Friday, January 20, 2012
"Red Tails," the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, arguably one of the most heroic tales of all time and certainly one of the most inspiring chapters in the Black struggle for respect in the United States, opens today at theaters across the country. One would think that such a film would be a slam dunk for attention, recognition and support. After all, it was produced by George Lucas of Star Wars fame (and who better to offer us heart-stopping aerial dog fights?). It was directed by Anthony Hemingway who was part of the directorial team for the award-winning and highly touted television series, "The Wire." And it stars most of the finest young Black male actors in or even near Hollywood of late (including Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr.).
Cast & Director of Red Tails with former Tuskegee Airman Roscoe Brown
But it turns out that's a problem. It features so many fine Black actors, there just weren't any major roles left for White folks at all. Gracious. In fact, the lack of White actors meant that nobody would step up to help Lucas fund it (so it took him twenty years to get it done). Once produced, nobody wanted to distribute it, claiming they didn't know how to go about marketing a movie without appeal to White audiences (and why would White people want to watch a bunch of African-Americans saving White bomber pilots?).
So the deal is this: if "Red Tails" doesn't make a boatload of money, George Lucas takes a financial beating for risking his reputation to make such a film, Black directors like Hemingway will continue to be shut out of the making of high budget movies, and Black actors will remain, too often, tokens of color in stories that forever feature Whites. Lucas, the film, and the Tuskegee Airmen deserve better.
Frankly, I have my concerns about the presentation of this film at this time. I'm concerned that it glorifies war at a time when the American public should be gut sick of dying in and paying for wars, wars and more wars all over the world. I'm concerned that economically and emotionally discouraged young Black men will follow the dashing young heroes on the screen down the yellow brick road to fight today's battles for old White politicians. And I'm concerned that Black folks will turn out en mass, but mostly only Black folks, "proving" yet again that Whites won't pay to watch a movie that's not about Whites.
But all that notwithstanding, I know I'm gonna love "Red Tails." I might just see it twice. And I hope you'll go, as well. With all your friends and relatives. And "like" the Facebook site. And, when the time comes, buy the DVD. ;^)