This week, the trailer for A Wrinkle in Time was released, and I couldn’t have been more excited. When I saw the trailer, I was elated to see a young black woman as the lead (Storm Reid) alongside major talents such as Oprah Winfrey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, and Michael Pena. What an amazing cast! All of a sudden, March 2018 seems a bit too far away. What makes me so excited for this is the fact that it goes beyond the realm of what many POC ( especially female) directors create. Ava Duvernay is the first woman of color to helm an over $100 million blockbuster film- a startling statistic considering that there are many qualified underrepresented filmmakers out there. Ava has an amazing track record of providing opportunities for POCs in front of the screen and behind, as well as highlighting issues within the Black community. Taking a peek at Ava’s IMDB profile shows her insanely extensive list of accomplishments, and how far she had to go in order to be a woman of color directing an over $100 million film- and a sci-fi/fantasy film at that. It’s good to see her do something new and of a larger scale.
Over time, I have noticed a certain mentality that plagues a log of POC filmmakers: It’s the obligation to tell “our” stories. For instance, if I’m Black, do I always have to make “Black” movies? Before you go on the defensive, let me explain. I do actively support POCs telling their own stories because we need them and society needs them, but it shouldn’t be all we focus on. I do believe in the “Create What You Know” belief, but I also believe that underrepresented groups should branch out into other genres and stories as well. If you really think about it, how often do you hear about the POC creators behind sci-fi, fantasy, musicals, or even action films- especially in the mainstream? They aren’t a very common occurrence. On another note, how many times have well-represented individuals told stories that aren’t their own- and even told some of our stories?
In my wildest desires, I’ve imagined creating content that relates to my own life, but at the same time I’ve imagined content that features individuals different than me, and stories that exist beyond what is considered “normal”. For many creators there seems to be a legitimate fear of selling out if they don’t create what they know. Members of the general public tend to shun creators who do so. Remember the debut of Tyler Perry’s Too Close to Home? His most recent show stars a predominantly white cast- and many viewers condemned Tyler Perry despite the fact that his productions have provided countless jobs for people of color, as well as launched the careers of others. While I didn’t completely agree with his retort to the backlash, I do understand why many other creators don’t do the same as he did. There exists this burden of obligation for many POC creators, and the fear of being labeled a sellout if they go outside the box or follow what the community deems fit.
While I am against the thought of colorblindness, I do believe Hollywood executives should see more of a person’s qualifications as opposed to the color of their skin (or sex for that matter). In an industry that’s more who you know than what you know, POC’s usually have to fight harder to prove themselves worthy to take on projects outside of what’s designated for them.
In telling stories that are not our own, we can still infuse ourselves and narrative into the mix. While it is great to see a version of my story told, it’s still amazing to see someone like me represented in a different capacity.
ADRIANA, THE CINEMA SOLOIST