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“Black Panther” is a game changer. With over $1.3 billion worldwide, it shattered the long-standing, fallacious belief that black films don’t sell overseas. It also should close 2018 as North America’s highest-grossing film — a historic first for a film with a predominantly black cast, black writers, and directed by a black filmmaker.
There’s another way to look at this: Deja vu. Hollywood’s interest in black stories surges, and then the “renaissance” is followed by a fallow period … until the next one. It’s a pattern that strips the consistency and continuity that’s essential for lasting change.
1960s - Civil - Rights - Movement - Pressure
In the late 1960s, following the Civil Rights movement and facing pressure from a socially and politically conscious black audience seeking full representations of their humanity, Hollywood responded with blaxploitation movies. (It didn’t hurt that Hollywood was in economic flux at the time.) This overdue recognition of the power of the black dollar helped solve Hollywood’s immediate fiscal concerns and, temporarily, its racial ones; the blaxploitation era came to a swift end.
Some 20 years later, black film received fresh attention that was exemplified by the New York Times Magazine cover story, “They’ve Gotta Have Us: Hollywood’s Black Directors.” Featuring an all-male lineup of notable black filmmakers including Spike Lee, John Singleton (whose “Boyz n the Hood” debut effectively gave birth to the “hood movie”), the Hudlin brothers, Mario Van Peebles, and more, the piece highlighted the trials and triumphs of black filmmakers fighting for recognition in an industry that toggled between historically silencing their voices while wanting to embrace them at the same time. That crush didn’t last.
Pressure - Audience - Influence - Media - Environment
So here we are again, faced with immense pressure from a socially and politically active black audience now backed by the influence social media and a rapidly changing environment that has studios grappling with disruptive technologies that demand...
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