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Film & Television

‘They’ve Gotta Have Us’ Is a Lesson On Black Cinema We All Needed!

written by Kimberly Jones

They’ve Gotta Have Us created by director Simon Frederick is a three-part docuseries that tells the story and history of black filmmakers and actors in Hollywood. Now available on Netflix, it is just in time for Black History Month. The series provides the audience with an in-depth behind the scenes look at the many struggles that black artists and filmmakers faced and the events that led to Black Hollywood as we know it today.

The documentary opens with a scene from the 2017 Oscars ceremony in which the winner for Best Picture was incorrectly announced as La La Land but the trophy belonged to Moonlight. It was this moment that stuck out to creator Simon Frederick; this pivotal moment and win for Moonlight (which had an all-black cast) had been overshadowed by this mistake. Once again black artists were taking a backseat to their colleagues and not given the full moment of celebration that they deserved.

Image: Getty

Frederick shot the docuseries in three parts. The first focused on the pioneers of the black film industry. Harry Belafonte gives some of his very candid accounts of how difficult it was to become a lead in a film and to also be a love interest of a white actor. Belafonte broke industry barriers in the movie Island in the Sun. When the film came out in 1957, it was not accepted for the interracial relationship displayed on the big screen. Other pioneers who paved the way include Hattie McDaniel who in 1939 became the first black actor to win an Oscar for her role in Gone with the Wind. In 1964 Sidney Poitier was the first black actor to win Best Actor in a lead role for Lillies in the Field. The late Diahann Carroll, who was also featured in the documentary, received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for the 1974 film Claudine. The movie highlighted the stories and daily struggles of black women on screen for the first time.

Among the innovators of Black film are Robert Townsend, Spike Lee, and the late John Singleton. After growing exhausted of the roadblocks he had faced in the industry, Townsend produced his first independent film Hollywood Shuffle in 1987 – a comedy about the stereotypes black actors faced in the film industry. Academy Award-winning director Spike Lee took the industry to the next level with his groundbreaking films including She’s Gotta Have It (1986), School Daze (1988) and Malcolm X (1992). John Singleton’s coming of age film Boyz n the Hood earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Director making him the first black and youngest person to have received a nomination for directing. Most of the time the producers had a small budget and often struggled to get funding, but their films had box office success. This sent a clear message to Hollywood – black films were in demand and people wanted to see them. The innovators of the 80s and 90s had a very different approach to filmmaking. By taking matters into their own hands these producers created timeless masterpieces that generations to come could enjoy.

British actor John Boyega became the first black actor to be cast as a lead in the Star Wars franchise – Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). Boyega’s role, however, was not accepted well by everyone. In China, for example, on the promotional posters for the film, Boyega’s picture was reduced significantly in size compared to his counterparts. Boyega didn’t let that discourage him, however, he knew he got the leading role based on his talent, not skin color.

Selma (2014), directed by Ava DuVernay and starring David Oyelowo, was a historical drama based on the 1954 voting march from Selma to Montgomery. The film focuses on Martin Luther King Jr, the significant role he and his associates along with his wife Coretta Scott King played in the march, as well as the events that led to it. Before DuVernay got on board as the director, the films’ focus was on President Lyndon B. Johnson, which really did not make sense to Oyelowo and other cast members. DuVernay used her vision to tell a more detailed story of the black people involved in this historic day. This fact goes back to the running theme of the documentary – the importance of having black writers, producers, and directors to tell black stories.

‘They’ve Gotta Have Us’, Netflix

Moonlight (2016) written and directed by Barry Jenkins followed the journey of a young black boy into adulthood. Throughout the film, the main character deals with a drug-addicted mother, struggles with sexuality and searches for his rightful place in the world. Moonlight opened a new chapter for black films – it was the first movie with an all-black cast and also the first LGBTQ film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. Jenkins is considered a trailblazer because of the doors he opened for future artists.

The future of black cinema seems to be bright largely because black artists have taken creative control over the black stories being told in Hollywood. With more up-and-coming black writers and directors black films are starting to get the recognition they deserve. There are more doors opening for creators to tell their stories. Actor Jessie Williams made a valid point about the creative freedom white artists have. He stated, “I lost my dog, here’s a little independent movie of me going to find it and how it reminds me of my mother. And it’s not even good.” Williams’ point was that all artists have the right to create their art, regardless of race. They’ve Gotta Have Us provides a necessary history lesson, shows how far the black film industry has come and excites with what is yet to come.

Film & Television

J. August Richards Talks Starring On NBC’s Latest Drama ‘Council Of Dads’

Premiering on NBC this week is the network’s newest drama Council of Dads inspired by Bruce Feiler’s bestselling book by the same title.

J. August Richards, best know for hit shows Angel and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., is starring as one of the leads, a bonus dad to his terminally ill patient’s children.

The story behind this drama series appears to be quite unique in itself (just look at the synopsis below). We are invited to witness the journey of three men coming together to fulfill their friend’s wish of co-fathering his five children, including a grown daughter Luly (Michele Weaver) from a previous marriage.

‘Council of Dads’ cast / NBC

Here is the official synopsis:

Scott Perry (Tom Everett Scott), a loving father of five, has his entire life’s plan thrown into upheaval by an unexpected health scare. He calls on a few of his most trusted friends to step in as back-up dads to help guide and support his growing family – just in case he ever can’t be there to do it himself.

