Podcast Episode 56: The Black Panthers And Oscar Boycott
Interview with producer Laurens Grant about her doc at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival
Beth Accomando: Welcome back to another edition of the KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast. I am Beth Accomando. The Human Rights Watch Film Festival kicks off its sixth year at the Museum of Photographic Arts, and my guest is a producer from one of the documentaries screening on Saturday. This year’s festival arrives on the heels of the announcement of yet another very wide set of Oscar nominations. The lack of diversity feels especially insulting after the issue has been raised and supposedly addressed over the past two years. My guest today is someone who has to fight the dual obstacles of being both female and African-American. I speak with Laurens Grant about making the documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and about the lack of diversity in Hollywood and among the Oscar nominees. The lack of African-American nominees has prompted people like Spike Lee to call for a boycott, but that seems like the wrong call to action. African-Americans are minorities already seen invisible in Hollywood, so how a boycott in the awards help their case. People will then see in all-white academy award ceremony and minority invisibility will be oddly affirmed. If we look to the Civil Rights Movement, boycotts worked best when they made both the financial and the media impact. The Montgomery Bus Boycotts, for example, had a financial impact on the buses and also got media attention. African-American’s boycott in the Oscars may get press, but there will be no impact on the Oscars themselves apart from the possible embarrassment. Turning again to the Civil Rights Movement, the Axis did not boycott the places that were trying to keep them out, but rather insisted on being allowed in. So wouldn’t it be impressive to have an audience at the Oscars that was mostly black to have crowds lining the red carpet that were all black and only cheered when African-American filmmakers and performers went by. Chris Rock is scheduled to host the Oscars, and that might be the perfect opportunity for a show of solidarity like coming out in large numbers to prove that Hollywood no longer ignore African-Americans in the industry. The Black Panthers documentary serves powerful images of black power. There were scenes of African-Americans carrying guns into the state capital and prompting Ronald Reagan to call for gun control. These images at The Black Panthers suggest that it’s not a boycott that’s needed, but rather a call for revolution by providing an impressive show of strength, numbers, and solidarity. Laurens Grant will be in San Diego at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Saturday to present The Black Panthers and to answer questions after the screening. Here is a little bit of the film’s trailer to set the tone for the movie. Male Speaker: The thing that led to the panthers was what we were seeing on television every day attack dogs, fire hoses, bombings. Male Speaker: We stand on an ease of a black revolution, brothers. Female Speaker: I was a cocktail waitress in a white strip club two years before I joined The Black Panthers Party. How did that happen? The rage was in the streets. It was everywhere. Beth Accomando: I start a discussion by asking what circumstances led to the documentary being made now. Interviewee: I think the longer piece is it just slogging to kind of raise the fund, like it took nearly a decade. So all the track what I am trying to make funds and then the – working with the director Stanley Nelson, we both did a film Freedom Riders and I think the success of that film probably put rest of the funding piece in place, and that really, you know, that did well for PDS and you know they’ve been trying to raise money to this panther film for so long. I think that sort of converged and then Opal picked up the film and then Lee Daniels' The Butler of [indiscernible] [00:03:54] and clips for Freedom Riders and Selma took a lot of characters and based them on characters from Freedom Riders. I just think may be that whole confluence really could have put the final peace together for The Black Panthers to finally happen. Beth Accomando: So the idea or that your interest in making a documentary in The Black Panthers actually dates back quite a ways longer. Interviewee: Yes. I do think it’s quite honestly one of the last important and sexy stories of the 1960s because myself in my career I worked on a few of the pinnacle movements, the freedom rides certainly even the [indiscernible] [00:04:31] and even exploring the important contribution Latin Americans have made to the musical and cultural landscape of the United States in a series called Latin Music USA, so I kind of felt like The Black Panthers really was one of the last grade stories of the 20th century or mid 20th century that hadn’t been told. A lot of people have been attempting or there had been pieces and portions of that era and the party told, but not one [indiscernible] [00:04:59] look at the impact of the Black Panther Party. Beth Accomando: And why do you think that’s the case? Why do you think that other filmmakers either within the documentary format or within a more fictional format haven’t tackled this more often? Interviewee: I think – now that we have our film completed, many people have said, oh, I tried, you know, years ago or decades ago to try make a film. I just think, you know, quite honestly it was a little too controversial to fund, you know, funders were nervous to go to that for this film say 10, 15 years ago, maybe even five years ago. So I think in an odd way it just ended up being the perfect time to have this film