Tag Archives: lupita nyong’o

David Oyelowo: I won’t play ‘the black best friend’

Original article taken from theguardian.com
Written by Benjamin Lee




The Selma star says he’s turned down many roles because they are just stereotypes based on ethnicity.

Given the variety of roles played by David Oyelowo in the past year (a civil rights leader in Selma, an assistant district attorney in A Most Violent Year, a school principal in Interstellar), it’s be natural to assume that he’s open for most roles on screen.

But in a new interview, the British actor has said the one thing he won’t do is play “the black best friend”.

Speaking to NPR, also about his royal African roots; Oyelowo criticised the shoehorning of black characters into certain films and aims to avoid taking any such role.

“Don’t send me your script if you want me to play the black best friend,” he said. “I just won’t do that. You can feel when it’s literally an afterthought; you can feel when it’s like, ‘Oh quick, let’s get some colour in here.’ That I won’t do because it’s disrespectful and, for me, I’m either part of the solution or I’m part of the problem.”

The actor has previously called out the UK film industry for failing to focus on films with black protagonists set in a heroic context.

Oyelowo received a Golden Globe nomination for his part in Selma, the end to a breakout year for the actor. This year, he’s moving to TV for one-off HBO drama Nightingale, starring opposite Kate Mara in fact-based crime drama Captive, playing Nina Simone’s personal assistant in the biopic Nina and heading up indie drama Five Nights in Maine.

He is currently filming a Ugandan chess drama, Queen of Katwe, with Lupita Nyong’o and has just signed on for A United Kingdom with Rosamund Pike.



Black Women at the Movies: Finally in vogue?

written by Montré Aza Missouri

More than twenty years ago, bell hooks examined the ambiguous relationship between black women and the cinema and argued that black female audiences have to take on an “oppositional gaze” distinctive from the intentions of predominately white male directors. According to hooks, this gaze of resistance is required in order for black women to find pleasure in the cinema.Black feminist critic Jacqueline Bobo in Black Women As Cultural Readers later echoed hooks’ notions of an alternative positioning for black women spectators. However, both recognised a shift during the 1990’s with black female reaction to the film Daughters of the Dust (1991) directed by Julie Dash, the first African-American woman to direct a theatrically released feature length film.

Daughters of the Dust, a poetic narrative told from multiple generations of African American women about a family’s Great Migration journey from the rural south to the urban north, represents a black feminist cinematic style and the potential for a new black female spectatorship. Although Bobo identifies this newly carved space for black women audiences as starting years earlier, with black women’s reception to Steven Spielberg’s 1985 adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.

This reaction to The Color Purple is as key in understanding black female spectatorship, as Daughters of the Dust is pivotal to analysing black female authorship. At the time of The Color Purple’s release, male dominated African American civil rights organisations protested the film, with some going so far as to picket outside of the cinemas where the film had been released. This public outcry was over the stereotypical depiction of black men in a film directed by a white man, despite the film being an adaption of a novel by a black woman.

Amidst public and media debate, mainstream feminist organisations, primarily led by white women, were virtually silent regarding the film. They did not come out in large numbers to give counter arguments in support of a film based on a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by a celebrated figure of the women’s movement. Instead, African American women—mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts—quietly ignored the protests and went to the cinema. They watched The Color Purple and breathed a heavy sigh of relief that seemingly went unnoticed by the news media, mainstream feminists and conventional community representatives.

In the decade prior to The Color Purple, black female representations on screen had been marked by Blaxploitation female buck characters such as Cleopatra Jones and Foxy Brown along with 1970’s portrayals of what film historian Donald Bogle calls tragic “sisters-in-distress” in films like Mahogany (1975) and Claudine (1974).

These depictions were limited to black nationalist notions of acceptable black femininity, framed to further black patriarchy. The Color Purple instead allowed black women spectators to take pleasure in seeing black female agency with a cinematic adaptation of this womanist novel.

It is this history of black female images in film, along with notable and highly problematic films such as The Birth of a Nation (1915) and The Imitation of Life (1934) that I recently recalled in talking with a close friend and cinematographer. Beyond our regular conversations about black film aesthetics and lighting for black performers, on this occasion we discussed current trends in Hollywood and independent film and my friend remarked, “Black women are the ‘in’ thing now.”

