Breaking the Racial Barrier Inherent in “Black” Movies

Think Like a Man Too star Kevin Hart is on a mission to change the perception of black films among mainstream audiences, according to a recent interview with Tom Joyner.

This past week Kevin Hart co-hosted the Tom Joyner Morning Show. Joyner interviewed Hart on the importance of supporting “black films,” or movies involving a predominately black cast. But why are black movies referred to as “black movies?” Movies with a predominately white cast aren’t called “white movies?” Hart explained how he plans to break the racial barrier.

One thing he wants audiences to understand is that the title “black movie” exists because we allow it to. We constantly place ourselves in a category. In return, the film industry does not believe in the ideas that these movies can be international or have universal appeal.

Although “Think Like a Man Too,” in which Hart co-stars, reached #1 in the box office this weekend, it will not be shown internationally, and was only viewed on 2,100 screens in the United States. However, the Clint Eastwood directed film; “Jersey Boys” starring a (predominately white cast,) will be shown internationally and viewed on 3,000 screens in the United States.

George Lucas, director of “Red Tails,” the 2012 film about the Tuskegee Airmen, had to fund the movie himself. The industry would not support it because of its all-black cast. In an interview with The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart in 2012 Lucas said, “This has been held up for release since 1942 since it was shot, I’ve been trying to get released ever since. “It’s because it’s an all-black movie. There’s no major white roles in it at all…I showed it to all of them and they said no. We don’t know how to market a movie like this.” But viewers have the ability to control whether or not a “black film” has as much success as a majority film.

Kevin Hart’s recent success proves that African Americans can be successful in film, internationally. His last stand-up comedy documentary film, Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain, arguably, shocked audiences with clips from around the world. He sold out arenas in the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and more. Also, Ride Along, which premiered in theatres this past January, went international and reached $157 million within the first two weeks of its release.

Hart has also taken the #1, 2, and 3 spots on Fandango, a top online destination for millions of moviegoers to purchase tickets. He says that, “laughter has no color, and good product has no color. People love good content.”

It is imperative that we continue to support the material that these actors and actresses are working so hard for. We cannot always to be quick to complain about being discriminated against, if we are not stepping up and supporting our brothers and sisters in film. If the film industry sees the love and support from fans, they have to provide “black movies” with the same platforms and privileges as “white films.” We, the consumers, must refuse to sit back and allow these movies to just stay black and die.

Hart realizes that he has the ability to change the perception of films with predominately black casts in the entertainment, and you do too.

  1. Thanks for this article, and for advancing the conversation about equity in the arts.

    The article states, “But viewers have the ability to control whether or not a ‘black film’ has as much success as a majority film.” I live in a capital city where the African-American population is 3% of the whole. When films featuring black artists are promoted on television, I hold my breath, say a prayer, and cross my fingers that the film will actually have a run in our city. Even though we are a capital city, it’s not always guaranteed we’ll get to see the film in theaters here.

    When “12 Years a Slave” was released, it did not show up in theaters here. I wrote to the movie theater company and visited the theater to determine why the big screen release of the movie was not available to us. I was told the production company makes the decisions about where the film is shown. So, in this instance, I would have been unable to attend the movie at a major theater, and unable to “voice” my support for the film by paying for a ticket. Eventually, as the Oscar buzz for “12 Years a Slave” revved up, the local, independent movie house in our town secured a copy of the film and we were given access to it there. So, while we can and should make every effort to support art we find valuable, that choice—as was the case with this particular film in my particular city—is not always given to us.

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