The changing face of Black cinema in the modern world
by Jaskiran Kaur | Thu, 21 Apr 2022 18:06:25 GMT
Black cinema has seen a collection of various phenomenal writers, directors, actors and performers in these past few years; Credits: Film School Rejects

Black cinema has seen a collection of various phenomenal writers, directors, actors, and performers in these past few years.

Hollywood has seen an admirable change in the presentation of Black cinema and films in recent times. The times have seen great change in the face of Black cinema along with how cinema evolved along the passage of history. 

There have always been exceptional performers in the community over the history of Black Cinema, including the portrayal of the Black community's struggles and experiences in the world we live in. The 1990s was a particularly active era when it came to showcasing the Black community. 

The first time Black performers finally felt like they were seen was back during this same time. The feeling was certainly the main driver to imbibe confidence amongst the artists of Black Cinema, paving way for them to enter niches of filmmaking, narration, and story creation. 

This was also, especially the time when the struggles of the Black community like the widespread poverty and violence in the society were first brought to public attention. Films that did great work at raising these questions and also showing all the other vices that had to be fought include Juice, Boyz n the Hood, Menace II Society, Above the Rim, South Central, and others. 

The films were released in the United States originally and were initially made with only a limited budget, and yet managed to garner great box office collections. The Black cinema has now reached all the farthest corners of the world, and despite not being much famous in its initial days, Black pioneers are known for their creativity and genius today. 

Black cinema faced a temporary setback in films somewhile around the release of Belly in 1999, by Hype Williams. The cinema group saw a little saving grace in the early 2000s with films like Baby Boy, ATL, and Paid in Full. 

Yet, the 2000s are not known for defining the work of the Black community. Limited to specifically the immediate audience of the films, they failed to create a wider impact. 

So what actually led to the decline of the popularity of Black cinema around the time? Was there a decrease in the number of the said films or did the audience no longer wish to watch cinema with Black ensembles?

The 2000s were the time when you could see a large number of white males in the executive roles in filmmaking. Only later did the trend change giving way to people of color, queer orientations, and the female gender as the authority commanding the filmmaking aspect of the cinema. 

However, not many people were ready back then to advocate the rights and the importance of varied representation in the portrayal of cinema. It is refreshing to see that there are increasing conversations about the role of global inclusion when it comes to arts. 

The present-day society is much more open to providing equal opportunities to people of all ethnicities and races. Varied sexual orientations than the conventional straight inclinations are also slowly receiving more appreciation in cinema and the entertainment industry. 

Yet, it is also important to notice that these films do not embark on serious topics of conversation like their old predecessors. So how will cinema ever make the changes that have appeared in the industry over time a permanent fixture? 

Some of the legends of the Black cinema recently spoke with Deadline: Scene 2 Seen Presents: The Past, and Future of Black Cinema, explaining what their stance is on the changing face of Black cinema in the modern world. Here is all that the filmmakers had to say about the particular conversation. 

Allen Hughes

Allen Hughes is working on a documentary film on Tupac Shakur; credits: Deadline

Allen Hughes came to achieve Hollywood fame with his joint effort with his twin brother Albert as they joined hands to win over Hollywood. The two now hold the honor of being the creators and the directors of Menace II Society. 

The filmmaker has collaborated with his twin brother on many other projects including Dead President, From Hell, and The Book of Eli. Apart from their filmmaking endeavors, they have also worked on documentaries like American Pimp and The Defiant Ones. 

Their latest works of recognition include Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. Allen lives and is being directed by Nelson George. Then there is Dear Mama, a work on the life of Tupac Shakur, the icon of American music, which will be a documentary series running in five parts. 

Cheryl Dunye 

A well-appreciated director, writer, and producer, Cheryl Dunye is one of the front runners of Queer New Wave of filmmakers that have taken over the Hollywood industry. She rose to fame in the early 90s for her film The Watermelon Woman. Her work won a Teddy Award for Best Feature film during the Berlin Film Festival in 1996.  

Cheryl Dunye is a celebrated artists with her works gracing museums and history archives; Credits KOED

The film has been added to the list of Congress' National Film Registry and has become a classic collection in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Now, Dunye is known for works like Queen Sugar and David Makes Man, The Chi, All Rise, and even Netflix highlighters: Umbrella Academy and Bridgerton.