come out so much so that now people are thinking, oh God you could have made this ages ago. Well, in fact, the climate really wasn’t ready, and I think now that it’s out, you know, we are just seeing a lot of things are changing and fermenting and churning in society that it just makes the film, even though it’s 50 years on looking at the party makes it right on time. Beth Accomando: Well, it’s interesting, you start with some newsreel footage or Stanley Nelson starts with some newsreel footage in the film. Stanley Nelson: Relations between police and Negroes throughout the country are getting worse. One of the cities most troubled by animosity between police and Negroes is open California. Beth Accomando: Which resonates really strongly today for what’s going on right now, so in some ways it seems very topical? Interviewee: Exactly. We could have never planned that. Certainly working on the film, we would just excited to have the opportunity to do it, and thinking it will be great interesting film that hopefully people would resonate with it and maybe take some lessons learned, but we could have never imagined that especially in the final year’s finishing and wrapping up the film, here we are editing scenes about the problems of black community and police officers or police brutality and tensions and really literally coming out of the edit room and seeing similar news stories on my twitter feed and on the internet and on the television news, so we really could not have imagined if that would still be playing out nearly 50 years later. Beth Accomando: Now the film doesn’t make any connections between the past and current events, were you at all tempted at some point to do that or did you feel you really wanted to focus on this particular period in time? Interviewee: Yes, the focus on the film has been and is looked at a historical bubble and its resonances, it really had to look at the history and impact of the Black Panther Party, the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party, what was going on in American society and even around the world at that time that led to these events that made it the perfect climate for an organization like the Black Panther Party to be formed, and also look at the coalitions that were formed, like a lot of people were uneasy about things happening on all fronts back then, there was the Draft, there was the Vietnam War, Europe was burning, many African countries were becoming independent at the same time. There was just so much tension going on, here the women’s movement was really gaining traction, so it was like kind of the perfect storm of events and a perfect storm of events to do a films explore all of that. And I think we probably would have done short shift if we tried to include everything in that film, taking it from there to the present. And not really wasn’t the task, I think it was sufficient material to address what was going on at that period and quite fascinating. Beth Accomando: Yeah, there are a lot of really wonderful movements in terms of some of the interviews and the newsreel footage you gain, there is a nice section where specifically it looks at women within The Black Panther Movement and this dual sense of not only trying to get equal rights for black Americans, but also for women within the movement. Female Speaker: Dear, Huey, when I joined the party, I was thrilled about becoming part of an organization that believes in the equality of men and women. It bothers me that there are brothers who still view women as sexual objects. We should have no men in the Black Panther Party who feel this way or women for that matter. Male Speaker: One of the ironies of the Black Panther Party is that the images the black male with the jacket and the gun, but the reality is that majority of the [indiscernible] [00:09:25] by the end of the 60s are women. Female Speaker: The Black Panther Party certainly had a chauvinist tone, and so we tried to change some of the clear gender roles so that women had guns and men cook breakfast for children. Did we overcome it? Of course we didn’t, as I like to say we didn’t get these brothers from revolutionary heaven. Interviewee: That was really an interesting treat for me to see that unfolds and lot of that was happening, it was our function or mirror of the times, you know, that was the women’s movement was gaining stream, you know, some of those the pinnacle characters that we take for granted today and think they’re historical icons, I mean they were fighting the fight back then. And I think that’s one important and interesting take away for people who weren’t born then that many think that you should be great aware from that era. There were lot of people who were out on the streets doing the hard work, the leg work, and women included, and so we definitely wanted that to be involved in the film, but also to feel organic, you know, not to feel like, oh, okay, let’s cut away and now just do the little women peace, no, they were quite instrumental, substantial, and the fact that I didn’t know, there were pretty much the majority of the party once the early 70s came around. Beth Accomando: And also there are some nice ironic moments too, and there is a newsreel where the news media gets distracted from Ronald Reagan being there when The Black Panthers arrive and Ronald Reagan finds himself in the position of promoting gun control. Ronald Reagan: I don’t think that the loaded guns is the way to solve the problem. It should be solved between people of goodwill, and anyone who would approve of this kind of demonstration must be out of their mind. Interviewee: We definitely are filmmakers and do want to include things like irony, satire and humor. We don’t want everything to be just heavy and preachy and hitting