Right now, the majority of black life in film tends to be about
dating or historical in nature. Hollywood seems to prefer seeing blacks
in the past or as fonts of comedy. While last year’s critical favorites 12 Years a Slave and The Butler
were based on books, work by black authors generally doesn’t make it to
the big screen. Why? Well, they usually feature black people, which
studios feel will limit the audience and therefore have weaker financial
returns. But as with The Butler, Best Man Holiday, Think Like a Man, Ride Along,
and several Tyler Perry films, movies with predominantly black casts
make money. Literature by black authors is rich with silver screen
potential and shows a diversity of that’s sorely missing.
The following is a list of novels by black authors that would make great films:
The elements of supernatural and horror in this psychological thriller
would make it a perfect match for late-night big screen viewing. Pepper,
a big man with poor impulse control, finds himself sent to an
impoverished Queens mental institution for a crime he can’t seem to
reconcile. He soon partners with Dorry, an elderly schizophrenic woman,
Coffee, a man with severe OCD, and Loochie, a bipolar teenage girl. The
quartet want to hunt the beast behind the silver door, possibly
responsible for mysterious noises, smells, and missing patients. Is
there really a beast, this devil that stalks the inmates? Or is it
another delusion of the mentally ill, mistreated, in part, because of
their lack of wealth?
Although New Orleans became the national symbol for Hurricane Katrina’s
destruction, many other cities along the Gulf Coast were devastated as
well. Esch Batiste is a Mississippi teen, fascinated by the Greek myth
of Medea and the loyalty that bonds children and parents. She and her
brothers must prepare for the storm while their neglectful father lies
injured and Esch comes to term with a heavy secret. Beasts of the Southern Wild and the HBO show True Detective
have highlighted rural Louisiana towns, their poverty and resilience,
and a film adaptation of Salvage the Bones could continue this trend,
moving along the coast.
Long Division balances time travel with a coming of age story.
In 2013, Citoyen “City” Coldson goes viral when video of his quiz show
meltdown hits the internet. He’s sent to live with his grandmother in
Melahatchie, Mississippi, armed with an odd, author-less book called
Long Division that features a character also called City but set in
1985. This City and his friend Shalaya Crump have figured out a way to
travel to the future where they steal personal items of Baize Shepard,
who has gone missing in 2013. The story then shifts to 1964, with City
and Shalaya helping another time traveler. The nonlinear storytelling
can become hard to follow, but if audiences can trust a film like Looper with its time jumps, Long Division can be just as successful.
Sharita is a conservative accountant looking for a Good Black Man to
settle down with. Thursday is the daughter of a famous rapper and dates
only white men. Risa is a punk rocker lesbian pining away for a lost
love. And Tammy is a pampered model with something to prove.
“Chick Lit” may be a dismissive term for books about modern women’s dating habits but movies like He’s Just Not That Into You and Think Like a Man were both box office successes, so much so that the latter film has a sequel premiering this summer. The Awesome Girl’s Guide…
would make a great romantic comedy, perfect for date night or Friends’
Night Out. The core group of friends deal with significant changes as
they mature and learn that the “happily ever after” endings don’t always
turn out the way we imagine.
It makes little sense why this trilogy, originally under the title Xenogenesis,
has yet to make it to the silver screen. Lilith Iyapo awakens centuries
after Earth is destroyed. The Oankali, an alien race, have been
searching for survivors in order to crossbreed and repopulate the world.
In the books Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago,
humans fight to maintain their right to identity, and the parallels
between their struggle and that of African-Americans post-American
slavery are impossible to ignore. Science fiction on the big screen
needs an injection of freshness. In the last few years, hope for the
dystopian future relies mostly on teen white girls or middle-aged white
men. After Earth, starring Will and Jaden Smith, was not as
successful as it could have been, but there is space for people of color
as leading characters in the future.
I'd like to see Gloria Naylor's Linden Hills made into a movie.
Miss Naylor adapted Dante's ''Inferno'' to her own fictional
purposes - in this instance a tale of lost black souls trapped in the
American dream. The setting is Linden Hills, an upper-middle-class black
community built on a huge plot of land owned by the mysterious Nedeed
family (the locale is not specified). Purchased by Luther Nedeed in 1820
- after he had sold his octoroon wife and six children into slavery and
moved from Tupelo, Miss., we are told - the land has remained under the
proprietorship of the Nedeeds for more than 150 years. Luther (read
Lucifer), as all the males in the Nedeed family are named, opened a
funeral parlor, then developed the land and leased sections to black
families. His sons and grandsons, all of whom are physical copies of the
original landowner, furthered his plan - to establish a showcase black
community. That community, as the original Luther says, would not only
be an ''ebony jewel'' representing black achievement, but also ''a
beautiful, black wad of spit right in the white eye of America.''
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