For a moment, his comment took me aback. Remembering hooks’ and Bobo’s arguments in terms of black women having perhaps the most complex relationship with the cinema of any demographic group among western audiences, I found this statement puzzling for several reasons.

I found myself remembering the enormous struggle of film directors like Julie Dash. Dash had spent decades and experienced numerous rejections by white male studio executives in making Daughters of the Dust. The idea of black women as now being embraced by an industry, which for more than a century had rendered us invisible as far as having the agency to tell our own stories yet hypervisible in depicting us as the oversexualised other, is hard to make sense of.

There is also a new generation of black women filmmakers to consider. These women filmmakers from the hip-hop generation to the millennials, have come of age in a post-civil rights era (or what Mark Anthony Neal calls the “post-soul”). They have been influenced by black feminist scholars such as bell hooks and inspired by pioneering filmmakers such as Julie Dash, Darnell MartinCheryl Dunye and Ngozi Onwurah. Black women directors – Dee Rees,Tina MabryAva DuVernayTanya HamiltonNikyatu Jusu and Akosua Adoma Owusu – are pushing boundaries in terms of stories, cinematic styles and in reframing black female identities beyond the narrowly constructed images of black women found in mainstream film and media.

These new black filmmakers are honing their skills at a time when the conventional systems of Hollywood are experiencing a certain ‘democratisation’ of film and media. The replacing of high cost celluloid film by digital technology was perhaps the first step in fostering more low-budget independent productions. Nowadays, new media with crowd sourcing for film finance, distribution and exhibition have provided more independent filmmakers with the opportunity to control key elements of the business side of film.

For black women this has been especially significant as generations-old traditions of networking through churches, schools and women’s social clubs have been transferred into the cyber realm of social media. Young, professional African American women have embraced digital technologies for communicating, networking and ultimately marketing their own products. Be it a new independent publishing company or their latest art house film, black women are able to speak directly to each other as potential audiences. Digital networking has opened the door to newfound entrepreneurship in independent film and media amongst young black women. A prime example is  African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM), an independent black film distribution company founded by award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay.

Started in 2011, AFFRM has released seven films and is now distributing films internationally. But, it is important to recognise that black independent film in terms of distribution did not start with social media. Instead, one can look at the example of Haile Gerima and his strategies for marketing and distributing his 1993 slavery film Sankofa as a model for what is happening with contemporary social media in terms of independent film.

Likewise, the Sankofa model finds its roots in the marketing and distribution techniques used by 1920’s and 1930’s African American film pioneer Oscar Micheaux. Yet, what sets this current trend apart is the participation by black women in grassroots organising via social media in supporting films by and about black women.

What also distinguishes this new group of black independent filmmakers, both women and men – whose works Nelson George calls the “new black wave” – from the New Black Realism of the 1990’s and the 1970’s Blaxploitation era is a collectivism amongst new black wave filmmakers. Rather than focusing on the celebrity of a few black directors who are making it in the Hollywood system, this new black wave era is centred on a movement that fosters as many black filmmakers telling diverse, high quality stories as possible.

In 2013, the major studios released more films by and about black people than had been seen in decades. In part, this increase can be attributed to greater opportunities for black independent filmmakers to bypass the Hollywood system altogether and still have their films seen by targeted audiences. Also, the ability of studio-backed black filmmakers to work with local community and film organisations to incorporate grassroots marketing via social media in order to speak directly to their audiences has supported the commercial viability of black films overall.

What does this discussion of new media, digital production, marketing and distribution have to do with the question of black women as the “ in thing” as opposed to the one hundred plus years prior to now?

Personally, I am still uncertain how “in” black women really are. The numbers overall for women directors and for women in executive positions in the film industry remain a serious concern. Although the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has its first African American woman president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, and as many celebrated another Academy Awards year in which a black woman performer, this year Lupita Nyong’o, walked away with an Oscar, I am not sure if we are really at a turning point for black women in the film industry as a whole.

Nyong'o, best supporting actress winner for her role in "12 Years a Slave", racts on stage at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood

What I am confident about is a new relationship between black women and the media, specifically film. After more than a century of the black female form being battered by stereotypical constructions of ‘mammies’, ‘sapphires’, and ‘tragic mulattoes’, this current generation of black women spectators empowered by decades of black feminist thought, critically engage with media and readily recognise stereotypical images. Beyond simply spotting stereotypical portrayals, black women now have the platforms to critically examine how such images inform black female identities and to publicly call out producers and media organisations that present these problematic depictions of black women.

