fruitvale station

“FRUITVALE STATION” Ariana Neal and Michael B. Jordan star in a film based on the 2009 killing of a young man in Oakland, Calif.

If you were going to pick a year to complain about the lack of black films, 2013 wouldn’t be the year to pick.

A recent New York Times article delved into what playwright,  David E. Talbert,  likens to the “Harlem Renaissance”.  Talbert compares the support system among black filmmakers to the time when black musicians and writers buoyed one another in the early 20th century.  Talbert’s own film, Baggage Claim, is slated to be released in September.

This year’s releases have something for everyone.

From a new Madea release, to Lee Daniel’s film “The Butler”, as well as a new film from long time director Kasi Lemmons.  It seems as though distributors are eager to connect themselves to films that are no longer the typical ‘urban drama’.

“It’s what I always wished for,” said Kasi Lemmons, who directed “Black Nativity,” a musical with a libretto by Langston Hughes, scheduled for release in November.

“I always thought it would be an indicator of success, when we had a full spectrum of films,” Lemmons added.

The New York Times reports:

Last year Hollywood’s principal companies released only one prominent film from a black director with a black cast, “Sparkle,” from Sony Pictures and the filmmaker Salim Akil, in the July-to-December stretch. (Ava DuVernay’s “Middle of Nowhere” was released in a small number of theaters in October, while Spike Lee’s “Red Hook Summer” was similarly released by a small New York-based independent company, Variance Films, in August.)

But a substantial new wave will arrive on July 3 with Lionsgate’s release of a documentary, “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain,” from two black directors, Leslie Small and Tim Story. Other films include “Fruitvale Station,” directed by Ryan Coogler, in July; “The Butler,” by Mr. Daniels, and Mr. Talbert’s “Baggage Claim,” in August; and “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas,” from Lionsgate, on Dec. 13.

Over all, movies that feature a predominantly black cast in a specifically African-American story have been caught in a squeeze between foreign markets, where those films often come up short, and demographic pressures at home.

This year the Motion Picture Association of America in its annual statistical survey said that African-Americans, who make up about 12 percent of the population, account for about 11 percent of North American movie ticket sales. By contrast, the association noted, Hispanics, who make up 17 percent of the population, account for 26 percent.

But it’s not just about big budgeted productions making their mark in black filmmaking. Independent films have garnered more success over the last couple of years.  These films allow both their writers and directors to tell their story, without having to worry about being under pressure from a big Hollywood studio.  To say they have freedom of expression would be an understatement.  

“The conversation within the black film community is about this new energy that was jump-started by the indie movement,” said DuVernay.

This year, DuVernay is releasing “Big Words,” directed by Neil Drumming , about the members of a once-hot hip-hop group confronting midlife. Other independent films to watch out for are “Fruitvale Station”, which was inspired by the Oscar Grant murder,  and “Mother of George”.

Are there any black films of 2013 are you looking forward to?


“THE BUTLER” Forest Whitaker stars in Lee Daniels’s drama, based on the life of a longtime White House butler.




“BLACK NATIVITY” Jacob Latimore, left, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson and Mr. Whitaker star in this musical.


“MOTHER OF GEORGE” Danai Gurira stars in Andrew Dosunmu’s film about a Nigerian couple in Brooklyn, which won plaudits at Sundance.

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