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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

At Washington’s Blues Alley jazz singer Jane Monheit and her quartet perform songs made famous by Judy Garland. Monheit sits down with "Beyond Category" host Eric Felten to talk about her music, the singers who influence her, and her life traveling with family on tour.