Can we go back to Hannibal? Or Mansa Musa?
January 14, 2016 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Creed's star, Michael B. Jordan, and director, Ryan Coogler, talk about film and race.
Says Jordan: “The majority of roles out there are written not by us” — meaning young black people — “so if [most writers’] only interaction with someone who looks like me is from stereotypes, what you see on TV, then those are the types of roles that are going to keep getting written. Also, I don’t have to go out for every role that’s written black. I want to go out for the role that’s written [with race unspecified] — I’m going to make that role black regardless.” They’re excited to change preconceived notions about black film, while not abandoning the idea of being blacks in film. “Black art, it’s so complicated. Because there is no white art,” Coogler said. “Because, whether people want to admit it or not, you know, in this country, in this culture, white is seen as the norm. Because there’s no need to identify it as anything, it’s looked at as standard. Which, if you compare and contrast that, there’s an inherent unfairness to it.”
posted by ChuraChura (11 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Michael B. Jordan is a treasure and classes up any joint he's in (looking at YOU, FF film).
posted by Kitteh at 7:49 AM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would very much like a movie about Mansa Musa induced inflation destroying the economies of place he passed through on Hajj, yes. I'm not sure what the plot would be, but I would watch pretty much any movie on this topic.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:58 AM on January 14, 2016 [9 favorites]

Plot wise, a Mansa Musa movie would be kinda dull: "I inherited a stable empire after my kooky predecesser took up sailing, I then successfully expanded my rule, increasing trade and building significant monumental architecture. Also, I was very rich and very generous. The End."

Much more fun to go back to the founder of the dynasty, Sundiata Keita, who already has a built-in script via the Epic of Sundiata. With him you get overcoming familial rivalry, a prince in exile, evil magic, and a triumphant return. Why have you not already made this, Hollywood!?

Oh wait, I think I know why.

There are really so many great traditional stories if Hollywood could get its racist head out of its racist ass and stop assuming that people in Peoria won't go see a film about non-white people (which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy). It's crazy that something like the Ramayana, which has had something like a billion Bollywood adapatations, has never had a major American production. Like the Epic of Sundiata it's got familial rivalry, a prince in exile, evil magic, and a triumphant return.

Or take something like the Historia Chichimeca, which a major source of hagiography for one of founders of the Aztecs, Nezahualcoyotl. That whole area of history is packed with drama. It's got... familial conflict, a prince in exile, evil magic, and a triumphant return. Hmm, I think I'm starting to see a pattern here.

Whatever though, have fun remaking Robin Hood again, Hollywood.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:43 AM on January 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

Considering the Oscar Nominations for 2016 have just been released, this is a very timely and appropriate post. For the second year in a row, all 20 Oscar acting nominees are white. And whereas the 2015 Oscar nominations included Selma, a Martin Luther King Jr. docudrama, among the Best Picture nominees, the 2016 lineup doesn't feature a single story about a person of color. (The directing list includes Latino Alejandro G. Iñárritu.)

See this thread.
posted by Fizz at 9:01 AM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

To be fair, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has familial conflict, a princess in exile, evil magic, and a triumphant return.

But yes, I would watch the hell out of all of the above movies, Panjadrum.

The thing is, more recent historical eras, though they've been filmed to death with all-white casts, still have a ton of stories left in them if you actually look. Where's my Ida B. Wells biopic? Where's the tense espionage drama about Elizabeth van Lew and Mary Bowser, spying for the Union in Richmond? Where's the thrilling Napoleonic-era war epic about Alexandre Dumas, pére? Where's Noor Inayat Khan dying valiantly at the hands of the Nazis, or Ellen and William Craft's successful flight from slavery? How about Anna May Wong in the silent-film era? While we're all excited about Hamilton, how about a Culper Ring movie that puts Cato front and center?

There's so much, if they'd just look.
posted by nonasuch at 9:22 AM on January 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

Why the hell wasn't Coogler nominated for director? He did a great job with Creed: IMO, it does a better job of revisiting/reviving a 40-year-old franchise than even The Force Awakens. It's a tighter movie, with a more diverse a cast, and subverts the the original in interesting ways, while still respecting it.
posted by suelac at 9:42 AM on January 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

suelac, Up until you laid it out the way you just did, I had not really thought about how similar it was to SW:TFA. Wow, what a great assessment. I enjoyed Star Wars but you're right, Creed took more risks and it just worked better as a film.
posted by Fizz at 10:15 AM on January 14, 2016

I've been wanting to see Creed, but it didn't seem to come to my local cinemas. Was it not widely released? I was really excited to see it! Love MBJ.
posted by areaperson at 2:03 PM on January 14, 2016

it didn't seem to come to my local cinemas

We live in very different places, areaperson, I guess: it played at my local theater for weeks, because Coogler is a hometown boy.
posted by suelac at 2:39 PM on January 14, 2016

W. Kamau Bell on Creed:
I love Rocky movies as much as I love Black cinema—and surprise!, Rocky is now officially a part of Black Cinema. Who could’ve imagined that Coogler would follow up his debut film, Fruitvale Station—the best film about racism in 2013; sorry, not sorry, 12 Years A Slave—with a Rocky sequel? It’s kind of like if Spike Lee had followed up his debut film, She’s Gotta Have It, by directing a James Bond film, but with Denzel Washington playing James Bond.

And Coogler does all this without losing any of the voice that made Fruitvale Station so important and revelatory—making Creed feel bigger in scope than any of the other Rocky movies. Creed stars Michael B. Jordan as a young Black man who is dealing with many of the issues that affect young Black men in this country today. This is a movie about how Black lives matter, without ever using the hashtag.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:00 AM on January 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

I've never heard of Mansa Musa. Coogler can make up whatever plot he wants, and I'll be there, none the wiser.
posted by donajo at 8:44 AM on January 16, 2016

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