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It’s important to talk about the groundbreaking films Black Americans made or acted in because they paved the way for Black films and actors today. It’s important to recognize films that have Black actors or creators because they are frequently overlooked by the industry and the general audience. Award shows like the Oscars are in a way helping keep Black films silenced because they are slow to expand their diversity efforts. An audience needs to be exposed to different types of stories in film because diversity exists in real life so it should be reflected on screen.

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We Need More Black Horror Films

One genre that seems to leave out Black people is the horror genre because they usually have a white protagonist and the Black person is the supporting character whose fate is usually death. The genre hasn’t treated Black people well and it’s rare when we get a film where there’s a Black protagonist. It’s been joked about that typical horror film tropes within the paranormal wouldn’t work with a Black cast because they would simply leave the house once they learn it’s haunted. As a Black woman, I was taught not to mess with demons or the paranormal because it means trouble so personality, I understand why there are films like ‘A Haunted House’ that make fun of those types of films with mainly Black actors.

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As I got older, I started to appreciate the horror genre more because of Jordan Peele’s films ‘Us’ and ‘Get Out’. I saw people who looked like me onscreen and I understood how they felt during moments of the film. Seeing Black protagonists survive to the end of the film was amazing to see because I love Black success and there have been too many times where I have to see Black pain on the screen to the point where it’s emotionally exhausting. My favorite TV show that was sadly canceled was ‘Lovecraft Country’ and it was about a young Black man who travels across the segregated 1950s United States in search of his missing father, learning of dark secrets that plague a town H.P. Lovecraft based on the location of his fictional stories. This short-lived series gave me what I always wanted and it’s simply Black horror stories.

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Horror Noire

Classic Black horror films paved the way for ‘Lovecraft Country’ and future Black horror films and TV shows so let’s look back on those Black Horror Films. First, let’s start with a horror documentary called ‘Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror’ and according to Shudder it’s, “Delving into a century of genre films that by turns utilized, caricatured, exploited, sidelined, and finally embraced them, ‘Horror Noire’ traces the untold history of Black Americans in Hollywood through their connection to the horror genre”. It examines Black people’s roles in horror films and it’s a good watch if you’re a lover of documentaries and horror. However, the history of Black horror films begins with ‘Night of the Living Dead’, this 1968 film is the first to have Black actors in the horror genre. His name is Duane Jones and at the time of the film’s release, it was rare to see a Black protagonist thus, making this film essential to watch when learning about Black Horror films. 

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‘Blacula’ tells the story of an 18th-century prince sent to Transylvania to get help from Dracula to end the slave trade. This film gained recognition after the rise of blaxploitation films. It’s also an ethnic subgenre that emerged in the United States during the early 1970s and the term was coined by Junius Griffin, then president of the Beverly Hills-Hollywood NAACP branch. We should honestly revisit Black people being vampires in film or television because there isn’t any recent media that tells a story about Black vampires. Two films that explored the vampire trope are ‘Blade’, a Marvel film about a vampire hunter starring Wesley Snipes, and ‘Def By Temptation’, a film about a Black succubus who lures Black men to their deaths. Another blaxploitation film is ‘Bone’ and it stars Snoop Dogg as Jimmy Bones, a ghost who comes back for revenge and to clean up his beloved neighborhood.

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Black Horror Films Matter

‘Tales From the Hood’ tells four stories based on issues that impacted the Black community during the 90s which include police brutality and systematic racism. This film was produced by Spike Lee and directed by Rusty Cundieff, it’s considered a cult horror-comedy classic among Black horror lovers. Another classic horror film is ‘Candyman’, a slasher film about a ghost of an artist and the son of a slave who was murdered in the late 19th century. It gained more attention with the 2021 remake and it made me want more slasher films with Black protagonists. ‘Candyman’ is one film that most Black people know because of the legend behind it. If you say Candyman five times in a mirror, you’ll summon him and he’ll kill you. It’s like what I said earlier: you don’t want to mess with demons and bad spirits because it only means trouble and this is touched on in the 2021 ‘Candyman’ film. Now more than ever, it’s important to appreciate the films that paved the way because without them we wouldn’t have the great films we have today.

By Ayana Hamilton

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV, media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.

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