The fear that a love story featuring two Black actors is not engaging, believable or desirable is very real, and one that still defines the mindset of many studio executives, casting agents and producers.
My conversation with Gugu and Gina covered a wide range of issues facing women in the entertainment industry. I asked Gina specifically why she wanted to tell this story, which at its core is a love story, and why it seems so difficult to get movies made about two black people falling in love.
On the surface, Beyond the Lights is about the unlikely romance between an L.A. cop named Kaz (Nate Parker) and a rising British pop star named Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). They meet when he subs for a pal doing private security work and winds up saving her from a suicide dive off her hotel balcony.
It's amazing how one song can capture a culture's idealized view of women. In 1919, the great American songwriter, Irving Berlin, had been hired by Florenz Ziegfeld to write a musical number which would glorify the showgirls in the 1919 edition of the Ziegfeld Follies.
As a black woman of diverse heritage myself, which includes a grandmother who was biracial and raised in the deep south of the U.S. in the 1930s, where slavery only ended only about 60 years prior, this important film resonates with me.
Maybe, in some small way, Asante's Belle will lead men the world over to recognize that equality and justice for all of humankind is the foundation of freedom, democracy and peace. Asante's Belle reminds us that women are as free by nature as the men we give life to.
Yes, yes, I know -- spidermanspidermanspidermanspiderman. I'll get to it. But my favorite movies of the week, as usual, are the small ones. Let's start with Amma Asante's Belle, a Jane Austen-ish film based on a true story.