Yesterday I saw Jumping the Broom, an all black movie directed by Salim Akil, featuring Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, and Mike Epps to name a few. Basically, it’s a story about an upper-middle class girl getting involved with an (implied) middle/lower class man. The movie, cinematically, didn’t offer a lot. I wasn’t dazzled by the cinematography, the soundtrack – even the acting wasn’t anything to brag about.
But what is interesting: the first all black movie NOT written, directed and produced for the screen by Tyler Perry. In fact, when I asked an employee what the film was about, he prefaced it by saying, “It looks like a movie that Tyler Perry would make…”
Is it terrible that contemporary black cinema has become synonymous with Tyler Perry and his Madea franchise? I won’t delve too much into the debate of whether Perry is worthy of all the attention he’s been getting for his films. All I have to say is that I saw this film on Mother’s Day and over 90% of the audience was African-American.
And as I sat there, munching away at my Sour Patch Kids, I realized that black people want to see black films. This is a niche that MUST be filled.
I thought about all the crap-tastic films featuring the broken, ruined, needy black persons: The Blind Side and Precious are two horrific examples of black people suffering (the latter) and how white people must come in and rescue us (the former). For the record – neither of those movies deserved an Oscar. But they got them because the public eats that kind of nonsense up; not just the suffering, the pain and the injustice but the complete blackness of it all. Had The Blind Side dealt with say, a Jewish kid, perhaps it wouldn’t have been so “moving”.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of ways to discuss contemporary issues of racism (particularly in the South where people are still opposed to interracial marriage) that doesn’t involve the rich white family to save the poor black kid – who, by the way, seems to embody all the stereotypes non-blacks seem to have about the community. Degenerate mother, not very educated, really dark skin, massive beyond all human comprehension (especially compared to the whites). The only difference between “Big Mike” and other black male stereotypes is that he’s not a gang-banger. But the people in his neighborhood seem to fit a similar, just as sketchy, description.
Jumping the Broom is a nice break from the monopoly that Perry has created over black cinema as well as a an excellent view into how some black people live. Not everyone is from the hood, or being abused on a daily basis, or needs to be rescued by the wealthy whites. Some black people are normal (and rich) and that’s always great to see.