International Hits “Moonlight,” “Hidden Figures,” and “Straight Outta Compton” Disprove Hollywood Myth That “Black Films Don’t Travel”

(image via latimes.com)

article by Tre’vell Anderson via latimes.com

On his way to winning a best picture Oscar for “Moonlight,” a film made for a minuscule $1.5 million, writer-director Barry Jenkins took time between awards-season red carpet appearances for a six-city European promotion tour. It was time well spent.

“Moonlight,” about a poor black boy living in the projects of Miami and struggling with his sexuality, wasn’t supposed to be the kind of movie that wins the best picture Oscar. Its modest coming-of-age narrative, unconventional story structure and outsider characters with no mega stars made it, as filmmaker Mark Duplass said recently with admiration, “a bit of a miracle” that it even reached U.S. theaters. Certainly, it’s not the kind of movie that was expected to make money overseas. After all, says a longstanding Hollywood myth, black films don’t travel.

Yet as of Tuesday, “Moonlight” has made $28.6 million at the international box office — more than its $27.5 million domestic take — for a worldwide total of $56.1 million. With the film still in theaters, even more is expected.“This black film is definitely selling overseas,” Jenkins said to The Times on the red carpet for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, just after he’d returned from Europe.

“Every time there’s a success, it gets swept under the rug,” says Jeff Clanagan, president of Lionsgate’s Codeblack Films, which primarily produces films with African American casts. “It’s almost like there’s an asterisk on it. They chalk it off as an anomaly.”

For 1988’s “Coming to America,” the anomaly was the comedic genius of Eddie Murphy, who “transcended race” when the film grossed $160.6 million internationally for a $288.8 million worldwide take. (Samuel L. Jackson, Morgan Freeman, Will Smith, Kevin Hart, Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle are other box office champs for whom the “transcended race” label has been applied.)

For 1995’s “Bad Boys” and its 2003 sequel — which together pulled in a combined $210.3 million internationally and $414.7 million worldwide — it was the fact that the film was an action flick, never mind leads Smith, Martin Lawrence and Gabrielle Union. For 2015’s “Straight Outta Compton,” a $40.4 million payoff internationally (and $201.6 million worldwide), it was the popular music of rap group N.W.A.

Even as three-time Oscar nominee “Hidden Figures,” with its predominantly black cast, has so far made $48.8 million internationally — helping to push its $166 million domestic sales to nearly $215 million worldwide and counting — the myth persists.

When asked about the myth, Octavia Spencer, Oscar-nominated for her “Hidden Figures” role, responded simply: “I have two words for you: Will Smith.”

“He was told the same thing [at the beginning of his career] — that he wasn’t going to be taken to promote his film,” she said at the annual pre-Oscars Sistahs Soiree honoring women of color in the industry. “Had he not paid for himself to fly all over the world that very first time, he would not be an international box office star. So they have to start investing and taking black actresses and actors across the world just like they do with unknown white actors. They need to do the same thing for black actors. If you don’t know ’em, why would you go support the film?”

To read full article, go to: Disproving the ‘black films don’t travel’ Hollywood myth – LA Times

‘Moonlight’ Filmmaker Barry Jenkins to Adapt and Direct TV Series for Amazon Based on Colson Whitehead’s NYT Bestseller “The Underground Railroad”

Barry Jenkins (Photo: ROB LATOUR/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK)

article by Joe Otterson via Variety.com

“Moonlight” director and Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins will write and direct a one-hour drama series about the Underground Railroad currently in development at Amazon. The series will be based on Colson Whitehead’s best-selling book, “The Underground Railroad.”

“Going back to ‘The Intuitionist,’ Colson’s writing has always defied convention, and ‘The Underground Railroad’ is no different,” Jenkins said. “It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way. Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking and in Amazon we’ve found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision.”

Published by Doubleday, “The Underground Railroad” has sold over 825,000 copies in the United States across all formats. An Oprah’s Book Club 2016 selection, New York Times bestseller, and the winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction, the book chronicles young Cora’s journey as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. After escaping her Georgia plantation for the rumored Underground Railroad, Cora discovers no mere metaphor, but an actual railroad full of engineers and conductors, and a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil.

