Take a look at the recent box office flops like the white-washed would-be "historical" epic "The Gods of Egypt" or the recycled lethargic slick looking Black romantic comedy "The Perfect Match" and the problem becomes clear. Hollywood is running out of new ideas. The industry seems content on producing countless remakes, sequels, prequels, and mega budget, post apocalyptic, superhero, 3D blockbuster, comic book movies.
Over the last fifteen years, there has been a steep decline in the number of original films that focus on personal filmmaking with mid-range budgets of ($2-3 million) that once allowed new multicultural voices to emerge on the silver screen. This reality is in stark contrast to say, for instance, the burgeoning Black cinema movement in the 1990s that was highly acclaimed, financially successful and produced a successful wave of new talent both on-screen and behind the camera.
Many of these films were financed by major Hollywood studios, as well as independently, and were helmed by Black filmmakers who presented diverse stories that were multivalent, powerful, and reflective. A few prime examples include: "To Sleep With Anger" (Charles Burnett, 1990), the teen comedy, "House Party" (Reginald Hudlin, 1990), Julie Dash’s epic, "Daughters of the Dust" (1991) [which became the first feature film directed by an African-American woman], the Black western, "Posse" (Mario Van Peebles, 1993), the film noir period piece, "Devil in a Blue Dress" (Carl Franklin, 1995), the college-based drama, "Higher Learning" (John Singleton, 1995), the feminist leaning, "Waiting to Exhale" (Forest Whitaker, 1995), the family oriented, "Soul Food" (George Tillman, 1997), and the humanizing Black romance "Love Jones" (Theodore Witcher, 1997). I could keep going, but — you get my drift!
In today’s media marketplace this type diversification in cinema is absent as companies like: New Line Cinema, Warner Independent Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that specialized in these type of mid-budget comedies and dramas have vanished. As a result, for many multicultural folks (read Black and Latino audiences) the basic enjoyment of Hollywood films has been harmed by the limited and often regressive roles reserved for non-white actors (read: slaves, butlers, addicts, whores, thugs, caricatures, etc).
Within many multicultural communities there is a burning desire for more variety. We desire to see films that just do— more! For many people of color it is virtually impossible to find a Hollywood film containing the stories of love, dignity, laughter, struggle, redemption, intelligence, and humanity that reflect the fullness and diversity of our lives.
And so I say, to the Hollywood industry--- wake up, because your days are numbered. We are no longer content being ignored or neglected by dominant media. Among us there are talented and progressive filmmakers with diverse voices, and we love being "indie" and we're emerging and making a positive impact. We are here. Watch out. Because we're not waiting. And we're not asking for permission. We will be heard.
Dr. Artel Great is a media scholar who specializes in Black cultural production and popular culture at the intersection of film, television, media, race, and society. He is also an award winning actor, Independent Spirit Award-nominated filmmaker, social impact artist, public speaker, and cultural critic. In his free time, Dr. Great is a professor of American Television History and Culture at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.