Is America trying to force African Americans to ‘Remember their place’ with plethora of slave biopics being released?
That title was certanly a mouth full huh? And it definitely makes you think, well at least I did recently in an interview with the beautiful and talented Elise Neal. I sat down to discuss her new movie “1982” with her and wound up with a new view on life (so to speak). I have been shouting from the rooftops (and all over social media) how I felt like this “is a major year for african americans in film”. However Ms. Neal quickly got me together and shook me out of my naive view and begged me to observe the bigger picture. She noted that there is something behind us having a Black president and every few months they release a new “slave movie”. During the interview she stated,
“Please people, pay attention. Oh, I’m definitely a girl that’s like “what are they telling me?” I pat myself on the back to say that I’ve seen all of it. I’ve seen the best best budgets being spent on Malcolm Lee, you know when the first “Best Man” was released. I think it’s sad that a great film maker and a friend of mine, like Spike Lee has to even think about doing a kick starter to get a movie made in the right way with owning his own films. He is a legend in our game and he still deserves respect, you know what I mean? I just don’t understand that, I don’t. I don’t like it. And again I’ll say, I miss the time when Will, and anyone of African American descent could do a movie about us and not have to try to down play the role or just go to the story of slavery or whatever. I don’t like it.” It makes you think right? “
Why is it that we are just now getting a sequel to MEGA “Black” HITS like “The Best Man”. As soon as our conversation made this turn I knew she was right. Gone are the days when Will Smith and Martin Lawerence owned the box office year after year. Yes we still have Denzel Washington leading in amazing films but it’s only Denzel on a consistent bases and maybe Halle when she is not battling her ex or the paparazzi or running around Europe looking amazing and pregnant. Where are the “two Can Play That Game”, “Love and Basketball”, “The Wood”, “Eve’s Bayou”, “Thin Line Between Love and Hate” and all of those other amazing black films that took you on a journey that was not dated in the civil war era!
“As a woman who has been working for more than 20 years in this industry, from television to high budget films such as “Money Talks” to blockbusters with, I guess an audience of a million, like “Scream 2“, I have never seen so many films produced that are geared towards reminding black people where their “place” should be. More movies of this type have been released since our great President Barack Obama came into administration. And I am not saying that movies like, “The Butler” are not amazing. We’ve definitely had amazing acting. “12 Years a Slave”, I just saw it last night. The movie has great cinematography and great acting.
Imagine growing up in the south….When I first started dancing, my mom would drive me to different areas and we would have to go have lunch in different areas. I felt it throughout the younger years of my life, and know a lot of other people in my life who have dealt with it also. Why do we need movies to remind us of where we used to be? I feel like, that’s not what we should be doing. We should be doing things to encourage us where we are right now. What we’re doing right now. What black people’s lives are like right now. And if you are going to produce a movie that reminds us of where and who we used to be, TELL THE FULL STORY. I said this last night after seeing that movie [ 12 Years a Slave], and I will say this again, I love the direction of Steve McQueen and the movie’s amazing cinematography, but I guarantee you, if I go to the bookstore and pick up “12 Years a Slave,” I’m not going to just read about the beatings. I’m not just going to just read about people calling each other niggas. I’m not going to just read THAT. I’m going to get a full story of a African American man, living in a certain time period; A story about how he met his beautiful wife and created his wonderful family. The book will detail how this African American man made his way to being amongst a circle of white people and what it was like to be in artistry during that time. It seems that the movies only depict the negative.
I really get upset about what I feel; people trying to remind us that we [African Americans] are supposed to be in a certain place. Maybe I feel this a little more strongly than others because I am from the south, but I don’t want to always feel like that’s what Hollywood wants us to do or those are the stories that Hollywood is going to put the most money into. No offense to “Baggage Claim,” but they [Hollywood] didn’t put as much money into that story either. I just feel like we need to do better. I am not trying to say anything other than that. I miss the time when Will Smith and Martin Lawrence would show us how to bang out in a 60 million dollar movie and Hollywood was cool to place those two actors at the forefront and show us in a different light. That’s what I want!” says Neal
Check out the entire PART 1 interview with Elise Neal over at EricaVain.com