality.

You know them now as The Midnight Angels, but in this story they are

just Ayo and Aneka, young women recruited to become Dora Milaje, an

elite task force trained to protect the crown at all costs. What happens when your nation needs your hearts

and minds, but you already gave them to each other?

Other footage from the film screened early for reporters centers more closely on T’Challa, including scenes of a traditional and elaborate Wakandan ceremony, and a shoot-out in a South Korea casino featuring Andy Serkis’s Claw and Martin Freeman’s Everett K. Ross. For fans of Lupita Nyong’o, there was also a pair of scenes showing her character dancing (she gets her own boat) and taking out several armed guards.

The costumes in Black Panther—especially the ones worn by the Dora Milaje—are truly dazzling, with a lot of bright colors and elaborate patterns. Angela Bassett, as T’Challa’s mother and Queen of Wakanda, sports a jaw-dropping coiffure of snow-white dreadlocks. According to the production team, director Ryan Coogler was interested in giving Black Panther—the star of which debuted in Civil War—an updated look that was more faithful to the current run of comics. And though Marvel didn’t screen any footage of Michael B. Jordan in costume—he’s playing villainous Erik Killmonger—concept art tacked to the Marvel office walls revealed a fearsome mask compete with horns and mane.

In other words: even if Marvel and superhero fatigue is setting in, rest assured that Black Panther isn’t going to look like anything you’ve seen from them before.

Full Screen

16

See the Tony-Nominated Costumes from Eclipsed and the Sketches that Inspired Them

Photo: Left, courtesy of Clint Ramos; Right, courtesy of Joan Marcus.

Will ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Be the Last Racially Insensitive Blockbuster?

Between the phenomenal success of “Get Out” and the failure of “Ghost in the Shell,” might Hollywood finally wise up?

Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell

“Ghost in the Shell”

Between the phenomenal success of “Get Out,” the imminent next chapter of the emphatically diverse “Fast and the Furious” franchise, and the recent failure of “Ghost in the Shell,” (among other examples), is there genuine reason to hope that racially insensitive blockbusters might soon become a thing of the past?

Vadim Rizov (@vrizov), Filmmaker Magazine

I think a lot about Bilge Ebiri’s 2013 piece on how the “Fast & Furious” franchise blew up by self-consciously becoming “diverse.” The short takeaway: Universal execs didn’t throw together a super-diverse cast out of the goodness of their progressive hearts, but out of a keen awareness that targeting multipole, oft-underserved demographics was a key, underexploited pathway to making much more money. It’s long been reported that there’s a big gap between onscreen representation and the audiences showing up: Latinos are the biggest moviegoers in the US, which you wouldn’t guess from the number (or lack thereof) of prominently cast Latinos onscreen.

So the examples cited are, sure, apposite, but what we’re really talking about here are two examples of black filmmakers breaking through plus one self-consciously “inclusive” blockbuster — hardly a monster wave, and anyone with a memory of how the late ’80s wave of black filmmakers ground to a halt after a while should be wary that non-white filmmakers are now, finally, about to become an integral part of the Hollywood apparatus, with attendant changes in onscreen diversity to follow; all it takes is one flop for the machine to change its mind (which is admittedly very stupid). So I’m sadly wary that we’re on the way to a more inclusive onscreen future.

READ MORE: ‘Ghost In The Shell’ Anime Director Defends Scarlett Johansson’s Casting

Charles Bramesco (@intothecrevasse), Freelance for Vulture, Nylon, the Guardian

While it would certainly be nice if Hollywood got its shit together and stopped casting white people in nonwhite roles, and while I agree that there have been tiny incremental decreases in that practice year by year, I fear it’ll be a long time until it become a complete thing of the past. You trace a positive trend through “Get Out,” “Moonlight,” and “Fastly Furious 8: Fambly Matters,” but we could just as easily draw a less heartening conclusion from a glance at the next few months. By the end of June, we’ll have a film in which Guatemalan-born Oscar Isaac plays Armenian, something called “How to Be a Latin Lover” (gulp) from my beloved Ken Marino, and loads of all-white studio projects.