While film as an industry appears to remain a boy’s club that rarely if ever has black women in mind, film is a socio-cultural entity that has an enormous impact on how black women are viewed and on how we see ourselves. Whether the film industry has chosen black women as the new “in thing” or not is no matter. What is imperative is that black women tell our stories with the diversity and richness that speaks to the complexities of our experiences.

Montré Aza Missouri

Montré Aza Missouri has produced narrative and documentary films in the UK, the US, Ghana and Nigeria. She is an Assistant Professor in Film at Howard University where she teaches Directing, Scriptwriting, Film History and African Cinema. She is also the founding director of Parallel Film Collective a nonprofit organisation dedicated to producing, distributing and promoting “local equals global” film that transcends limiting racial, cultural and gender identities found in mainstream media. A former fellow at the Center for Media, Religion and Culture, Montré is completing her book Black Magic Woman and Narrative Film: Race, Sex and Afro-religiosity for Palgrave Macmillan. She is on twitter @MontreMissouri

This article was originally published by Media Diversified. Reproduced with permission


Lupita and Idris to unite on screen?


Written by Lee Pinkerton


It just keeps getting better and better for Lupita Nyong’o . With her movie career barely out of nappies, Lupita seems to have turned conventional show-biz wisdom on its head. Until her arrival we know that there were very few roles for Black actresses, and those who did make it through tended to be of the light-skinned or mixed-race variety like Halle Berry or Paula Patton.

But with her supersonic rise to stardom, the Mexican-born, Kenyan actress has Hollywood and the fashion world completely enthralled and shows no sign of slowing down.  Her breakthrough role was in the Oscar winning 12 Years a Slave, with she herself going onto win Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her starring role as Patsey in Steve McQueen’s epic.

Lupita red carpet

During the awards season she commanded more than 65 red carpets from September through March and became the darling of designers everywhere as she effortlessly pulled off Prada to Dior. Nyong’o, 31, has consolidated her foray into fashion by landing a coveted contract with Lancôme Paris, joining Julia Roberts, Penélope Cruz and Kate Winslet as a celeb ambassador for the brand. And last week People Magazine named her as the Most Beautiful Woman on the Planet.

Lupita-People-MagazineTo be touted as beautiful is not lost on the actress, who for years thought she didn’t fit the Hollywood mould.

“Beauty was what I saw on television, you know, light skin and long, flowing, straight hair,” she says. “Subconsciously you start to appreciate those things more than what you possess.”

You would think it could get no better – but yes it has.  It is now rumoured that Lupita will be starring opposite every woman’s favourite Idris Elba in a new movie adaptation of  The Jungle Book.

According to The Hollywood Reporter the 12 Years A Slave actress is in ‘final negotiations’ to play the role of Rakcha,  the mother wolf who adopts the as yet uncast Mowgli.  Shere Khan, the man-eating tiger who will be voiced by Elba.

idris-elbaDisney is behind the latest adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling fairytale, which will be directed by Jon Favreau and blend live action with CGI.

The meteoric rise of Lupita reminds me of one of my favourite sayings.

“Those who say it can’t be done, should keep out of the way of those busy doing it.”

Lee Pinkerton



The Oscars – Kush Looks back

Written by Lamar Fergus-Palmer

The Oscars has long been the ‘centre piece’ of the awards season. Millions tune in from all over the world to watch the spectacle, and 2014 did not disappoint. Films are often judged and promoted based on how many nominations/wins they’ve received, so the evening itself is always full of shocks, surprises, emotion, and a huge amount of press.

The 2014 Oscars had arguably more talking points than the other Oscars in years gone by, and it was without a doubt the most talked about award show in recent memory. With that in mind, at Kush Films, we will take a look at the highlights of the 86th Academy Awards.

12 Years A Slave Wins Best Film

Regardless of what happened, it only seems right to start with what will now be considered the best film of 2013/14 as the winner of both the BAFTA and Oscar for the Best Picture 12 Years A Slave.

Directed by 44 year old, British Steve McQueen, some thought that 12 Years A Slave may finish behind Gravity in the running, as it has taken almost seven times as much money at the box office. However, it was 12 Years A Slave that prevailed much to the delight of a star-studded producer and cast list, which included; Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Lupita Nyong’o.

