Someone asked Spike Lee a few years back if he was impressed with the amount of films made by and starring black people recently. I don’t recall exactly what he said, but it approximated to, “no.” He felt it was a fluke, not a significant sign of change. He was right at the time. The following years seemed barren of diverse roles for black actors. Medea movies were still the main outlet. I’d be interested in what his answer to that question is now, though, one year after the incendiary satire Get Out, in 2018-a year when the highest earning film is Black Panther, and the picture many people consider to be the best of 2018 is Sorry to Bother You. Spike Lee’s own film, BlackKklansmen, is released today, his best reviewed movie in ages it seems. It tells the story of Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington), a black detective who infiltrated a local chapter of the Klu Klux Klan with the help of his partner, Flip Zimmerman (played by Adam Driver). I couldn’t be more intrigued by this film, its raucous trailer, or this brilliant poster:
What’s next on the horizon? Rumors that Idris Elba could be the next Bond. If this were to happen, I’m sure it would be greeted by groans and applause, in equal measure, and that Elba would kill it. For something more definite though, the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival is full of exciting projects featuring black casts and made by black filmmakers:
- Widows, directed by Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), and starring Viola Davis leading a group of women finishing a bank heist their husbands died attempting.
2. If Beale Street Could Talk, directed by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), adapted from a novel by James Baldwin.
3. The Hate You Give, directed George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food), adapted from the recent popular YA novel by Angie Thomas.
What we’re seeing is a range of films from thriller (Widows) to out-there artistic fare (Sorry to Bother You) to Superhero blockbuster (Black Panther) to personal dramas (The Hate U Give and If Beale Street Could Talk). I’m optimistic that this breakthrough is sustainable and will carry over into the years to come.