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Black Woman Directs First Ever Romantic Comedy about Black Muslim Life

We all love a good romantic comedy, right? You know those hilariously relatable ones with the universal storyline: Gorgeous girl-loves-undeserving guy, they marry, he cheats, then, naturally, it all falls apart… Can the girl save her marriage with her beloved-albeit-trifling husband??

Or will she emerge after heartbreak more empowered with a new lease on life and a new Prince Charming?? We love to kick back with our favorite bottle of wine or comfort food watching our RomCom faves over and over, rooting for the girl who often reminds us of our own selves when love goes south (if even temporarily)!

She always wins though, and no matter how many times you watch these classic movies, they never get old.

Google “Romantic Comedies” and the top ten results reveal some of the classics: When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman, How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days, The Proposal, Love Actually, You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, Bridget Jones Diary, 50 First Dates, and Ten Things I Hate About You.

And of course we have our beloved Black RomComs: Boomerang, Love Jones, Brown Sugar, Poetic Justice, The Best Man, Love & Basketball, Think Like A Man,  How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and the 1974 classic, Claudine.

But when was the last time a beautiful heroine that got her life together, ditching her zero for a hero, was an orthodox Muslim Black American? I’ll answer that, NEVER.

Let Hollywood tell it, there is no natural intersection between the romantic comedy genre and Islam. And even if there is, they’d have you believe that there’s no audience for such films. But director Aminah Bakeer Abdul-Jabbaar is here to shatter that misconception with her hilariously witty new indie movie Muslimah’s Guide To Marriage.

Filmed in Los Angeles over a two week period in 2016, the story follows Muslimah Muhammad played by Ebony Perry, a twenty-something African-American orthodox Muslim woman from Inglewood, CA who works as a counselor at South Central High.

Ebony Perry

As the tagline sums up, “She has seven days and fourteen hours left in her Iddah (Muslim separation) before she will officially be divorced from her cheating husband. Knowing that the divorce would upset her religious father and the local Muslim community, Muslimah works diligently to try to fix her broken marriage before it is too late.”

Premiering at the Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival (PAFF), where it won the distinction of “Audience Award – Narrative Feature”, Muslimah’s Guide To Marriage was recently featured in Brooklyn, NY at BAM Rose Cinemas’ New Voices in Black Cinema film series.

Director-Aminah-Bakeer-Abdul-Jabbaar-accepts-the-Audience-Award-Narrative-Feature with Donald-Bakeer-and-Ayuko-Babu (Trendy Africa)

Not to mention that it sold out three days of screening during PAFF, including Valentine’s Day (how’s that for reaching an audience)!  

Masterful in the conventions of romantic comedies and well-versed in relatable Black humor, the film emerges as a unicorn in the fantastical realm of #blackgirlmagic, and that’s not just because Tiffany Haddish makes an appearance in the film.

It’s because this movie is so unapologetically Black, and so unapologetically Muslim, but at the same time, so hysterically funny. It’s also authentic in its representation of beautiful and intelligent, savvy and independent Black Muslim women.

The type of Muslim women who call into question the things that just don’t make sense to them despite the well-intentioned advice from family and friends.

In this case, Muslimah’s father played by Glenn Plummer. The type of Muslim women who do not give up faith, and, better yet, are reliant on the religious faith that has nurtured their solid sensibilities as women in a secular world.

Glenn Plummer

The type of Muslim women who are quirky and outrageous, who have men of all ethnicities and backgrounds finding them desirable, and actually have untold options in life that include more than whether to remain married or get divorced. Just ask Ummi, Muslimah’s unmarried, wise and well-traveled mother played by Kimberly Bailey.

Mai Perkins (left) Aminah Bakeer Abdul-Jabbaar (center) and, Kenyatta Bakeer (right)

Muslimah’s Guide To Marriage is the brainchild of director Aminah Bakeer Abdul-Jabbaar, Assistant Professor of Pan African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles. It’s no surprise that she first picked up a camera to make a film with her siblings at the age of 10.

romantic comedy
Director, Aminah Bakeer Abdul-Jabbaar

Fast forward to present day, and you still see the tight-knit Bakeer family as a part of the cast and production of the film, with her sister Kenyatta producing while her father, Donald Bakeer, who wrote the book that inspired the movie South Central, executive produced Muslimah’s Guide To Marriage.