you over the head, and it certainly was not lasting us to see those sound bites from Reagan and even Hoover, I mean it was just astonishing. Male Speaker: You feel the nation is in trouble, I think, well, it definitely is. What is the answer? Male Speaker: Answer is vigorous law enforcement. Male Speaker: How about justice? Male Speaker: Justice is nearly incidental to law and order. Interviewee: And to have the footage to actually prove it, and what was more – what we really wanted to do was immerse people in that time frame, like hopefully make you feel like you are back there in that time that, you know, Reagan is actually user of the governor and Hoover’s around and the panthers are just down the street, like we really wanted you to see – as an audience, to feel immersed in that time to hopefully get you to think what was it like to be around, because sometimes it’s really hard to connect the [indiscernible] [00:12:13] why would that happen, what was going on. Male Speaker: I say that Ronald Reagan is a punk, a sissy, and a coward, and I challenge him to a duel. Interviewee: And if you feel immersed – you know, I look at filmmaking as sort of an immerse of experience hopefully that resonates better and makes also a visceral experience as well as an enjoyable experience. Beth Accomando: Well, what’s impressive too is a lot of these images you have, especially lot of the still images that the news media were using, are still really powerful images today that still stand out. Interviewee: It was really extraordinary [indiscernible] [00:12:49] what a privilege to work with that material to find a lot of photographers, you know, some of them had never even seen the material printed or published or certainly in a documentary. Others were professional photographers and it was just nice for them to see some of these images that they took nearly 50 years ago to include in a documentary, and we sort of – if you will decorate our own production office to remind us of who people were and just to reflect on what was going on and so we would have our own rotating museum gallery, just putting up images around the wall and on the doors. And once we pad all those images up, it was just arresting and astounding to just look at the youth of the panthers, to look at the beauty, to look at the stance, you know, almost the cockiness, the bravado, and even the innocence, you know, like all that you would expect in a teenager or college student or college aide student. And we brought – you know, there is something here that’s also maybe this role is subliminal at a time in our country where many people seem to be so frightened of each other, here is the chance to actually explore the beauty. It’s almost art work, you know, these photographers took such beautiful images in black and white in film, and when you put them all together, it is almost its own artistry. Beth Accomando: I grew up in the 60s, and I remember like lot of these images being really strong and powerful. They’ve come to – you know, last far longer than the time frame when they were taken. And I was just wondering if they were – if there was anything that had particularly stuck with you that you had seen when you were younger or that you had been exposed to, and that was something that was part of the dream of what made you interested in pursuing this. Interviewee: Yes, I would say maybe, and maybe that’s through the eyes of a child just sort of that youthful, hopeful things are going to be better, you know, and just the wardrobe, what [indiscernible] [00:14:44] electric psychedelic era, you know, just the colors, the palettes, so after all they certainly had family members who, you know, donned go-go boots and many dresses and having, you know, cool Afros. So, it was really great to kind of see these images in a different way, you know, when you are kind of – when people are living through things, you’re just living through them, you’re just wearing, you know, some clothes and doing your hair, but now it’s almost – it’s a statement of an era, the statement of an image, the statement of the state of mind. And all of that, we’re trying to celebrate in this documentary, but also include in it to show, you know, at that time you could say African-Americans were growing Afros, the white community, especially guys were growing their hair really long, you know, it was a time of rebellion in some ways and talking to some of the – specially the women, many of them, their parents frowned upon them when they got rid of their press and curl and their beautiful look and, you know, that kind of quest attitude and quest look for the striking Afro and it was just – that was their rebellion. So it was great to kind of hear those stories and put those back. Many people forgot about that and it was a great trip to our memory lane, for others that have maybe little more painful trip to memory lane and for yet others they just had no idea. None of that imagery is as loaded as it was back then, and especially to young people to see it, it kind of gives them a message, an insight into, you know, everything just doesn’t appear out of thin air, it really does come from something. So it was really great to sort of add what I guess I’ll call maybe a pop culture-look to the film as well, a history lesson certainly, but also what were the cultural messages. It was such a time in American history where blacks are now becoming more in television, I mean the music was its own thing, outdoor concerts were a big thing. All these sort of things were starting – this is all coming out of the Eisenhower Era, so it was new – this new sense of freedom for young people, all colors were experiencing this, now has become corporatized if you will like advertisers, it’s no big deal, but back then