Dr. Oliver Post (Richards), is not only Scott’s oncologist but also best friends with his wife ( played by Sarah Wayne Callies), who also works at the hospital. Caught off guard by what was asked of him, Oliver is now faced with a challenge – co-parenting his friends’ children while being married and already raising his own 13-year old.

Joining the task alongside him are Scott’s longtime bachelor friend Anthony (Clive Standen) and Larry (Michael O’Neill), Scott’s sponsee at Alcoholics Anonymous.

“Council of Dads”: Oliver (J. August Richards), Anthony (Clive Standen) and Larry (Michael O’Neill) / NBC

Having to care for someone else’s children is not new to Richards. In real life, he is a proud uncle and a three-time godfather. It’s not quite the same as being a parent, he admits, but the high level of responsibility is still there. And when it comes to having personal role models, Richards mentions his godfather (who sadly passed away after they shot the pilot) and his father.

Council of Dads premieres Tuesday, March 10 at 10/9c. Watch the official trailer below.

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Film

Netflix Has Picked Up ‘The Lovebirds’ After Studio Canceled Theatrical Release

Paramount Picture’s latest romantic comedy starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani will have its release after all. According to Deadline, The studio’s murder mystery comedy, which was recently pulled from theatrical release due to Coronavirus lockdown, is heading directly to Netflix. The launch date will be announced soon.

Here’s the synopsis for The Lovebirds:

A couple (Rae and Nanjiani) experiences a defining moment in their relationship when they are unintentionally embroiled in a murder mystery. As their journey to clear their names takes them from one extreme – and hilarious – circumstance to the next, they must figure out how they, and their relationship, can survive the night.

Watch the official trailer below.

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Film & Television

“Little Fires Everywhere”: Episodes 1-3 Recap

BY KIMBERLY JONES

Little Fires Everywhere is based on a novel written by Celeste Ng that follows the lives of residents in the suburbs of Shaker Heights, Ohio in the 90s. Bill and Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon and Joshua Jackson) are longtime residents of the community and are the parents of 4 teenagers who are all on the path to self-discovery. The Richardson’s have a tight family unit and are doing their best to raise healthy, ambitious, generous and well-rounded children. Elena is having a hard time with her younger daughter Izzy (Megan Stott) who is clearly going through a rebellious stage so the two of them are in constant disagreement.

Elena is a suburban upper-class mom who is pretty uptight and wants control of her family and her image. She seems to have the Richardson kids’ lives already planned out for their successful future. Elena is a perfectionist, a quality that doesn’t really work in her favor with her kids because she’s judgmental and intimidating. The family inherited a rental property and that is when she meets single mother Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) and her intelligent teenage daughter Pearl Warren (Lexi Underwood). Mia a traveling artist and her daughter have been living in their car and responded to an ad for Elena’s rental. Upon their first meeting, Mia has her guard up with Elena and there is tension between the two. Mia is put off by Elena’s invasive and privileged tone during their first conversation.

Little Fires Everywhere — “Seeds and All” – Episode 102 – (Photo by: Erin Simkin/Hulu)

Elena seems totally unaware of how uncomfortable and unwelcome this makes Mia. Despite their
bumpy start the Warren’s move into the rental property. Pearl immediately adapts to her new environment after she meets Moody, one of Richardson’s sons (Gavin Lewis). The two teenagers are attracted to each other and start spending a lot of time together. Hanging out with the Richardsons somewhat opens Pearl’s eyes to a whole new world. Although there are racial and economic differences between their two worlds, the teenagers still develop a friendship. Pearl also learns that she and Elena have a common interest – writing and journalism. Mia doesn’t approve of Pearl’s friendly relationships with the Richardsons but doesn’t express this to her daughter immediately.

The series takes a deep dive into classism and racism. For instance, Pearl, after spending more time with the Richardsons, realizes just how underprivileged her life has been. She has had to constantly move around. Because of her mother, she has never really had a nice stable place to live, she has never met her father and her school counselor won’t consider placing her in the correct math class at her new school because of her race. Instead of taking her mother Mia’s advice on standing up to her counselor, Pearl asks Elena for help to get enrolled in the correct math class. After a quick conversation with the counselor, Elena (much thanks to her race and status) easily gets Pearl in. When Mia starts working for the Richardsons as their “house manager”, Pearl seems to be surprised, ashamed and uncomfortable that her black mom is now working for this white family that she is trying to build new relationships with. This only further magnifies the differences between the two families. After Mia becomes Elena’s house manager, the two of them get to know each other a little better. Mia, however, is still very guarded with the new family and keeps her distance.

Little Fires Everywhere (Photo by: Hulu)

At the end of the three-episode premiere, Mia remains a mystery. Even in her relationship with her daughter Pearl, she is keeping a secret. Pearl has never met her father and her mother refuses to identify him. This is extremely frustrating for Pearl and leaves audiences wondering what exactly is Mia hiding?

Mia is not the only one with secrets. Each character is hiding something and those secrets have yet to come to light. The suspense of how the stories unfold makes the audience crave more. Little Fires Everywhere is a captivating, stimulating drama with an amazing cast that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats. New episodes are available every Wednesday on Hulu.

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