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Forest Whitaker to people of color: Our most profound stories remain untold

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In an essay for Variety Magazine, actor Forest Whitaker wrote about the opportunities available in showbiz for people of colour today.

By Justina Terhember

Forest Whitaker is an actor, producer, and director. He’s also the co-founder of Significant Productions along with Nina Yang Bongiovi. In 2007, he became the fourth African-American male to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, following in the footsteps of Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, and Jamie Foxx. He wrote an essay for Variety magazine, in which he acknowledged being fortunate for the opportunities that have come his way as an artist during his 40 years in Hollywood.

“On set and on stage as an actor, behind the camera, and in the trenches as a filmmaker and producer, I’ve tried to make the most of my chances — while at the same time recognizing that the path for talents of color is and has been unduly fraught.”

Whitaker wrote: “On set and on stage as an actor, behind the camera, and in the trenches as a filmmaker and producer, I’ve tried to make the most of my chances — while at the same time recognizing that the path for talents of color is and has been unduly fraught. As a result, some of our most instructive, profound, and emotional stories remain untold, which means that audiences’ perspectives on our collective existence remain tragically limited. This was the endemic reality that my producing partner Nina Yang Bongiovi and I sought to extinguish when we formed our company, Significant Productions, over a decade ago. Our mission statement is simple: Provide opportunity.”

Whitaker wrote further that when he and Bongiovi teamed up with first-time filmmaker Rebecca Hall on a long-overdue adaptation of Nella Larsen’s landmark 1929 novel ‘Passing’, they saw nothing but opportunity: “For world-class actresses like Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga to craft complex, multidimensional roles too rarely afforded to performers of color; for an accomplished actress to bring a deeply personal story, 13 years in the making, to the screen; and for a Black female author’s essential storytelling to reach the kind of vast audience that would have been thought impossible 100 years ago.”

Whitaker also added that when they backed Ryan Coogler’s deeply personal directorial debut ‘Fruitvale Station’, it wasn’t an obvious calculation for many. “To take a risk on an unproven talent fresh out of film school with such a specific story to tell was anathema, but to us, it was clear that this is how we build the future. Nina and I felt that we needed Ryan’s voice in the world, a voice with the power and potential to shift the culture in Hollywood. His impact since speaks for itself, through the scope and global impact of films like ‘Creed’ and ‘Black Panther’ — films that have taken their own mighty swings at breaking through the plaque.”

Whitaker also wrote: “As hard-fought and at times harrowing I’ve found it to be for these kinds of stories to gain purpose out in the world, I’m as optimistic as I have ever been that they will continue to be told. The will is there. The talent is there. It’s incumbent on all of us to make sure the opportunity is there.”

Read the full essay HERE.

MOVIES

Oscar voters react to Will Smith’s ‘Emancipation’ nomination with F-bombs

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Per a report on The Hollywood Reporter, members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be set to judge Smith’s first dramatic film less than a year after slapping comedian Chris Rock at the 94th Oscar Awards. With Apple announcing the release of Emancipation in December, the news outlet surveyed the Oscar voters to see if the now-notorious star was worthy of another Best Actor nomination. While some anonymous participants were open to considering Smith as a nominee, the majority of them completely shunned the one-time Oscar winner, with quotes ranging from “F—k him. So, no,” to “Would I vote for Will Smith? Right after I vote for Trump.”

One quote from producers branch member Lawrence David Foldes went as far as blacklisting Smith from the film industry. “I was surprised but not surprised learning of the release of Emancipation this year. Surprised because I believe that the industry should shun Smith, not embrace and boost his image,” said Foldes. “Would I vote for Smith? NO F-ING WAY. His shameful violent outburst and pathetic sniveling ‘acceptance’ diatribe witnessed by millions — and his blatant disrespect of the Academy — should preclude him from any consideration and reward from AMPAS members for life.”

Smith’s assault on Rock on the Oscars stage came after the comedian made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith’s alopecia. Will Smith went on to receive the Best Actor award for his performance in King Richard and issued a formal apology the following day but the backlash to the incident led to Smith resigning from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

In the months that followed the slap, Smith’s popularity plummeted and film projects were either put on hold or cancelled. He took to YouTube to respond to fan questions about neglecting to apologize to Rock in his Oscar speech. While he stated that he reached out directly to Rock, Smith said, “the message that came back is that he’s not ready to talk and when he is he will reach out.”

