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‘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

‘The Prom’: First Look at Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key and Ariana DeBose in Newly Released Trailer!

Netflix has released the official trailer for its upcoming musical The Prom starring Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, James Corden, Ariana DeBose, Andrew Rannells, and newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman. The cast is led by Hollywood’s heavyweights – Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman.

Here is the official synopsis:

Dee Dee Allen (Streep) and Barry Glickman (Corden) are New York City stage stars with a crisis on their hands: their expensive new Broadway show is a major flop that has suddenly flatlined their careers. Meanwhile, in small-town Indiana, high school student Emma Nolan (Pellman) is experiencing a very different kind of heartbreak: despite the support of the high school principal (Key), the head of the PTA (Washington) has banned her from attending the prom with her girlfriend, Alyssa (DeBose). When Dee Dee and Barry decide that Emma’s predicament is the perfect cause to help resurrect their public images, they hit the road with Angie (Kidman) and Trent (Rannells), another pair of cynical actors looking for a professional lift. But when their self-absorbed celebrity activism unexpectedly backfires, the foursome finds their own lives upended as they rally to give Emma a night where she can truly celebrate who she is.

The Prom is a film adaptation of a 2018 award-winning, Tony-nominated Broadway musical. The film is directed by Ryan Murphy (Hollywood) with a screenplay by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin.

Watch the trailer below. Avaialble on Netflix December 11, 2020.

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Film & Television

‘By Whatever Means Necessary: The Times Of Godfather Of Harlem’: Docuseries Inspired by Emmy Award-winning series To Premiere In November

The four-part music docuseries, inspired by Epix’s show Godfather of Harlem, is set to premiere on November 8, 2020 at 10 PM ET/PT.

Inspired by the music and subjects featured in the EPIX original series, the documentary will highlight the dramatic true story of Harlem and its music in the 1960’s and will feature interviews with the stars of Godfather of Harlem: Academy Award®-winner Forest Whitaker, Giancarlo Esposito and Ilfenesh Hadera and musicians Gladys Knight, Martha Reeves, Herbie Hancock, Nile Rogers, A$AP Ferg, Chika, Joe Bataan and Freddie Stone. Other notables in the series include activist Al Sharpton, former U.S. Representative Charles Rangel and poet Sonia Sanchez.

The series will take audiences on a musical journey that brings to life the excitement of 1960’s Harlem, and introduces the artists who dared to use their voices, instruments and lyrics to take a stand against oppression.

By Whatever Means Necessary: The Times of Godfather of Harlem is executive produced by Nina Yang Bongiovi and Forest Whitaker from Significant Productions, along with Keith McQuirter (Decoder Media). 

The first season of Emmy Award-winning and critically-acclaimed drama Godfather of Harlem is currently available for streaming. Season two will kick off production this fall. 

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Film & Television

‘Black Adam’: Aldis Hodge To Star as Hawkman

Aldis Hodge (Clemency, The Invisible Man) will join Dwayne Johnson, AKA The Rock who stars as the title antihero in the new DC Comics’ Black Adam movie.

Hodge will play Hawkman who, according to the comic books, is an alien police officer Katar Hol from the planet Thanagar and one of the founding members of the Justice Society.

“A pleasure to welcome Aldis Hodge to Black Adam,” the Rock posted on Instagram. “Hawkman is a critical leading role for our movie, as he is the fiery leader of the JSA (Justice Society of America) and one of the most beloved and legendary characters in the DC Universe.”

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THIS IS HAWKMAN 🦅 A pleasure to welcome @aldis_hodge to BLACK ADAM. HAWKMAN is a critical leading role for our movie, as he is the fiery leader of the JSA (Justice Society of America) and one of the most beloved and legendary characters in the DC UNIVERSE. I called Aldis personally as I wanted to surprise him that he got the role and it wound up being one of the greatest conversations I’ve ever had. Aldis: Hello? DJ: Hello, I’d like to speak to Aldis. Aldis: Who is this? DJ: This is Dwayne Johnson. * long pause Aldis: Whoever this is stop playing on my phone. DJ: This is Dwayne, is this Aldis? * longer pause Aldis: This shit ain’t funny, I said stop playing on my fucking phone. DJ: Aldis, this is DJ. I just called to say thank you so much for sending in your audition – it was great and I really appreciate the efforts you made. Just wanted to say thanks and best of luck in all you do. And one more thing — welcome to Black Adam. * longest pause Aldis: I’m sorry you’ll have to hold on for a one second. * he puts the phone down and walks away and all I hear is inaudible yells 😂 Aldis: DJAYYYY OHHHHH SHIT!!!!!! * Im laughing my ass off by now. DJ: You ok? You’re gonna crush this role! We went on to have an awesome conversation full of gratitude, love and motivation. Can’t wait to work with this very talented brother. The perfect HAWKMAN. Let’s get to work. #aldishodge #jsa #hawkman 🦅 #blackadam⚡️

A post shared by therock (@therock) on

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and written by Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani, The film will

The film is scheduled to premiere in theaters on December 22, 2021. 

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