Scene from South Central (2002)

Aminah’s upbringing in the Nation of Islam, and her experiences in navigating a first marriage and subsequent divorce, helped shape the satirical storyline and the range of characters that could only be characterized through Abdul-Jabbaar’s personal lens.

While earning a BA from USC in Cinema Television with an emphasis in Critical Studies and an M.F.A. from UCLA in Film & TV Production with an emphasis in Directing, she’s cultivated the expertise and connections to forge a solid career as one of Hollywood’s few Muslim women filmmakers in demand.

Her first feature length documentary, Bilalian, won the Visionary Award at the 2002 Pan African Film Festival, which garnered a glowing review from Variety praising the film’s focus on Black American Muslims in America.

In the same way that Black Panther synthesizes the best and most entertaining aspects of Black excellence, Muslimah’s Guide To Marriage leaves an unforgettable impression on every viewer, whether Muslim or not.

Impressively, it’s captured the type of movie magic that’s found in the greatest romantic comedies you wish to watch over and over again. Mashallah!

 

– Contributed by Mai Perkins

Mai Perkins is Cali girl in a Bed Stuy world, with several blogs under her belt including Uberlicious.nyc and MaiOnTheMove.com. She is a contributing writer for the music publication Pop-Mag.com, and has written for Relevant and Bust Magazine.

With an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and an MA in International Affairs from The New School, she reps her beloved alma mater, Howard University, every chance she gets. As a poet and a non-fiction writer, she has just published her first manuscript, The Walking Nerve-Ending, available now on Amazon & Kindle.

Insta: @flymai16

Twitter: @flymai on Twitter

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‘Black Panther’ Has Made $700 Million Worldwide in Week Two

“Black Panther” crossed the $700 million mark globally in just two weekends of release and will cross $400 million domestically on Sunday, its 10th day of release. The film has yet to open in China or Japan.

After its second weekend domestically, the film, starring Chadwick Boseman and directed by Ryan Coogler, is already the fifth highest grossing Marvel Studios film and will likely pass “Captain America: Civil War” and “Iron Man 3” to take the number three spot in the coming days.

black panther

Overall, “Black Panther” showed strong staying power losing only 47% of its domestic audience from its record-breaking opening weekend. That’s less of a drop than other films in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe like “Captain America: Civil War” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which saw its second weekend totals drop closer to 60%, according to comScore.

black panther

Last weekend, the film, which is Marvel’s first to be directed by an African-American director, opened to $201.8 million in North America, breaking multiple records. It became the largest opening for an African-American director by sizable margin.

The record opening and a strong second weekend stands as a watershed moment for Hollywood. With “Black Panther” shattering expectations and records, the film’s success could impact change in Hollywood by encouraging more diverse casts, crews, and stories.

black panther

The film currently holds a near perfect 97% score on review site Rotten Tomatoes, which makes it one of the best-reviewed superhero films ever.

Source: CNN Money

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Forgotten Black Women of Early Hollywood On Display at CAAM

Hollywood has long had a problem with representation and diversity, especially concerning anyone female and nonwhite. In the first half of the 20th century, black women were largely relegated to playing mammy and jezebel roles.

D.W. Griffith’s 1915 classic “Birth of a Nation” even depicted African Americans as rapists and imbeciles, leading to a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan.

The black woman’s unfortunate standing in Hollywood history is why the California African American Museum’s “Center Stage: African American Women in Silent Race Films,” which runs until October 15, is so significant.

It reveals how as early as 100 years ago, independent black filmmakers presented complex portrayals of women of color that major studios never fathomed.

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Iris Hall as Eve Mason in “The Symbol of the Unconquered” (1920). USA. Directed by Oscar Micheaux | Courtesy of the California African American Museum

These silent gems depict black women exploring their religious faith, fighting for the rights of African Americans and in loving relationships.

They underscore how even today Hollywood has much ground to cover in its depiction of black women.

Read more about the exhibition here.

The exhibition also includes images from Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates (1920). This film is the oldest surviving feature by an African American director and includes the race film genre’s “First Lady of the Screen,” Evelyn Preer.

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Evelyn Preer (1896-1932)

 

The actress gives a compelling portrayal of a mixed-race African American woman, determined to do well in a world working against her, who finds strength in her embrace of black pride.

