Movies like Hidden Figures, Fences, and this year's Best Picture Oscar-winning Moonlight proved that, when given the chance (read: green light, funding, and wide distribution) films featuring black actors telling expressly black stories can become major box office successes.
Still though, even though the most recent cycle of black cinema's been met with widespread critical acclaim, there is always the fear Hollywood as a whole might look at 2016 as the year that it finally course-corrected for decades of racial inequality and decide that its longstanding race problem is "fixed." Not only that, but the pernicious myth that black films and actors can't draw in significant audiences abroad because of racism overseas.
In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, however, Jeff Clanagan, head of Lionsgate's Codeblack division that focuses on black films, was candid about what sort of international reception black movies are actually getting in 2017 and how some film executives seem to go out of their way to ignore reality.
“Every time there’s a success, it gets swept under the rug,” Clanagan told the paper. “It’s almost like there’s an asterisk on it. They chalk it off as an anomaly.”
As last year's crop of prestige black movies continue to exceed box office expectations (Hidden Figures, for example, has made $215.5 million internationally to date and managed to unseat Rogue One in its opening weekend), Jordan Peele's Get Out is a timely reminder that these sort of numbers aren't flukes.
In an effort to keep the momentum around films created for and by marginalized voices of color going, the Audience Awards is hosting its first film festival in LA this April with a specific focus on innovation and diversity in short-form filmmaking.
In addition to screening a number of independent films pulled from the organization's online community of some 150,000 filmmakers, the festival will also include creative workshops and an awards ceremony featuring Dear White People producer Effie Brown, who'll be receiving their Trailblazer Award.
“We celebrate diverse, emerging storytellers by providing a global platform for their voices to be heard,” Paige Williams, Audience Awards’ Founder and CEO, told Shadow and Act. “Our inaugural AudFest in LA honors and elevates the stories of new filmmakers and of the venerated industry leaders who carved the path for them.”