In light of all the conversation/debate we’ve had on this blog recently about Tyler Perry’s adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem, For Colored Girls Who Have Considred Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf – specifically on his recent casting announcements, and the furor over assumptions of how he may or may not have taken over the project from
writer/director Nzingha Stewart – I thought I’d reach out to Nzingha, who, by the way, is a fan of this blog, and see what I can learn; but not only to find out what’s going on with the For Colored Girls… project (because she’s not at liberty to speak freely about it in detail), but also, I wanted to find out about her, Nzingha Stewart, the person and the filmmaker – subjects, it seems, have been mostly ignored, as the blogosphere has instead chosen to focus almost solely on the Tyler Perry fiasco.
The rub was to promote how much work there is in Atlanta, as well as how much Tyler Perry’s films and studio have impacted roles for African Americans. Personally, my mother’s family has been in Atlanta for over four generations, so I always took for Black achievement and success for granted –i.e., it was something you did, not something you undermined, like in many urban centers.
For many African Americans, Atlanta is a burgeoning, Black metropolis for actors and performers. Tyler Perry’s studio is another example of ingenuity, need fulfillment and entrepreneurship, in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Sadly, the strength, purpose and vision of the luncheon was cut short by the closing statement by Roger Bobb, executive vice president of Tyler Perry Studios. After actress Terri Vaughn’s impassioned plea about roles for Black women in Hollywood, and after outlining the impact of such a worthy luncheon, one small statement seemed to dismiss and undermine everything that was just presented.
“…(W)hen you think about a black woman who can open a film, I mean they will green-light the film because of her presence in the film — you know there’s only one person, and that’s Madea.”
Wow. Did he just state that a Black man dressed as a Black woman is the only “Black woman” who can open a film?
Oh, but he did add, “Now you do have some exceptions — Halle Berry and Queen Latifah. But after that, the list goes way down.” Goes down? Goes down to what? Zoe Saldana? Angela Bassett? Gabrielle Union? Alicia Keys? Beyonce? Mo’Nique?
I respect the work (and jobs) that Tyler Perry Studios provides; however, I wish that Mr. Bobb had edited his words more carefully, especially considering that he just attended a luncheon where Black women in film were discussed for over an hour and a half.
Maybe he was taken out of context, who knows? But please, Black women in film are “dissed” enough… we don’t need to be dissed at our own events.
Post-”Precious” there’s another rumor circulating about the dynamic duo producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry: They will be producing a screen version of radical poet Ntozake Shange’s Obie Award-winning choreopoem, “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.”
Rumors are also circulating that superstars Halle Berry, Lynn Whitfield, Angela Bassett, and Jill Scott will star. There are even murmurings that the queen herself –no, not First Lady Michelle Obama– will star in the production. Oprah Winfrey is not new to the big screen, and her repertoire and film roles have only grown increasingly intense with each new film.
Who will deliver this ginormous project? Lionsgate. It would only make sense considering that the Wonder Twins jumped on the “Precious” train, and catapulted the indie-film to new heights.
Can they do it for such a raw, real piece of work like “For Colored Girls”? Again, the casting seems a little off, but apparently that’s what it takes for a film to have any chance for survival. Big names, and bigger supporters.
The poem doesn’t give any wiggle room for glamor, perfect hair or guarded emotions. If you remember the poem, it deals with serious issues surrounding Black women, including infanticide, and other hot-button issues.
Hopefully, this project will come to fruition and whomever is selected to star will bring the same unpretty grittiness that the original poem demanded.
Sundance 2009 grand Jury Prize and Audience Award Winner “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire” screened to an enthusiastic audience at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival!
Media moguls Oprah Winfrey (Harpo Films) and Tyler Perry backed Lionsgate Films’ acquisition of North American distribution rights to the film. Lionsgate acquired the film February 2, 2009.
This is the first film distributed under Tyler Perry’s 34th Street Banner. According to Suite 101, the film stars Mo’Nique, Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe, Paula Patton, Sherri Shepherd, Nealla Gordon, Stephanie Andujar, and Grammy-winning artists Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz.