It must be nice being white isn't it? Don't look at me, I wouldn't know 🙂
But really, on just about any day of the week, you can march into your local multi-plex here in the USA specifically, or arthouse theater, and hand-pick from any number of films that showcase a wide variety, if not the near-full breadth of, I guess we would call it, the "white experience," and not just that experience in this country, but the world over.
As for the rest of us… well, we continue to beat each other up over the 4 or 5 films that are released widely enough annually, that a significant chunk of us will actually get to see them in theaters.
Putting together my annual preview of summer "black films," or summer films with people of African descent in starring roles, I certainly wasn't at all surprised to learn that it would be a short list. Isn't it just about every year? The trend continues, so brace yourselves.
The highlights I'd say are Beasts Of The Southern Wild (I expect a limited release, so a lot of you probably won't see this in theaters) which will be out the same week that, gasp, Tyler Perry's latest Madea epic, Madea's Witness Protection, opens.
I wonder how that weekend is going to shake out. Obviously TP's film will open wide, so it'll likely open strong enough, as his films tend to do, before petering out in successive weeks. But there's A LOT of buzz around Beasts that while I don't expect it to dominate that weekend, I think it'll open with a very high per screen average, and with strong word of mouth, expand over the following weekends, and do well enough for the kind of film that it is. There's also been some awards talk around it – specifically an Oscar nom for its star Quvenzhane Wallis; but that's much further down the road.
Other than Beasts Of The Southern Wild, other summer curiosities where black cinema is concerned include the remake of Sparkle, which, as crass as it might sound, may likely benefit financially from Whitney Houston's death, as many rush to the theaters to see her final on screen performance on the big screen. Of course, I certainly hope that it's also a good film and that it succeeds on merit.
Sparkle opens on August 17.
With Expendables 2 opening that same weekend, it'll be interesting to see which of the 2 films black people flock to, and which opens at #1. Expendables 2 features the return of its core cast, including Terry Crews.
Another curiosity is the French film Intouchables (The Intouchables) which I'm sure you're tired of reading about, given how much I've written about it and its star Omar Sy. The Weinsteins will release it on May 25th (likely limited), the same weekend that Will Smith's Men In Black 3 also opens. Gee I wonder what film will take the number slot that weekend… I have absolutely no idea!
One thing I'm really interested in seeing is how America (especially black America) reacts to Intouchables, given all talk about its purportedly "cringe-worthy" (according to Variety's review) depictions of the film's black lead. I still haven't seen it; but I'll try to fight my way into a press screening in coming weeks.
What's left? Lots of bloated-budget summer fare that I wouldn't call "black films" but feature black actors in starring and/or supporting roles: The Avengers opens on May 4th (see Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury); check out Rihanna's big screen acting debut in Battleship on May 18; Idris Elba features in Ridley Scott's Prometheus, out on June 8; Mary J. Blige sings some 80s tunes in Rock of Ages out June 15; though he's barely in any of the marketing materials, Anthony Mackie is Abe's best friend and hunting partner in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, opening June 22; the same can be said about Derek Luke in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, also out on June 22; Dwayne Johnson and RZA add some *color* to G.I. Joe: Retaliation on June 29; Morgan Freeman does the same thing for The Dark Knight Rises out July 20; and finally Bokeem Woodbine assumes Best Black Friend duties in Total Recall on August 3.
I almost forgot Battlefield America, which looks like a sequel of sorts to You Got Served (it's brought to you by the same team, and stars one of the cast members from that first film – Marques Houston). All you have to know is that a dance contest is involved.
Also Samuel L. Jackson is in a smaller film called The Samaritan, which costars Ruth Negga. I've actually seen it, but it's forgettable, which I guess explains why I haven't reviewed it yet. Lots of talent in it (including Tom Wilkinson) but all-too-familiar, and ultimately disapponting. Maybe I'll write up a review before its May 18th theatrical release date; although last I checked, IFC pre-released it on VOD, so it may actually be watchable right now.
Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that AFFRM's 3rd release, Restless City, while not a summer debut, will be expanding (hoepfully) to cities around the country after its April 27 initial opening date in NYC, LA and ATL; so for some of you, it very well will be a summer release.
Also worth noting is that there will be a few black film festivals happening over those summer months, like the American Black Film Festival in late June, the Run & Shoot Martha's Vineyard African-American Film Festival in August, and others between.
And that's about it… that I know of anyway. If I missed any, let me know. And if you're an indie filmmakeer self-releasing your film, whether in 1 theater, or 100, anywhere in the country, let me know as well. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with all the info about your film and its release, and I'll share here.
So there ya have it ladies and gents… summer 2012 in black cinema.
I expect a stronger fall schedule.