it was a cultural statement. So, it was – it’s great to kind of remind people of that, reminisce a little bit, I mean just also, putting it all together in hopefully exciting and engaging two-hour film. Beth Accomando: Now there is an expectation that white audiences might not be familiar with some of the Black Panther history, but are you also finding that young African-Americans are also somewhat unfamiliar with some of this history? Interviewee: Yes, we are actually. I think a lot of people have heard of the name and it’s a – maybe a sexy image, and they know something, some people, you know, were stepped in and were around, and so we heard from a lot of people who said they got to learn something new. So that’s very encouraging. And I call it 360-degree storytelling, I want to put voices in from all sides, all walks of life, all spectrums that were in the film and we really worked hard to do so. And particularly for high school kids or young kids who literally have the advantage of everything, all kinds of technology. They forget that movements occurred in this country without Twitter and without Facebook posts and Instagram. So, it was kind of a reminder of the hard leg work that it really required to be involved in something, you know, with the 24-hour commitment. It wasn’t Monday, Wednesday, Friday or after work or after church or anything. It was literally many people had left their families, they were so committed to this. And it was the time where so many people were committed and they wanted to work together, and I think maybe that is something that either has been lost or forgotten or just got lost in a shuffle that the coalitions that were built back then were just extraordinary. Fred Hampton particular in Chicago how he was able to build bridges with of course the black community, the Latino community, with the Young Lords, even the White Appalachian Community, I mean just they were trying to move work together to kind of find the common ground so they could make everything better, people – so many people were living with [indiscernible] [00:18:53] matter your way. Certainly blacks are more affected, but other people as well. So it was really trying to figure out what can be the common ground so we can all work from that, and I think that’s something that maybe young people don’t realize or forgot about or just being bombarded with so many images from history where to put it in the lexicon of importance, that’s something we’re hearing that that’s been a treat. Beth Accomando: Well, you mentioned in Twitter and social media, it’s interesting that part of the way they finance the Black Panther Movement was through this newspaper where they actually would have to print this newspaper. Male Speaker: The paper was a [indiscernible] [00:19:29] of the party that’s how we survived. We sold the papers 25 cents back then, it cost maybe 12-cent to print the other 12.5-cent, went to the [indiscernible] [00:19:38] and branches that’s how we basically survived. Male Speaker: The party people went places, party members would never get to go to and be reaching people we would never see, but the paper got there, some kind of way or other. So it was very important to get the paper out. [Background Conversation] [00:19:54]. We reloaded boxes or bundling papers or whatever we’ve done, we did it in a simply line fashion and we would start singing, “Ain't no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, to keep me from getting this paper to you,” or whatever we would do. Interviewee: Everybody you got your turns working on it, I mean they literally had to write the articles, they had to take the photos, they had to actually have a printing press, then they had to print it out, and then they had to figure how to distribute it and get it to different cities across the country. So it literally was – I mean they had to sell it and they all had kind of a quota that they had to sell each day. They could keep a small percentage for themselves, I think they talked about someone called [indiscernible] [00:20:39] money. They would turnover maybe 25 cents to the party and keep 5 cents for themselves to live off of. So, it was just this extraordinary effort of, yes, like today we just post something, upload the photo that we just took in our phone and post it, and boom, it’s out there, whereas back then, it literally was a long hours of taking a photo, developing the film, writing the article, printing the paper, publishing it, and then getting it distributed and sell to people. So it was just a different time. Beth Accomando: You said it took about 10 years to finance it. In that 10-year period, were you and Stanley Nelson still kind of working on it or going through researching it in some way or was it you needed the money first to be able to proceed in any way they perform? Interviewee: Well, with this project, it seemed like it just worked out better to once the funds are raised to really be in Full Throttle Production. We both worked in different projects and I didn’t know he was really working on it sort of quietly trying to raise funds while doing other projects, because I think that maybe this type of project, it was just a little different where it wasn’t like something else we can kind of do some research and talk to people and get everybody on board, you really need to kind of a full-throttle approach because lot of people did have suspicions other people trying to make films themselves. There was one filmmaker before he died, he was trying to make a film on the Panther, so everybody kind of seeded the territory to him, and then once he died, his name is St. Clair Bourne, got more traction to go back and pursue and see if the funds could actually be raised, would there be a market for, would there be