In case you've been stuck under a rock for the last year, I'd thought I'd let you know: Bollywood is taking over the global film industry. Plain and simple. AND I had this post topic sitting in my drafts way before the success of Slumdog Millionaire so I guess I was on the right track. Even though it was British directed and wasn't the traditional 'dance like you're screwing on a light bulb with one hand and patting a child's head with the other' type of film, the Indian theme and connections were at the core and I see a pattern forming. With Steven Spielberg and Will Smith, getting in on the action and stars like Aishwarya Rai, Kareena Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan becoming increasingly popular, I'm thinking traditional Hollywood needs to watch its back. British Indians are also getting in on the act with Deepak Verma (Sanjay from Eastenders) producing a Ben Stiller type comedy; I predict a spate of others will follow.
But where does that leave the black film industry? How have Bollywood films managed to retain a captive audience willing to pay for cinema tickets and DVDs to the extent that the industry is now challenging one of the oldest, big-money-making institutions in the world? Will we eventually see the same with Nolly/Gollywood?
Lets talk about black Hollywood for now or I'll be here all day. By that I mean, black cultural themes and directors/producers. You remember all those straight to DVD, I mean VHS movies when we were all a little younger. 'How to be a Player', 'Boomerang', 'The Players Club', 'The Wood', 'The Brothers' etc. But what now....will they still be wheeling out Gabrielle Union when she hits 75. The same old, boy meets feisty/angry black woman, breaks her down, they fall in love, an obstacle hits e.g. ex boyfriend, baby mother, shady past, halitosis - they overcome it and voila, movie done. However, I do enjoy myself a bit of Tyler Perry; Why Did I Get Married was thought provoking (the 80-20 rule - get to know) and entertaining at the same time. He's also brought us Madea's Family Reunion, Madea's Class Reunion, Madea Goes to Jail, Madea Tosses Salad, Madea Eats a Biscuit, Madea Takes a Dump, Madea DIES..ok I'm playing, I'll stop. But in terms of mainstream movies its more about black actors and actresses who have made it and feature in typical Hollywood type films - Will Smith, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Halle Berry (shouldn't Angela Bassett be in that list...I guess that's another post as well).
Perhaps black films can never be mainstream because by their very definition, it is a niche industry with a niche audience. But then you could argue that Bollywood was a niche and now it's on its way to the big time. I'll put it down to its uniqueness, it brings something new to the table while black films, (storylines and all) can easily be replicated perhaps.
As far as the industry being profitable enough to reinvest and grow, I'm not sure. Is it the audience that are to blame, with our pirates and not supporting 'our own'. We'll pay £8 plus to go to the cinema and see 'Sex & the City' but if 'Girlfriends' was doing a feature length film, would you pay £8 then? £6... no? Ok how about £3.50....anyone... £1.20... SOLD! A cinema ticket to see Girlfriends - sold to the person in the back who has no friends and absolutely nothing to do this Friday.
The UK is stepping up though, maybe that is where the black film industry is at now. Noel Clarke, no - I don't have a crush on him or anything MR GS, Skillset are holding numerous schemes and initiatives to get more ethnic minorities into film, young 'indie/Spike Lee-like' directors such as Jesse Lawrence are coming up through BFM's festivals and short film competitions etc. Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole are also moving into the film domain; with a film currently in production allegedly featuring 50 Cent, maybe their surplus cash from a weekend of football is the investment that the industry needs to train and subsidise young creatives who have the talent and innovation to think outside the box and create the blockbusters that we need and want. I'm looking forward to the next couple of years.
Keep on pushing (Dead Presidents, 1995)