This will be Johnson’s first attempt at directing a TV series in its entirety. He recently directed an episode of the upcoming Netflix adaptation of the film “Dear White People,” and previously directed one episode of the PBS series “Futurestates.” Jenkins’ Pastel Productions will executive produce along with Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment. Pitt and Plan B also produced “Moonlight.”

To read full article, go to: ‘Moonlight’ Director to Write, Direct Underground Railroad Series | Variety

Alex Hibbert and Jacob Piner, Youth Stars of Oscar-winning “Moonlight,” to Receive Keys to City of Miami Gardens

Alex Hibbert and Jaden Piner of “Moonlight” (photo via thegrio.com)

article by Kimberly Wilson via thegrio.com

The boys of “Moonlight” will be getting their moment.

Both 13-year-old Alex Hibbert and 12-year-old Jaden Piner, are slated to receive keys to the city of Miami Gardens, FL at this year’s Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival. The two students from Norland Middle School in Miami Gardens had starring roles in the Oscar-winning film “Moonlight,” with Alex playing young Chiron and Jaden playing Kevin, Chiron’s best friend.

“We think it’s a great opportunity for us to acknowledge what they’ve done at a young age, and tell them how proud we are of them,” shares Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver G. Gilbert III. “Because so often when you hear about young black kids, people don’t want to tell you the stories of these kids and areas that they excel in,” continues Mayor Gilbert. “We aren’t talking about them most times. Most times we’re talking about young black boys in a negative context, so anytime we get an opportunity to tell them how extraordinary they are, we will do it. And ‘Jazz In The Gardens’ is the biggest stage that we can offer in the city.”

The key ceremony will be just one highlight of the highly-anticipated weekend. As the staple event each year in the city of Miami Gardens, Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival is back for its 12th year, and is quickly growing beyond its borders. Hosted again by veteran comedian Rickey Smiley, the city can expect more than 70,000 music lovers from all over the United States and Caribbean Islands.

The festival will take place this upcoming weekend, March 17-19 at Hard Rock Stadium, featuring performances by Jill Scott, Esperanza Spalding, Common, and LLCoolJ.

To read more, go to: Young stars of Oscar-winning “Moonlight” to receive keys to the city of Miami Gardens | theGrio

“Moonlight” Triumphs at Oscars, Wins Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actor

Barry Jenkins accepts Best Picture Oscar for "Moonlight" (Patrick T. Fallon via nytimes.com)

Barry Jenkins accepts Best Picture Oscar for “Moonlight” (Patrick T. Fallon via nytimes.com)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Moonlight topped off its amazing awards-season run by earning the Best Picture Oscar at the 89th Academy Awards. Moonlight director/writer/producer Barry Jenkins accepted the award at the end of the night after a shocking turn of events where La La Land was mistakenly called to stage to receive the Academy’s highest honor. Jenkins also won with co-writer Tarell Alvin McCraney for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim actor in Oscar history to win the Best Supporting Actor Award.

The star-studded evening also saw an energizing opening performance of “Can’t Stop The Feeling” by Original Song nominee Justin Timberlake, a medley of two songs from “La La Land” by its co-star John Legend (“City of Stars” went on to win the Original Song award) and a standing ovation for Best Feature Documentary presenter, Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree and NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who was introduced by “Hidden Figures” stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae (and wheeled out on stage by current NASA astronaut Yvonne Cagle).

There were also Oscar presentations from Samuel L. Jackson, Halle Berry and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, but one of the biggest highlights of the evening was the speech delivered by three-time nominee and Best Supporting Actress winner Viola Davis:

Viola Davis (photo via Parade.com)

Viola Davis (photo via Parade.com)

People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say, exhume those bodies, exhume those stories, the stories of the people who dreamed.  I became an artist, and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. So here’s to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people.

Davis went on to thank her co-stars and Best Director/Best Actor nominee Denzel Washington, her family and her parents.

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