During a press junket for his upcoming rom-com About Last Night, comedian Kevin Hart said he’s hopeful the term “Black film” will no longer be used to marginalize movies with predominately Black casts.
“The phrase ‘Black movie’ is slowly getting erased and I love it for the simple fact that we’re making good films,” the 34-year-old star told reporters.
“This has been a year of successful films. Best Man Holiday was a very successful film. 12 Years a Slave, The Butler, Fruitvale Station, Ride Along. You had movies that have over-performed and it’s because these movies are now being looked at as universal.”
Hart, who has managed to find crossover success, told reporters that the stigma attached to Black films—or rather the idea that films with majority Black casts are only for Black people—is also waning.
While 2013 was hailed as “the year of Black film” due to the commercial success of several films with Black casts, the term has yet to get dropped from our lexicon. Hollywood continues to see films with Black leads a “Black film” and rarely markets them to mainstream (read: White) audiences.
But should we get rid of the term?
I’m happy whenever Black filmmakers and actors are working, and I don’t necessarily see the “Black film” tag as a negative, particularly if it means seeing more of our stories onscreen. But after USA Today called The Best Man Holiday a “race-themed film,” it’s clear many are not ready to let go of the characterization.
This debate reminds me of a conversation I had with writer/director Ava DuVernay. During our chat, I asked DuVernay if she was cool with being called a “Black filmmaker.” Her answer not only surprised me, it made me smile.
She explained: “No, not cool, I require it. I require to be called a Black woman filmmaker. If they’re talking about film over all, great. I know some filmmakers who I really respect who are Black or women who say just define me as a filmmaker. I don’t feel the same way. It’s part of my identity, it’s part of my filmmaking, my expression, and I claim it as my identity.”
Whether we call our films “Black” or not, the outside world will continue to label them as they see fit. The real squabble shouldn’t be over how we refer to films with Black casts, but rather holding Hollywood accountable for the stories they choose (or don’t choose) to tell in the first place.