Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Basis for More to Consider

New Yorker posted an article titled "A Few Thoughts About British Actors Playing American (and African-American) Roles."

I think it has some interesting points. Though, far more often, I used to wonder to myself why African-American actors are so often playing lifelong citizens of African countries in big budget films. It's not that it happens at all. It's the frequency of it. What are we losing there?

I'm not saying the article's author is off the mark for any reason. Not seeking to make a counterpoint. Just reflecting on my own reactions over the years.

For some reason, Idris Eldra playing Stringer Bell never bothered me as much as Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela. Although, to the author's point, David Oyelowo playing Dr. King does give me pause.  (Maybe it's the weight of the role?).

Regardless, when I see a well-known American star playing the starring role about a person in some country I've never gotten the chance to learn about, am I really seeing something new to me and truly of itself, or America abroad (in part because my expectations are wrapped up in the actor/actress I'm watching on screen)? If it happened every now and then I suppose it wouldn't matter as much. But if this seems to be the case in the majority (i.e., more often than not) of big-budgeted films based in Africa that I watch, then I do begin to wonder. I guess you could extrapolate this to well-known U.K. actors as well. (And I suppose you could extend this to American actors playing non-Americans in foreign countries in general).

I'm also a big fan of "diversity within the medium" in most any category of art. Which is to say, no matter what constraints you have on a particular genre, format, category, or artform, you should always be able to find a way to not have too many finished pieces look like slightly modified copies of one other. Otherwise, what's the point of seeing a new film if it's basically indistinguishable from the last film you saw?

It had it's cheezy parts (the excessive use of sappy orchestral music playing in the background was tiresome). But I think part of the reason I enjoyed the non-U.S. film Sadece Sen (I only bring it up because I just saw it this past weekend) is that, being in a situation outside of my own, but probably intimate to those involved with the film , I wasn't wrapped up in how my own expectations defined the movie, because there was little for me to expect or rest on. This includes everything from the premise, to the language, to the actors. (I say this usually also not being a huge fan of romance films. But maybe it helped that I saw it with my lady.)

It's those kinds of on-screen experiences that actually makes the likes of big budget superhero films worth watching (I use superhero movies as an extreme example). Because together, that sort of mix provides a combined experience that a few dozen movies relegated to a single, tiresome category and/or template could not.