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, ‘Emancipation’ stars Smith as a runaway slave evading hunters in the south as he seeks freedom in the north, eventually joining the Union army. The film is based on the true story of the slave who was the subject of a photo known as The Scourged Back, published in The Independent in May of 1863. The photo was known to be the undisputed truth about the brutality of American slavery.

‘Emancipation’ will premiere in theatres on Dec. 2 and stream on Apple TV on Dec. 9.

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Morgan Freeman producing ‘War Is Coming’ from Nigerian filmmakers The Critics Company

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Kaduna’s favourite filmmakers are set to debut a fantastical spectacle called ‘War is Coming’ – produced by Hollywood icon Morgan Freeman – which might just propel the gifted collective to global stardom.

By Maryam Abdullahi

Morgan Freeman and his producing partner Lori McCreary have produced ‘War Is Coming’, a short film from the Nigerian filmmaking collective called The Critics Company. Freeman and McCreary are producing through their Revelations Entertainment production banner.

‘War Is Coming’ follows the story of Óla, a brash teenager who discovers he is the reincarnation of a demigod, and spirals into his destiny, unprepared for the events that come as a result of this discovery.

The film will debut at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art’s +234 Connect Festival: A Celebration of Nigerian Creativity. It will also be released simultaneously via The Critics Company’s popular YouTube channel.

McCreary also said the Smithsonian’s National Museum was a natural way to premiere the film and introduce the world to the uniquely talented filmmakers in person.

A proof-of-concept of the same film was screened for a limited audience at the recently-concluded Kaduna Book and Arts Festival (KABAFest), in the hometown of The Critics Company, to roaring applause and a standing ovation.

The Critics Company is based in Kaduna, Nigeria. Formed in 2015, they have been driven by the desire to create “magical experiences” through film for themselves and their community as a whole. Their work has been featured on platforms including the BBC, CNN, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, and the Indie Film Festival. Ranging in age from 17 through 21 years old, they became social media sensations following the 2019 release of their sci-fi short ‘The Chase’, which was created using their mobile phones. From working on the set of ‘King of Boys’ and critically-acclaimed ‘Juju Stories’, to their own personal projects, The Critics Company is a collective to watch closely.

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I’ve seen ‘Spawn’ movie concept suits – Jamie Foxx

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A Spawn reboot may finally see the light of day, with actor Jamie Foxx saying that he has seen concept suits for the comic book character. He was asked in an interview if he has seen a costume for the film, leading to a surprising answer. “I’ve seen a lot of concepts,” he reveals. “Because Todd, what he does it, every single day he’s doodling and he’s fixing and he’s doing some things that, to me, I think is gonna be like way out when you see it. And how he crafts that cape and how that cape becomes almost like – I’ll say this – as big as the screen that you’re watching.”

A live-action Spawn reboot seems to have been talked about for decades since a sequel to the 1997 release was cancelled. Creator Todd McFarlane has teased the film on multiple occasions throughout the years, with actor Jamie Foxx recently sharing news that may mean the film is much closer to a release than anticipated.

MacFarlane has said he wants the reboot to be rated R, which would be reminiscent of the 2019 R-rated release ‘Joker’, which went on to become the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time.

Foxx thinks those working on the film are ready for their turn. “But it starts in a way that is so cool. And it’s not big budget, you know? And that’s what I love about it. It’s sort of like how when they did the Joker. And so, we’re just like, just getting this right, cooking it right, but staying in contact, keeping the energy going and when we lay it on you, there’s gonna be some moments where you go ‘oh man’.”

More developments are expected at New York Comic-Con in October. Regarding an announcement, McFarlane told CBR at San Diego Comic-Con 2022, “We were debating whether to make a big announcement because we’ve been adding pieces to it here at San Diego. So all the parties that were involved, we had the conversation: ‘Do we make the announcement here or do we wait and keep our gunpowder dry until New York Comic Con?’ And we eventually said we’ll do it at New York.”

Fingers crossed!

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