Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Red Tails - a film rationale

Ramblings Post #179
I love a good movie. Well, let's quantify that because I love some pretty dumb ones too. I love movies that suck me into the story, or make me wish I was the star. Or even better make me forget for a few minutes the world around me. And is funny. But not stupid. Okay, I don't know what I like until I see it. And then some films still have to grow on me. I'm not even sure why I wrote this now.

For the last two decades, in a Hollywood heavyweight has been struggling to bring a story to the big screen starring Black heroes of World War II. Now, frustrated to the point of action beyond all movie making logic, he has gone out on a limb and put up his own money (a big filmmaker no-no) to get made a fairly large budgeted big screen adaptation of the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. And by doing so, he has accidentally put the idea of black film-making at risk because if a film by someone like him, an icon of nearly three decades of cinema, can't turn a profit here then the bulk of black films will be relegated to whatever Tyler Perry or the rapper of the minute wants to give us and bargain basement labor of love indie films. And nobody wants just that as the whole of black cinema.

Yet black women are talking about boycotting it.

Are kidding me? Did the "if this doesn't work nothing else even gets a chance" discussion even get acknowledgement?

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm not a big George Lucas fan. But his explanation of the whole system and why Hollywood is reluctant to make movies starring black characters shouldn't be dismissed because we don't like it. After all, he as well as anyone would know. To many studios he's money in the bank, so he should have had it easy. Instead, it took in twenty years and he's still going it alone on this one.

And black women are talking about boycotting it.

The two primary reasons I've seen today are "why support this and not an indie black film (Pariah)" or the "the movie doesn't have a black female love interest" so it must be writing black women out of history.

Pariah, for those of you who don't know, is a small indie film about a young black girl coming to grips with own sexuality in the face of her friends and family. I've only seen the trailer, but it looks sensitive and poignant, a lovely exploration of a young girl finding who she is in a world that might not accept her. But in Atlanta, it's playing at ONE location. People who like this film should rejoice in George Lucas's film. Why? Because if Lucas is successful, then movies like Pariah might be able to find a wider audience.

The other argument is one a bit more visceral. In the film, one of the black actors has a Italian girl friend (in Italy), so along with no major white hero, there is also no black female love interest. This I realize touches a nerve. However, the answer is the same for the first argument. If this film is successful, then those films that follow can include more and broader roles black actresses.

We've fallen into the instant gratification concept to hard here, in that instead of getting this victory we've become intent on "righting a wrong". Does Pariah deserve a wider audience? Yes. Will boycotting Red Tails get it one? No. Do black actresses need more roles in Hollywood? Yes. Will boycotting Red Tails and causing the first major black film in years to fail make that any easier? No. So why boycott?

No, that's a real question.

Because I don't get it. Black cinema will survive no matter how Red Tails does, but this idealistic martyr concept won't advance any black filmmakers agenda, only hinder the opportunity for what is to come. And opportunity is the heart of the matter, for without that we are nothing. And for the record, I'm probably going to buy a ticket to Red Tails and then not go see it, just support the idea that black people can be heroes on their own.

Black people can be heroes? Well, that's just a "horrible" message to send anyone.

Barkeep. Something smooth.


Anonymous said...

Black women are not talking about boycotting the movie. I have not read that on any blog that I've visited. What I have read about is Black women encouraging other Black women to excercise their choice to see the film or not.

If they don't like that bw are missing from the film, they have a right to feel that way. I don't know how not liking a movie or exercising your right to see or NOT to see a movie you don't want to translates to boycotting it...Black women are just doing what every other group (including Black men) do. No one is talking about boycotting, that is a rumor and misinformation that started from ONE blog post.

and honestly it was messed up that they erased Black women from the film when they played a significant role as wives of the airmen. That was ridiculous to me, but Ii haven't seen any Black women telling people to boycott the movie, just exercising their personal choice like everyone else.

Anonymous said...

and also they've been giving the line "if you don't support this black movie you won't see another one," forever. They said that about the Help, every two years or so they say that and Hollywood is still as white washed as ever. So don't fall for the hype...

rather than waiting on white hollywood to show Black people in positive roles, it be better to invest in starting your own Black film companies or supporting independent Black directors/ Producers

M. said...

Oh my, two comments. Well, one long comment, but thanks. No really, thank you. I don't get many comments.

Please note, the one blog I'm commenting on has lots more readers than I do (obviously) and I was extrapolating off the comments to that post. But then this is all just my opinion anyway. And who am I?

Thanks again.

(Somebody reads this, wow!)

Zeke said...

I think the other points that were missed is that Lucas mentioned at least 2 other movies if Red Tails does well this weekend. Plenty of more story to be told.

Pariah is only playing at the Sundance Theater here as well. Tried to see the movie twice. Both times sold out. I just which that was an indicator to Hollywood that well made black films have an audience.