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

written by Kimberly Jones

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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.

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Lupita Nyong’o Wore a Cowrie Shells Headpiece To The Berlinale International Jury Photocall. Here is Why This is Significant.

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Lupita Nyong'o at Berlinale

During the international jury photocall on Thursday, Lupita Nyong’o was photographed wearing a grey Boss suit and a gorgeous  Lafalaise Dion cowrie shell headpiece. This was an important fashion statement. Here is why.

The Oscar-winning actress was invited to serve as this year’s head of the Berlin International Film Festival jury. She became the first Black jury president to oversee the annual film showcase event in its 74-year history. Also known as the Berlinale, the festival is one of the five largest in the world, along with the Toronto, Cannes, Venice, and Sundance film festivals.

The ‘Black Panther’ star expressed her excitement to take on the role in an Instagram post, “Let the festivities begin!” she wrote, “I’m so honored to be this year’s @berlinale Jury President and look forward to celebrating one of the things I love most: cinema!”

As the jury president, Nyong’o is expected to lead the jury in selecting the films to award in the two main categories – Golden and Silver Bears.

Film festivals continue to face criticism for lacking diversity on their juries. The Berlinale directors are moving in the right direction by bringing someone like Nyong’o on board, who is a true champion for diversity and inclusion.

Lupita Nyong'o at Berlinale Jury photocall

Nyong’o opted for a minimalist and simple Boss suit for last week’s jury photocall. She completed the look with a beautiful cowrie shell headpiece created by Côte d’Ivoire designer Dion Dewand Marcia Lafalaise, the self-crowned ‘Queen of Cowries.’ These particular shells represent wealth, prosperity, and fertility. By wearing the unique piece, the Kenyan-born and Mexican-raised star paid homage to her African roots on one of the biggest stages in the world.

Dion, who crafted the headpiece, also expressed gratitude, as her creation is now officially a part of Berlin Film Festival history. She wrote in an Instagram post

“…At this pivotal occasion, Queen Lupita Nyong’o proudly embraces her heritage, gracing the world once again with the iconic crown crafted by Lafalaise Dion.
Her journey to this moment serves as a beacon of inspiration, resonating deeply within our hearts and souls. We are humbled and honored to stand alongside her as she etches her name in the annals of cinematic history
.”

The festival is scheduled to run until February 25, when the jury announces the winning films in the major categories.

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Usher Marries Jennifer Goicoechea in a Post-Super Bowl Surprise Wedding (photos)

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Usher Marries Jennifer Goicoechea

On February 11, 2024, the Super Bowl LVIII halftime show captivated the world, featuring a stunning performance by R&B legend Usher. Little did fans know that the excitement didn’t end there. In a romantic twist, the 45-year-old married his longtime girlfriend, Jennifer Goicoechea, in a secret ceremony that same weekend.

Usher Marries Jennifer Goicoechea

Born as Usher Raymond IV, the singer has been a prominent figure in the music industry for over three decades. Known for his smooth vocals and captivating stage presence, he has earned numerous accolades, including eight Grammy Awards. Goicoechea, a music executive, has constantly supported Usher throughout their relationship. The couple first met in 2019 and have been together since, raising two young children (Usher also has two older sons from a previous marriage).

The wedding took place in Las Vegas, just hours after Usher’s electrifying halftime show performance.

Close friends and family attended the wedding, including Usher’s mother, Jonetta Patton, who served as a witness. Jennifer wore an elegant white gown, while Usher donned a stylish black suit. The couple exchanged heartfelt vows, and the ceremony concluded with an exchange of rings.

In a statement to People magazine, which released the exclusive images from the ceremony, a representative for the couple confirmed the news, saying, “Usher and Jennifer Goicoechea took the next step in their relationship and did get married on Sunday night in Las Vegas surrounded by close friends and family. They both look forward to continuing to raise their children together surrounded by love and thank everyone for the well wishes.”

The wedding has been met with an outpouring of support and congratulations from fans and celebrities alike. Many fans praised the couple for their love and commitment, while others felt heartbroken by the news.

In a true performer fashion, Usher wrapped this year’s Super Bowl weekend with a bang! Not just because his historic halftime show drew a record-breaking 123.4 million viewers, but also because he made it about family and love.

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First Look at the Magical World of ‘Wicked’ Starring Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo (Trailer)

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The new trailer for the upcoming movie musical ‘Wicked’ has finally dropped, leaving fans buzzing with excitement. The film, which stars Ariana Grande as Glinda and Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba, is set to be released in two parts.

The trailer opens with a stunning shot of the Emerald City, the iconic location from the original ‘Wizard of Oz’ story. We then see a young Elphaba arriving at Shiz University, where she meets Glinda for the first time. The two characters couldn’t be more different – Elphaba is a shy, green-skinned girl whom her peers often ostracize, while Glinda is a bubbly, popular blonde who seems to have everything she could ever want.

As the trailer progresses, we see glimpses of the musical numbers that have made ‘Wicked’ such a beloved show on Broadway. The production design features vibrant colors and intricate costumes that bring the world of Oz to life.

The pairing of Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo, both vocal powerhouses, is beautiful and will yield beautiful musical numbers. In an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Erivo mentioned that she and Grande were surprised at how well their voices complemented each other.

The trailer also gives us a glimpse of the other characters in the film, including Jonathan Bailey as Fiyero, Michelle Yeoh as Madame Morrible, and Jeff Goldblum as the Wizard of Oz.

‘Wicked’ part one is set to premiere later this year, with the second installment scheduled for November 2025.

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