African American filmmakers seek a new star


For many, it was more than just a low-budget romantic comedy about a sexually liberated woman -- it was the first shot in a cinematic revolution.

With his 1986 breakout film, "She's Gotta Have it," director Spike Lee unwittingly kicked open the door for a new wave of young independent African American filmmakers armed with audacious visions and fresh perspectives about black life. Robert Townsend ("Hollywood Shuffle"), the Hughes brothers ("Menace II Society"), Mario Van Peebles ("New Jack City"), Charles Burnett ("To Sleep With Anger"), Matty Rich ("Straight Out of Brooklyn"), John Singleton ("Boyz N the Hood") and others won over not only black moviegoers but wider audiences as well, creating comedies and dramas barbed with sharp perspectives on race, class, social conditions and politics.

But now, more than 20 years later, and in a time when race has taken center stage in presidential politics, another type of African American filmmaker has established himself as the dominant voice. With "Meet the Browns," which made more than $20 million when it opened last week, Tyler Perry has cemented his status as Hollywood's most consistently successful independent black filmmaker. Urban audiences have lined up in droves to enjoy his traditional formula of romantic, family-centered melodrama -- spiced with over-the-top, insult-hurling characters -- which he honed years ago writing plays aimed at black churchgoers.

Others in the industry proclaim that the African American film landscape is not only alive but thriving. They say several filmmakers, including Perry, Tim Story ("Barbershop," the "Fantastic Four" movies), David E. Talbert ("First Sunday") and others have tapped into commercial sensibilities and have taken advantage of increased opportunities.

(LA Times)

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