interest, and how to go about it. So it was – it was – I guess you could say it was a slow build. Beth Accomando: So 10 years of finance and then how long did it take to actually gather up all these interviews and archive footage and stills and put it into a film? Interviewee: Probably the overall process and certainly can correct me, maybe 10 to 12 years totally from raising the funds and then doing the production. The production ended up taking three to four years, so it was just a really lengthy, lengthy process. And as idealistic filmmakers, we thought, oh, get going, we’ll take a year and a half, once the funds are raised, we thought we’d be finishing about a year and a half later. Well, nearly four years later, we’re finished. So, it was definitely [indiscernible] [00:23:05] and it was challenging and challenging to usually get interest and gain trust, but also just the amount of time needed for the archive of research was extraordinary. It literally was a global search, and when some people couldn’t find year one, they were able to find year two, that sort of. There were people who were ready to look through parents archives, were ready a couple of years into it. So it was really kind of a combination of all those things that ended up working in our favor. Beth Accomando: Were you surprised by some of the material you were able to uncover? Interviewee: You know what, yes, and once as we thought, you know, my job was, yeah, I’m working on a topic that’s late 60s, so there is probably going to be times of footage, it’s going to be a piece of cake. Some says it was, but another says we still wanted to find something hopefully surprising, and new and fresh that maybe people hadn’t seen before, and what we were able to do was uncover a lot of photographs and private collections. Now there was even a gentleman from Japan who happened to take photographs in Chicago. He took his photo, lived in Chicago maybe six to eight months and then, you know, went back to Japan, and I think part of my staff located him on Facebook. So, it was just this huge effort. There are people from Canada, people of both coast, the south and north, the Midwest, we really did call anybody and everybody to see what we could – what we could uncover. Beth Accomando: It’s interesting to you that Stanley Nelson did include interviews with some of the white police officers. Was that difficult to track down those people and to get them to talk on camera? Interviewee: Yes, I think certainly that was probably an advantage of time at our side, and I initially reached out to them and I think it probably took close to two years into the process before we were able to film the interviews. Tracking them was not as lengthy, but it was amount of a lot of talking and phoning and trying to gain people’s trust and let them know that they’re going to be heard. We’re not trying to do one quick little comment, we are trying to make that actual film. So that was part of what I like to call that 360-degree storytelling. It makes the film that much richer. We don’t want to just simply preach the choir, we actually want to get some unusual [indiscernible] [00:25:23] they’re valid as well, what did they think at the time. It was a scary time for everybody, for a lot of people. No one knew what was going to happen. But in that fright for some people, there was opportunity, people wanted to just change things and take that sort of fear, apprehension and just go for it, and that usually comes from the young people, usually teenagers and college students, those are the ones who just go out, you know, they let us full throttle. They were ready to do so. So, yes, that did take some time to get their voices included and I just think this film is much better for it. Beth Accomando: Let me ask you one kind of controversy that came up regarding the documentary. In the film, Elaine Brown is interviewed and she has since come out criticizing the film. How have you and Stanley Nelson responded to some of her criticism? Interviewee: She, like everybody else, is entitled to her comments and her feedbacks, Mr. Lee [indiscernible] [00:26:16] to have met her and worked with her and included her in the film, but that is certainly her personal opinion, and everybody is entitled to their own personal opinion. Beth Accomando: And for The Black Panther documentary, what do you think is kind of the mistake about The Black Panthers that still makes it something that – because it played here in San Diego at a small cinema, and it was selling out screenings, do you think there is some sort of like mistake or mythology to it that still has a power for audiences? Interviewee: Absolutely, and your opinions at the time flew here to the United States to film them, I mean what they accomplished at that time just no one had seen anything like that. They had it all down to the message and the look. I mean, they – it was – I guess in today’s terms, it was perfect branding and marketing. They knew, they figured how to get the look and outfit all the way down to the boots and the Brey and a leather jacket and a gun and that image have sort of stayed with them. Yes, it led to you could say misperception, but that was sort of your gateway to them and it just has grown, grown, and grown and 50 years later, there is just this powerful mystic about them. Especially, if you were a teenager, then like the director was, I mean who didn’t want to look cool. I mean, some people – you want to be like that, not your minister who is wearing the skinny tie and the suit, would you want to wear that or do you want to wear like the leather jacket and a Brey, you know, how is that. So I think they really figured out branding, and when people sort of gravitated to that image and the media gravitated by that