By LaWanda Thomas of Wandaring Outloud Media
ATLANTA – ‘Tis the season for the biopic, particularly movies about notable African Americans. This year we’ve already seen Race, the Focus Features release about track and field Olympian Jesse Owens. Nina, was released with much controversy because of the darkening of star Zoe Saldana’s skin to resemble singer Nina Simone and heavily criticized for missing the main ingredient – Nina. Don Cheadle also released his years-in-the-making Miles Ahead to much critical acclaim. The Miles Davis flick is a fantastic departure from the typical cradle to the grave storyline of most biographical films in that Cheadle completely flips the script and creates a jazz infused joyride that allows you to imbibe the essence of Davis rather than reciting his background information.
These films come on the heels of 42, Get on Up, Mandela (he’s not African American but we still claim him), Selma, Bessie, CrazySexyCool, and Straight Outta Compton. And there are more on the way. Last week it was announced that Anika Noni Rose is set to produce and star in a film about political powerhouse Shirley Chisholm. This announcement comes just as filming rolls on Marshall, the biopic on Thurgood Marshall starring Chadwick Boseman and directed by Reginald Hudlin. Another Thurgood Marshall film is in development by Lionsgate based on the book “Devil in the Grove” by Gilbert King. This movie, in development since 2013, will focus on the 1949 Florida case of the Groveland Four in which Marshall defended four young African American men accused of raping a 17-year-old white girl. And the Weinstein Company is full steam ahead with its project Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said? with stellar cast Mike Epps as Pryor, Oprah Winfrey as his grandmother and Kate Hudson as Pryor’s widow Jennifer Lee Pryor.
We can expect to add more to this list as there are rumors that films about Lorraine Hansberry, Paul Robeson, Pele, Marvin Gaye, Tupac, Biggie, Jimi Hendrix, Barbara Jordan, B.B. King, Marcus Garvey, Lena Horne, and Sam Cooke, to name a few, are all in the pipeline. With so many films about public figures we love and revere in the works, we have some notes for the filmmakers about what we want to see on the screen.
Primarily, we want to learn something new. Oftentimes biopics can feel like a recitation of well-known facts and dates about the public life a person. We want you to go beyond Wikipedia and show us something we didn’t know. We’re also watching to figure out what makes them special. So while it’s nice to know their zodiac sign and what state they were born in, putting their existence and work into the context of their time in history is critical.
Explain who and what inspired and influenced them. Tell me what made them cry.
We want to know what made them exceptional and unforgettable.
And while you’re doing that, don’t let us get bored. We want to laugh, cry, and celebrate with and for them. It’s a tall order, but we want you to do your best to capture their magic and let us decide if they are human or divine.