Monday, March 08, 2010

Another earthquake? Woke up to BBC News reporting on a 6 earthquake in the eastern part of Turkey. The aftershocks brought more damage. Haiti, then Chile, now Turkey. In a horrible way, there is a sense of becoming inured to the devastation.

The election in Iraq seems to point to the possibility of political (as opposed to military) solutions to the division of that nation. But the point is: why was there US military action in the first place? What was the goal? What did the Bush administration hope to achieve?

Of course, even the BBC news had a big wrap-up of the Academy Awards; the telecast got mixed reviews (to put it mildly), but most people seemed to agree that something historic had happened. But the focus was on Kathryn Bigelow. However, that was only part of the story. Not just that a woman won as Best Director, but that an African-American won for Best Adapted Screenplay. This was (in all the years of the Academy) the first time that black talent behind the scenes (writer, director, producer) was actually acknowledged. So: Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director for "The Hurt Locker" and Geoffrey Fletcher for Best Adapated Screenplay for "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire". It's funny how the screenplay win was overlooked in the rush to judgement re: a woman winning Best Director.

This is also one of the real problems with show business: this oversimplification of the complexity of the whole picture. I remember talking to an African-American writer-director, who was expressing his frustration at the way that, as the actors have gained more clout in the industry (Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Morgan Freeman, Forest Whitaker, Samuel L. Jackson) there hasn't been a concurrent commitment to black writing, directing and producing talent. Oprah Winfrey, for example, is one of the most powerful women in show business, as well as consistently the richest woman in show business. Yet she has rarely produced any project where she has sought black talent. Even on "Beloved", she wanted the imprimatur of white talent, so she hired Jonathan Demme to direct. Now, i think that, given the enormous complexities of the work, Demme did an honorable job, and "Beloved" is actually a credible film. But my point is: when Lee Daniels was trying to set up "Precious", he had no access to Oprah (or Tyler Perry). Only after the film was completed and was shown at Sundance, did Oprah and Tyler Perry step in to lend their names for support. Which (of course) was enormously important, and helped to raise the profile of the movie, but they could have been involved at an earlier stage and it would have made the production a lot easier.

But "Precious" is out and actually made money and a lot of people have seen it, and Mo'nique has won just about every award you could win, and Geoffrey Fletcher has won a few awards for his screenplay. The reason i'm so adamant about this nurturing of talent is that i've done that: when i've been on grant panels, when i was "support staff" (i.e., basically volunteering) at the IFP, when i was asked to consult for foundations, i've been very conscious of trying to find people of color, women, lesbian and gay talent. And the money in the nonprofit art scene gets smaller and smaller, and yet there are people who could help, yet they don't.


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