Films: Stories Where the Truth Hurts

12_Years_A_Slave_-_Steve_McQueen-director,_Lupita_Nyongo,_actor_&_ChiwetelEjiofor,_actor-_Photo_Ben_A_Pruchie_2013_Getty_ImagesBy Claude Jay

January marked the start of the presentation of the film and television awards recognizing the achievements in filmmaking and television production. Awards are given in many categories: best picture, director, lead and supporting actor male and female and other categories.  The awards shows include the Golden Globe Awards, (January 12), SAG Awards (January 18), NAACP Image Awards (February 22) and the Academy Awards (March 2, ABC at 7:00 PM).  The fanfare and excitement of the awards shows includes the red carpet interviews, fashion and a look at the making and rise of these films and productions and stars.

There has been much talk about what a record year 2013 was for black films or films with black story lines and actors. When we compare the recent years of Hollywood production of Black films, the number of films released in 2013 was significant.  Some of the films released  with black story lines and actors are, 12 Years A Slave, Lee Daniels’ The ButlerFruitvale Station, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, 42, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, The Best Man II, Black Nativity and Madea’s Christmas. Also, there were major films Captain Philips, Star Trek in the Darkness and Iron Man  2 where actors of color were co- stars.

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While all of these films mentioned deserve audience support and recognition of  the director, writers, cast and crew. Two films in particular, 12 Years A Slave and Lee Daniels’ The Butler, are apart of this season of productions that are outstanding and that stand out. These two films are both based on true stories and set in different time periods.  The journey of both films takes the audience to times and places in American history and tells particular stories of African American people.

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In 12 Years a Slave, the time is during slavery 1853, and Lee Daniels’ The Butler, the time is from the early 1930’s to 1980’s.  While they are different times and are set in different places, both films are based on true stories.  In 12 Years A Slave, the unbelievable pain endured through slavery, servitude and how the inhumanity played out on men, women, boys and girls will make you weep, angry and sad.  Likewise, the injustices of the segregated South were part of the story as seen in, Lee Daniels’ The Butler. The movie shows and makes the point of the inequality of the Jim Crow laws in American history where a white person was considered better than a black person or a black person was not equal to a white person; separate water fountains, seats at the back of the bus and segregated schools. These points brought out in the films are not Hollywood theatrics these are truths; truths that hurts.

Based on true stories, 12 Years A Slave, is based on the memoirs of by Solomon Northup, published in 1853.  Solomon Northup was a New York State born freed negro who was kidnapped in Washington, DC and sold in to slavery.  Lee Daniels’ The Butler, is loosely based the life of Eugene Allen (July 14, 1919- March 31, 2008) a butler at the White House.

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Mr. Allen worked at the White House for 34 year from 1952 to 1986 and for 8 Presidents.  The film was inspired by an article Wil Haywood wrote on Mr. Eugene Allen for the Washington Post.

Lee Daniels The Butler and 12 Years a Slave have been nominated for awards and achieved box office success. Each film has made over $100 million dollars.

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Chewitel Ejiofor, who plays Solomon North in, 12 Years A Slave, has been nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe, NAACP Image Award, SAG Awards and won Best Actor from the British Academy of Film and Theatre Arts (BAFTA).

12_Years_A_Slave_-_Steve_McQueen-director,_Lupita_Nyongo,_actor_&_ChiwetelEjiofor,_actor-_Photo_Ben_A_Pruchie_2013_Getty_Images

Lupita Nyong’o for her role of Patsy, has won a Golden Globe, NAACP Image Award for Best Supporting Actor Female, and is nominated for an Academy Award.  This role marks her film debut. She was born in Mexico and to Kenyan Parents. She studied at the Yale School of Drama.  The Director of 12 Years A Slave, Steve McQueen is nominated for Academy Award and the film is nominated for Best Picture.

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Lee Daniels’ The Butler, received SAG Award and NAACP Image Award Nominations. Forest Whitaker, an Academy Award Winning Actor, received the 2014 NAACP Image Award for Best Actor portraying Cecil Gaines. Oprah Winfrey was nominated for both SAG Award and an NAACP Image Award for Best Supporting Actor female portraying Gloria Gaines.

While awards shows are important to careers and it is wonderful to see deserving work receive acknowledgement. Often, because of lack of financial backing or the studios decision makers not giving projects the green light, there are many deserving works that do not receive recognition. Also, studio do not or are not willing to take enough chances on black, Hispanic or Asian story lines, for fear they will not make money.  The box office are proof that large numbers of African American people see and support the movie industry and black films. Likewise Hispanic and Asians persons support the film industry. Therefore, the film industry should reflect those who purchase tickets and support the industry.

So, this year with much talk about and the recognition of black films or films with black cast;

12 Years A Slave,  Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Fruitvale Station, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, 42, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete and others, let this not be the exception. Let Hollywood and those who make decision about producing films keep in mind that a diverse audience is purchasing tickets to the movies and the movies should tell stories and reflect the diversity, even when the stories are those that bring truth and hurt.

What’s your choice for the Oscars?

Theater

Theater (Photo credits: www.campgroundsigns.com)

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