Things are definitely better now than they were as recently as 2014, but until people of color have been installed in key decision making positions, I fear a meaningful step forward will be impossible.

The Fate of the Furious Fast 8 Vin Diesel

Manuela Lazic (@ManiLazic), Freelance for Little White Lies, The Film Stage

In our frequent tearful and angry comments against the big monster that is Hollywood, we critics often fail to recognise this industry’s undeniable complexity. Somewhat simultaneously, progress seems always on the cusp of realisation, while signs of Hollywood’s backward ideas about race and identity continue to surface in countless new films, especially blockbusters. In theatres this weekend, a brave spectator — or one into cognitive dissonance — can have herself a double-bill of the ground-breaking “Get Out” and the whitewashed “Ghost in the Shell” remake. Hollywood is a messy place.

Nevertheless, “Moonlight”’s exhilarating critical triumph (with a gobsmacking twist ending on Oscars night) and “Get Out”’s massive commercial success recently may make “Ghost in the Shell” seem like an anomaly, a last misjudged attempt by Hollywood to pursue its long-held tradition of reappropriation and flattening out of racial difference in favour of the majority. It almost feels like real change is taking place, which can explain the vigorousness of the outcry against “Ghost.” Yet while evidently justified, this violent dismissal also risks making us forget about the similar and in fact not so distant scandal of “Doctor Strange,” which followed many others. Despite all the anger that these previous films generated, such attitudes evidently persist.

Hollywood nonetheless always tries to give its audience what it wants, if only because this strategy makes economical sense. And this explains the very existence of a “Ghost in the Shell” remake: the original regained popularity in recent years by becoming more available to Occidental spectators and thanks to the surge of interest in anime. But as the casting of Scarlett Johansson blatantly reveals, Hollywood is a clumsy pleaser. It is willing to tap into different stories, but cannot fully commit to their specificity. In some cases, as with the casting of Tilda Swinton as “the Ancient One” in “Doctor Strange,” traces of Orientalism even emerge, where Asian cultures are not only populated with white people, but also made to look inaccessible, exotic, magical and even dangerous.

Perhaps the solution to Hollywood’s racial problem lies in this very desire to please: critics, and social media users in general, might have the power to guide the big studios on their tedious path to sensitive representation. Through trial and error — that is, unsatisfying attempts at diversity in films, then virulent attacks by spectators in the press and the media- the industry might eventually understand what is so wrong about itself, and finally deliver consistently racially conscious movies. Until then, we shall stay mad.

Kristy Puchko (@KristyPuchko) Pajiba/Nerdist/CBR

Man, I wish. And not just because I’m an alleged and unrepentant SJW, but also because wouldn’t it be amazing if films as original, challenging, and riveting as “Moonlight” and “Get Out” became the standard and not the exception?

Personally, I’m hopeful that the success of these films — as well as the box office success of “Hidden Figures”— will prove to Hollywood once and for all that white-straight-male need not be the default setting for any given story. And I expect we’ll start to see a shift toward more Black actors getting lead roles, instead of the parade of blandsome white ingendudes of which Hollywood seems to have an endless supply. But I’m doubtful the success of these movies will impact Hollywood’s loathsome tradition of Asian erasure, as Asians and Asian-Americans are all too often left out of the race and representation conversation.

It all comes from Hollywood believing only white heroes (often white men) sell movies globally (which is bunk). Yet, this year alone we saw examples of Asian erasure in “The Great Wall,” “Iron Fist,” and “Ghost in the Shell.” While not all are clear examples of white washing, each is a story that relishes in an Asian culture, while centering on a White protagonist. And that reduces Asian people to set dressing, even within their own stories. What needs to happen for this kind to change is not only the failure of such properties, but also the success of ones that dare to recognize Asian and Asian-American stars as more than cameos that’ll help bolster overseas sales. We’ll know a sea change is actually happening there when Asian/Asian-American women can front a story that doesn’t involve martial arts, or when an Asian/Asian-American man can be cast as the lead in a romantic-comedy. Because — as Jack Choi pointed out last year — allowing an actor to be seen as a sex symbol is a crucial step in making him a star.