 

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Hollywood Faces the Growing Box Office Power of Black Audiences

The biggest “surprise” of this past weekend box office was also totally predictable: a film with a predominantly Black cast drew a bigger audience than industry analysts expected.

box office

Box Office Hit

Universal’s “Girls Trip,” a women-on-the-loose comedy starring Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish and Jada Pinkett Smith, made $30.4 million in its opening weekend, about 50 percent more than the $20 million Comcast Corp.’s film division estimated and second only to “Dunkirk.” Critics liked it too, with 88 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

(L to R) Director/Producer MALCOLM D. LEE and producer WILL PACKER on the set of “Girls Trip.”

Even as industry forecasts underestimate the box office power of movies with diverse casts, Hollywood does seem to be getting a clue about the overall trend — movies don’t necessarily need white stars to succeed. In the U.S., people of color bought 49 percent of movie tickets in 2016, up from 45 percent the year previous, according to data from the Motion Picture Association of America.

The biggest predictor of a film’s success with growing non-white audiences is the relative non-white-ness of its cast, said Christy Haubegger, head of Multicultural Business Development for Creative Artists Agency. “This is not a niche at all,” she said. “Nobody would ever call ‘half’ a niche.”

Still, “Girls Trip” is only the latest example of a film with a Black cast exceeding projections. “All Eyez On Me” beat expectations in its June opening weekend. Earlier this year, the debut of Universal’s “Get Out” knocked its competition out of first place, and, when it opened in wide release, “Hidden Figures” beat Walt Disney Co.’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which was in its fourth week in theaters.

The Tupac biopic, All Eyez On Me, grossed $27 million in its opening weekend

‘Funny Is Funny’

As part of the campaign for “Girls Trip,” filmmakers Will Packer and Malcolm D. Lee went with the stars to this year’s Essence Festival, the four-day music fest central to the film’s plot. The movie screened in New Orleans during the weekend, and the cast participated in panels. At one point, Pinkett Smith and Latifah acknowledged the buying power of their audience.

“As a people, we always have to support diverse stories in our community,” Pinkett Smith said. “We have to remember that, because if you’re not buying it, it’s not going to get made.”

Following the targeted marketing — a strategy that also benefited Universal’s 2015 hit “Straight Outta Compton” — the studio distributed the film widely, a nod to the increasingly catholic tastes of white audiences.

Straight Outta Compton

“We actually went very deep into the marketplace,” said Nick Carpou, the studio’s president of domestic distribution. “We were putting this film out there into theaters in all sorts of markets and all sorts of neighborhoods. Funny is funny.”

Codeblack

Five years ago, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. created Codeblack, a division that specifically produces and distributes content targeted at Black audiences. Lions Gate also has an ongoing partnership with Tyler Perry, the creator of the blockbuster “Madea” movies. Jeff Clanagan, who leads the label, said they get better results by devoting a business unit to black audiences from development to distribution.

“If you’re not focused on those business segments then you’re not going to really build out a long-term business model for those audiences,” Clanagan said. “For us, it’s about target marketing. We know our audience, and we’re talking to our audience all of time.”

By staying active on social media and weighing in on cultural conversations — most recently Codeblack told fans they’d be willing to produce a Rihanna-Lupita Nyong’o heist movie as imagined by Twitter users — the studio’s executives stay in tune with the social media buzz generated by African-American users.

For example, when the label released “All Eyez On Me,” it tracked both the movie’s title and the shorthand, “the Tupac movie,” because that’s what some potential moviegoers were calling it. Traditional tracking services aren’t always that quick to recognize and account for colloquial phrases, Clanagan said. The film earned $26.4 million in its opening weekend, above the industry’s expected $21.8 million.

“The studios are looking to market in a more effective way and use these dollars more efficiently across the board,” said Talitha Watkins, an executive in CAA’s multicultural unit who previously worked on Universal’s marketing for “Straight Outta Compton” and the “Fast and Furious” movies.

Some studios now have celebrities promote films on Instagram or send them to events like the BET Awards. This reaches diverse audiences where they’re at, which Watkins and Haubegger say is increasingly critical for the success of any movie.

“We tend to go to the places where people invite us,” said Haubegger, who is Mexican-American. “Just like everyone else, a big part of it isn’t only reaching us, but moving us.”

 

Source: Bloomberg