Hollywood film directors are some of the world's most powerful storytellers, shaping the fantasies and aspirations of people around the globe. Since the 1960s, African Americans have increasingly joined their ranks, bringing fresh insights to movie characterizations, plots, and themes and depicting areas of African American culture that were previously absent from mainstream films. Today, black directors are making films in all popular genres, while inventing new ones to speak directly from and to the black experience.
This book offers a first comprehensive look at the work of black directors in Hollywood, from pioneers such as Gordon Parks, Melvin Van Peebles, and Ossie Davis to current talents including Spike Lee, John Singleton, Kasi Lemmons, and Carl Franklin. Discussing 67 individuals and over 135 films, Melvin Donalson thoroughly explores how black directors' storytelling skills and film techniques have widened both the thematic focus and visual style of American cinema. Assessing the meanings and messages in their films, he convincingly demonstrates that black directors are balancing Hollywood's demand for box office success with artistic achievement and responsibility to ethnic, cultural, and gender issues.
The recent success of films like Scary Movie and Antwone Fisher has caused Hollywood to open the door, ever so slightly, to African American subjects and directors. Yet with the exception of Spike Lee, John Singleton, and a few others, black directors remain invisible to the public at large. An aspiring filmmaker himself, Donaldson (English, Pasadena City Coll.) introduces 60 black directors, male and female, from the 1970s onward, explaining their diverse genres, celebrating characters and areas of American life that they first brought to the screen, and tracking their various paths to the director's chair. For example, the great photographer Gordon Parks ranks as a pioneering figure, writer Maya Angelou handled Down in the Delta, and music mogul Berry Gordy directed Diana Ross in the glossy romance Mahogany. Numerous black actors, including Sidney Poitier and Ossie Davis, have occasionally directed. Donaldson also notes that black directors face a dilemma: should they stick with "black" themes or "cross over" in search of wider audiences and success? Even though Donaldson's research stops at 1999, few readers will dispute the author's claim that "black directors have earned and must receive the opportunity to work within the Hollywood system." This groundbreaking and convincing study is recommended for public and academic film collections.-Stephen Rees, Levittown Regional Lib., PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.