image, well, then they opened their mouth and they used that platform to share what was going on in the black community. Beth Accomando: The film will be screening here in San Diego as part of the Human Rights Film Festival, what’s the importance for you as a filmmaker to have a film included in something like that? Is it – do you worry that it’s preaching to the choir kind of or do you feel it’s a good way to highlight the importance of what the film is about? Interviewee: I think its all part of that, I think it’s all great, I mean the fact that these film festivals exist and if they are what you would call Human Rights Film Festivals, I mean it’s just so important. And I think packaging as such, hope we can tell certainly to say the choir, but also the larger public that there is enough out there where human rights is still a question around the world. There is a lot going on. We’re very fortunate United States where it’s not a country completely under siege. So, it’s great to have some place to film and show – showcase our film, have discussions and dialogue around these different topics. Yes, the 1960s is different from 2016, but in some ways because – in some ways you got we’re almost even more together and more polarized equally at the same time. So it’s great that that’s being embraced under the umbrella of Human Rights Film Festival to show that. In some communities, human rights is really under threat and we – that affects us all and we should all be concerned and want to know what is going on there so things can get better and that can stop. So I am very excited to be included in the San Diego’s Human Rights Film Festival. It’s exciting as filmmakers to needed different audience and to speak with people in person. Beth Accomando: The film is playing here in San Diego just on the heels of the Oscar nominations, which there has been a lot of outcry about the fact that there is distinct lack of diversity of lot of the nominations, how do you feel about that as a filmmaker? I mean what would you like to see changed or how do you think is the best approach to tackle this? I know there has been calls for boycotts of the Oscars, I think the founder of BET suggested not boycotts, but like making changes within the studio system, what do you see from the filmmaker’s point of view as something you’d like to see to try and address this? Interviewee: The fact that it’s being discussed is really exciting and discussed exactly in the moment, we’re not talking about this 10 years later, but actually as soon as the nominations came out. I think that’s very exciting and encouraging as well as for me as an African-American filmmaker myself very disappointing. I was just watching likely on one of the morning shows and I did read about Bob Johnson’s comments, and then I also read some academy members were speaking to, I think the Hollywood reporter, one of them overwriting, one of the traits kind of very defensive, saying don’t blame us. So it’s really the industry’s problem. So I think all of those should be in the mix. I mean it is 2016, it was an extraordinary year of films, and part of those extraordinary films were films by African-American filmmakers and African-American talent that should all be spotlight and praised, but, yes, it does come down to access and opportunity. We all want access and opportunity and we all want to tell our stories that reach different audiences differently. The fact that it’s being called out, it’s being discussed, I think it is probably great that Chris Rock of all people is going to be hosting it because you he can probably navigate these stormy waters probably better than anybody. I’m not a host so I – so we couldn’t do it. I’ll just look at the glass half full and this ends up, it finally going to call everybody out, we were going to continue to discuss it, hopefully more projects are going to be worthwhile. On that note, I believe the EEOC, the Equal Employment Opportunity, is involved in some sort of litigation or lawsuit into exploring the lack of women at the Helm and so many films in the industry. New York magazine published a photo of like a 100 working women directors who could be hired and so many have done such amazing work and their – you know, the representation of the top 100 and 200 films each year is still poultry. Good Morning America said the majority like 94% of the academy voters are white, 77% are male, you know, those are their figures. I’m not a member so I don’t know, but something does need to change, and I think it’s the change for the better, you know, we are here, there is so much talent coming from so many different walks of life and audiences are interested, people want to see really good fascinating stories told by a variety of people. Of course the Hollywood Star Wars assured, the Hollywood Star Wars said, you know, something else by an independent filmmaker is just as valid and is just as important. So, hopefully the meter will moved and hopefully it will get moved faster. Hopefully, it won’t be another 10 or 20 years before the complexion of the Oscar and the voting piece of the Oscar is changed. Hopefully, we’ll get some changes in the boardroom in the Hollywood studios, so only still few people who are diverse who can green-light projects, I mean the funding is the thing. So, it’s – it’s a very complicated discussion, but it’s a complicated discussion that’s valid and worth having. Beth Accomando: I really feel like once you get more diversity in the executive offices, the places where those projects are green-lit, that’s when more change will be seen onscreen and then we’ll have a bigger pool of films to choose from and then more diversity, you know, it seems like it’s… Interviewee: Yes, and they do – you know, and there is always a remark