News / Arts & Entertainment

Black-themed Films Enter Hollywood Mainstream

Black-themed Films Enter Hollywood Mainstreami
X
December 19, 2013 4:24 PM
From Lee Daniel's biopic The Butler about the African American butler who served eight U.S. presidents, to Steve McQueen's historic drama 12 Years a Slave, about free man Solomon Northup's abduction into slavery, black themed films are sweeping movie theaters and winning critical acclaim. What fuels Hollywood’s increasing interest in black films? VOA's Penelope Poulou has more.
Penelope Poulou
From Lee Daniel's biopic The Butler about the African American butler who served eight U.S. presidents, to Steve McQueen's historic drama 12 Years a Slave, about free man Solomon Northup's abduction into slavery, movies about the African-American experience are sweeping movie theaters and winning critical acclaim.

The Butler chronicles the life of Cecil Gaines who, from the 1950s to the late 80s, served as a catalyst for social change by discreetly affecting the presidents he served. Cecil, based on the real butler Eugene Allen, was not a social activist. He was a dignified servant commanding respect.

The Butler has gained Oscar buzz for its lead actor, Forest Whitaker, as well as supporting actress Oprah Winfrey and director Lee Daniels. It also did well at the box office, a sign that American audiences are drawn to stories about the African-American experience.

Also getting Oscar buzz is director Steve McQueen's unflinching portrayal of American slavery. The movie, 12 Years A Slave, is based on Solomon Northup's true account of his abduction into slavery and life on a southern plantation under a brutal owner.

“Going to the plantations in the south and being in places where some of these things occurred and that burning heat, the violence that he sees occurring, you do get a glimpse of what the day-to-day must have been like,” said Chiwetel Ejiofor, who portrays Northup and is considered an Oscar frontrunner.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, about the life of South African leader Nelson Mandela, is another drama that may also do well at the box office because of apartheid icon's fame and recent death. The film exposes life during apartheid in South Africa, a different type of oppression that put the black leader behind bars for 27 years.

Critical acclaim aside, George Mason University film historian Dexter Gabriel says the future of movies about the black experience is linked to the box office.

“Hollywood wants to make revenue and has these presuppositions about who goes to see movies and who will see what movies," Gabriel said. "And so it is very tepid about certain things that it thinks will not bring revenue."

Films like Black Nativity, based on the Broadway musical, show that African-American movies can hold their own, even when they are not period dramas.

The film about family reconciliation during Christmas has an impressive cast including Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and Jennifer Hudson. And it’s a hit.

If these kinds of films can draw crowds, then Hollywood is likely to follow.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

"Soul Lounge" host Shawna Renee catches up with soul singer and songwriter Russell Taylor to hear what he’s been up to since winning the VH1 "You Oughta Know" title in 2013. She also convinces him to share a few songs from his album "War of Hearts."