McQueen, who gave the acceptance speech, dedicated the award win to all those who suffered and still suffer slavery today. He said, “everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live,” in a very moving speech that eventually saw him jump into the arms of his cast and crew to celebrate.

Lupita Nyong’o wins best supporting actress for role in 12 Years a Slave
Nyong'o, best supporting actress winner for her role in "12 Years a Slave", racts on stage at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood

Following on from the above, Lupita Nyong’o took the Oscar for best supporting actress beating out strong competition, most notably from Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle). The Mexican born Kenyan had previously won 23 of the 31 ‘major’ awards she had been nominated for in her very first feature film role on 12 Years a Slave.

Lupita Nyong’o took the time to thank the real-life slave who guided her to shape her moving performance as Patsy, and she also thanked Steve McQueen, and fellow cast members, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender. She closed with the line “No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”

Gravity picks up seven academy awards

While the team involved with Gravity would have been disappointed that they did not pick up what could arguably be considered as the biggest awards, the movie did win the most awards of any film of the night, seven in total, including:


Best Director – Alfonoso Cuaron

Achievement in Visual Effects

Achievement in Sound Mixing

Achievement in Cinematography

Achievement in Sound Editing

Achievement in Film Editing

Best Original Score

With seven Academy Award wins on the night Gravity now sits alongside other films like; Schindler’s List, Shakespeare in Love and Lawrence of Arabia who have also all won seven Oscars.

Dallas Buyers Club wins both major male awards

Dallas Buyers Club also had a night to remember, as it picked up the two main male awards; Matthew McConaughey won best actor, and Jared Leto picked up the award for best supporting actor.


Both winners gave emotional speeches with McConaughey thanking his father, who passed away when he was just 23 years old and Leto, who praised those who had died from AIDS, as his character in Dallas Buyers Club had the condition.

The other antics
The Oscars are known just as much for the red carpet, presenting and skits as it is the awards now, and this year’s 43 million viewers (the most in a decade) were not disappointed with the entertainment.

The historical selfie that almost broke Twitter

When Ellen Degeneres (the host) decided that it would be a good time to take, and post a selfie of her and several of Hollywood’s elite, including; Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Spacey, Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt she probably didn’t realise just how popular the post would be.

Until that post on her account, Barack Obama’s Victory Photo was the most re-tweeted tweet ever with over 750,000 retweets. In just a few hours the Ellen selfie surpassed one million, then two and now sits on 3.3 million re-tweets.

Jennifer Lawrence falls over again
After falling over on the way up the stairs to pick up her 2013 best actress Oscar, Jennifer Lawrence was hoping that 2014 wouldn’t bring the same fate. Well, while she avoided an on-stage fall, she did stumble on the red carpet, and it was caught by camera, much to her disappointment.

Leonardo Di Caprio – the man overlooked
With five personal Academy Award nominations and no wins, Leonardo Di Caprio (Wolf of Wall Street) put on a brave face as the best actor award was handed over to Matthew McConaughey. Of course, Twitter blew up with memes and statuses about how Di Caprio would seemingly never win a best actor Academy Award.

While he might have some way to go to overtake the late Peter O’Toole, who was nominated for best actor eight times without winning, those on social media did have some light-hearted fun with Di Caprio’s loss.

The pizza delivery guyellen-degeneres-serves-pizzWhen Ellen says she’s ordering pizza you better expect a few large boxes to turn up, regardless of the timing. Delivering the pizzas to some of Hollywood’s elite, Edgar Martirosyan, who WAS a real deliveryman from a local pizza establishment, seemingly had no idea that he would be delivering to some of the biggest stars in the world.

Martirosyan hand delivered the pizza to stars, including; Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Jared Leto and many others before making his way back to work, sans tip. Ellen collected for him and then gave him $1,000 the next day on her show. What a night for Edgar Martirosyan and Big Mama’s & Papa’s Pizzeria that experts say received up to $10,000,000 worth of free advertising because of their appearance.

The 2014 Oscars was action packed to say the least. Congratulations to all the winners, especially 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen and Lupita Nyong’o and commiserations to the runners up, as they say the show goes on – hopefully the line-up of films for the 2015 Academy Awards will be just as great as those in 2014.

© Kushfilms.com 2014