of, oh, we can either find a talent or conversely they don’t make money or they don’t make money overseas. Well, time and time again, that’s just disproved and I think [indiscernible] [00:33:54] Cate Blanchett, when she won her Oscar for Blue Jasmine saying, hello people, the earth is round, you know, people want to see women filmmakers, women characters, and people go to the theaters and pay money to see good films. That’s just the bottom line, whether it’s streaming in the theater, on television, on a cable, it’s a really rich time for amazing storytelling and it’s just time for people to become a little less afraid and spotlight those films as well. They’re just as valid, those stories. Maybe they’re different than what you are used to seeing or you are not understanding it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not just as valid. There is a whole new generation of people who are growing up in a very different landscape, storytelling speaks differently to them. And I think there is enough product out there and certainly enough talent out there to have a much more representation, because we just all – as a filmmaker myself, we all just want to tell good stories. Beth Accomando: I think my biggest disappointment was that Ryan Coogler didn’t get a directing nomination for Creed. I thought that was the perfect film for blending kind of independent filmmaking and big franchise and kind of crossing over African-American story with one that had been more centered on white characters and it just seemed like, oh, and it did well at the box office, it’s going like, oh, this is the film that will – they’re like bring everything together. I was really disappointed that he didn’t get nominated. Interviewee: Well, in the end, the work will stand out. That is the huge takeaway, and he is moving on to direct a gigantic I think Marvel Comics film Black Panther interestingly. So… Beth Accomando: That’s comes around. Interviewee: So, in some ways it’s like I said, I need to look at it as the glass half full, I’ll take that posture right now, the work that film will stand out the films that were released will stand out, people will look at this great work that’s coming out, and as long as they keep working, that’s only the key, the access and the opportunity. It’s really hard to even get that far if you don’t even have access or opportunity, and that’s really where its starts, and that’s where the big change should happen, you know, more people given access, more people opportunity, more decisions being made, that sort of opens up the traditional pathways. And also we just need to keep coming. We just need to not stop. Just pick ourselves up [indiscernible] [00:36:13] we didn’t get that nomination or award, but you know what, it’s an amazing piece of work, and that will live on and soon the accolades will come sure. It’d be great to happen at the time, but that doesn’t always happen at the time, so – but it really means we just keep going. Beth Accomando: And do you have another project lined up or anything coming? Interviewee: Thank you. Yes, I am actually now wrapping up some short documentaries on the criminal justice landscape one looking at the problem of race and bail sort of at the initial stage of the criminal justice piece, and I’m also working on adapting the documentary Freedom Riders that I produce into a limited narrative series. So I’ve got a couple of producing partners, and we’re kind of shop that around and make some headway there. I think that’s a nice riveting story that did work well in a limited series format, you know, to me to speak so perfectly to today’s times of people from all backgrounds and races and religious points of view working together to make change for the better. So kind of – keep stories alive [indiscernible] [00:37:21] happening. Beth Accomando: All right. Well, I want to thank you very much for your time. Interviewee: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it. And please support the San Diego Human Rights Watch Film Festival, turn out, support your film festivals. I know it’s a lot of work to put those together, so shout out to them and all their planners and volunteers. Beth Accomando: All right. Thanks a lot. Thanks for listening to another edition of the KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast. The Human Rights Watch Film Festival runs through Sunday at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. In addition to the Saturday screening of The Black Panthers, will be a stop-motion documentary about cows, Israel, and Palestine [indiscernible] [00:38:05] Wanted 18. It’s an unconventional and highly effective documentary that I urge you to seek out on Sunday. Please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. And since the podcast is still young, we love for you to leave us a review and tell your friends to take a listen. Thanks again for listening until our next film-fix. I’m Beth Accomando, your Resident Cinema Junkie.
The screening of a documentary about the Black Panthers at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival this weekend seems oddly appropriate on the heels of the very white Academy Award nominations.
Producer Laurens Grant will be at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival this Saturday, Jan. 23 at the Museum of Photographic Arts to present her documentary, "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution." She has had to fight the dual obstacles of being both female and African American.
The screening of "The Black Panthers," with its powerful images of black power and scenes of African Americans carrying guns into the state capital (prompting Ronald Reagan to call for gun control) suggest that maybe it’s not a boycott that’s needed but a call for revolution.