During the current Black cultural renaissance that we’re experiencing, Hollywood is greenlighting more projects by Black filmmakers and featuring Black casts, especially remakes of tried and true favorites.
This week in his column for The Hollywood Reporter, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar explains to readers why this isn’t just a good thing, but also a “nudge” in the right direction.
As Abdul-Jabbar points out, Black remakes are nothing new as evidenced by 1978’s cult classic The Wiz starring Dianna Ross and a young Michael Jackson, which was meant as an African-American homage to 1939’s The Wizard of Oz.
In recent years there have been a slew of other remakes like Annie (2014), About Last Night (2014), Steel Magnolias (2012) and Death at a Funeral (2010).
“One reason to colorize a movie with black and brown faces is to make the film more appealing to people of color who don’t often get to see people who look like them dominating the cast,” he explains, also citing that, “In 2016, 86.1 percent of the leads in top theatrical films were white, while only 13.9 percent were people of color, even though the latter group made up 38.7 percent of the U.S. population.”
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) May 2, 2019
“Another reason to alchemize white casts into black is to show how the same story told from a different cultural perspective can illuminate and celebrate those cultural differences,” he continues. “That can be done by incorporating traditions, behaviors and beliefs unique to that culture. But it can also be accomplished by doing nothing different. After all, to watch black characters endure and overcome the same obstacles that the white characters faced in the same story presents a universality that emphasizes our similarities rather than our differences.”
Abdul-Jabbar applauds current box office faves, What Men Want starring Taraji P. Henson and Little starring Regina Hall, Issa Rae, and Marsai Martin, for their ability to “good-naturedly” show that movies starring Black people don’t just appeal to Black audiences.
“A remake should be a reimagining and revitalizing of the original, and both of these movies accomplish that,” concluded the NBA Hall of Famer. “They are welcome additions to the black canon because both subtly nudge the needle of racial equality forward while still giving their audiences a couple hours of fun.”