Here’s hoping someone soon will finally realize the untapped potential of the internet’s crush John Cho, or that some clever producer will run with the swoons Dev Patel has stirred from his surfer-bro “Lion” look. Because here is the rare case where objectification could actually help in representation.

Jordan Peele Get Out

Richard Brody (@tnyfrontrow), The New Yorker

The “Fast and Furious” franchise has a diverse cast; so do the most recent “Star Wars” entries, and so does “Captain America: Civil War”; and these films’ successes have hardly ushered in a new era in empathy and justice. Or, rather, unfortunately, not at all. Big-budget, mass-market films are effects, not causes. The commercial success of these movies with diverse casts and the failure of “Ghost in the Shell” may give studio executives the hint they need. On the other hand, “Life” was a failure, too (the capital letter matters). On the third hand, one of the things that makes “Get Out” a great movie is its depiction of racial identity as a matter of historical consciousness and personal experience.

Tentpole movies don’t offer much of either — for people of any ethnicity; the amount of human experience that filters into these films is pretty slender overall. That’s why the diversity of casts needs to be joined by diversity behind the camera — executives, producers, directors, screenwriters; otherwise, the diverse casts (though important in themselves, as opportunities for the actors) will have little effect on the films’ substance.

Christopher Campbell (@thefilmcynic), Nonfics, Film School Rejects

The sad thing is that “Ghost in the Shell”s disappointing box office may not be seen as the result of the casting controversy, and maybe it is not entirely. But we’ve seen so many movies that have had similar issues, including “Gods of Egypt” and “The Great Wall,” unable to financially back up the offenses in terms of being what audiences want, that it has to be getting to Hollywood. Unless they see the success of films like “Get Out” and “Fast and the Furious” being enough to counter the films deemed insensitive, like “Ghost in the Shell,” which is a box office failure, and Doctor Strange, which is not. And they may be doing well enough outside America where the controversies don’t alway carry over, that they don’t care. Maybe the only way to tell if anything was learned with “Ghost in the Shell” is to see what happens with “Akira.”

Tasha Robinson (@TashaRobinson), The Verge

I don’t think we’re ever likely to be entirely rid of tone-deaf adaptations, for the same reason we’ll never be rid of bloated blockbuster sequels or dumbed-down copycats of hit movies: at least half of Hollywood is always chasing what looks like the safest payday, by trying to plug “bankable” stars into everything, regardless of appropriateness or optics. What the success of films like “Get Out” and “Hidden Figures” gets us that I find heartening is a new set of profitable stars. There’s always going to be some clueless money-minded Hollywood exec pushing Tom Cruise or Matt Damon for the lead role in a President Obama biopic, because “Their films make money, and making money is what’s important.” But as actors like Michael B. Jordan, Janelle Monae, Octavia Spencer, and Mahershala Ali gain more cachet as Hollywood moneymakers, we’re more likely to see their names come up in conversation. The success of films like “Get Out” and “Hidden Figures” — or, on another scale entirely, the admirably diversity-minded “Star Wars: Rogue One” — isn’t just a boon for people who want to see themselves reflected onscreen, and it isn’t just a boon for people who want to point to “diverse” films and say they make money and have an audience. It’s also a boon for producers and directors and casting agents who want to widen their net, and need to be able to point to past successes when they’re pitching future projects. The more “bankable” stars of color we have, the less likely we are to live in a world where Scarlett Johansson is seen as the only possible star for an action film about a tough woman, regardless of that woman’s race.

 

SOURCE