Black Directors and Cinema

A.J. Merch

Staff Writer

amerchant1@umassd.edu

Throughout the years of 2017 to 2019 my love for film would forever be changed. In 2017, Jordan Peele would come onto the scene with the critically acclaimed movie gaining more and more attention. Leading Peele to become the first black man to ever win an Oscar for best original screenplay. The movie Get Out would end up bringing into frame a new era for a black horror filmmaker in the horror movie genre brining a new breath of air to the genre and new hope for black filmmakers like myself. 

This would be followed by 2018 box office hit Black Panther which held a huge impact on the black community and world. Which was against everything that was stated for years which was films which star black actors don’t sell internationally. But Black Panther changed that myth for the foreseeable future. A black film like Black Panther was loved by millions but also hated by some too, which I will touch on later in this article. When I saw Black Panther in the theatre with my high school, it was a spectacular event which had my whole high school raving about the film. Many laughed, cried, and were full of excitement because of the film and its outreach. As I sat and watched I too was amazed, but I was more interested what the director Ryan Coogler accomplished than the film. 

I had been following his career from Fruitvale Station to Creed to the moment Kevin Feige had hired him for Black Panther. I remember being that kid thinking “hey that could me”. It was a very touching moment for me as a black kid seeing the impact of black filmmakers for the second time in just a few years. First being Peele who had us being distraught but curious of what will happen next in Get Out and then Coogler having us cheer on the late Chadwick Boseman as the King of Wakanda as well as understanding the villain played by Michael B. Jordan. After watching those movies, Friday after school became a day when my friend and I would watch movies. This became a tradition for some time for me as someone who would end up becoming a filmmaker especially as a black filmmaker. So, in 2019 I would see Jordan Peele’s second film US, which was truly enjoyable and I felt the audience was swarming the theatre to see what this black filmmaker would provide and they saw him introduce a new genre of film which many were dying for. That being for something new and original which wasn’t from the same place. Within those three years, black cinema changed how America viewed cinema and art as well as the world. Now everywhere you look you hear people saying they can’t wait for what Peele and Coogler have next to write and direct. By this occurring I believe black directors  are the future of cinema, because black cinema has become a new age which many races are swarming to watch. 

For decades we were used to white directors being one top and being the gold standard. We had a few filmmakers like Spike Lee and Tyler Perry play a huge part of our community and as well have impacted me growing up on their movies. Interestingly enough many white people couldn’t name 5 black directors on their fingers. Their first two would be Spike Lee and Tyler Perry or sometimes they would say they don’t even know any black filmmakers on the top of their head. Even when you were to ask people who like film, to state their top five or ten filmmakers. Not one would drop a black filmmaker in that list. None would pay attention to black filmmakers, till Peele and Coogler put out their bodies of work and took the world by storm. With this occurrence the age of black led and directed movies became front and center. People were amazed by a black filmmaker like Peele coming to horror and changing the fundamentals and creating thrillers. As well as Coogler bringing his designs and great storyteller skills to the superhero genre for the MCU. This was black cinema which many people were drawn to because it was different. 

With many people seeing black cinema being the future, there were some that came along stating Peele and Coogler were overrated and that they were “racist”. Why? By many saying this especially “racist” because they wanted to show black cinema through black actors and by giving black community a chance to shine. Which many found as wrong because some even stated they wondered if the lower percentage of the country population needed all that representation. They never questioned the white directors only casting white leads but they were angry at black directors doing the same. They also gave Black Panther a hard time because they saw a praise they didn’t think it deserved. But truthfully, black cinema is here to stay as it has for decades before the rise of these filmmakers and will explode into many different areas of Hollywood and film. It is the future because black filmmakers who come after Coogler and Peele will have the blueprint to tell the story of black characters in numerous different genres and expanding Black CInema.

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