In an interview released on Monday, Boyz N the Hood director John Singleton lamented that the “so-called liberals in Hollywood” aren’t “letting black people tell the stories.”
In a wide-ranging interview with The Hollywood Reporters‘ Stephen Galloway, Singleton said that this generation of Hollywood liberals “are not as good as their parents or ancestors” were. “They feel they’re not racist,” he said. “They’re not racist, they grew up with Hip Hop so [they] can’t be racist.”
He also criticized black film executives for being timid. “You’ve got a lot of black executives at the studio who are afraid to give their opinion about what black culture is,” he said. “And [filmmakers] don’t know there’s a whole lot of black people who work in studios that don’t need to be there because they won’t—if I give them the best thing possible, they’re scared to give it to somebody.”
“There’s no Stephanie Allains,” Singleton said, referring to the executive who oversaw the production of Boyz N the Hood. “Stephanie Allain kicked and screamed to get Boyz n the Hood made. Those people don’t exist anymore, whether or not they’re black, white, or whatever. So we’re not going there. What doesn’t exist is financial infrastructure for people, and not necessarily black, but just people of different visions, to be able to do different types of work.”
He did praise some of the work being made outside of the studio system, noting that “films are being made outside of the certain norm, people are putting in and financing. That’s a liberating thing. You’re going to get different types of stories made. A good example of a person who happens not to be black, Benh Zeitlin who did Beasts of the Southern Wild, that would never have been made if it hadn’t been made in that model. That could never have been made in the studio. 12 Years a Slave could never have been made in the studio model.”
Singleton recalled a realization he had when writing Boyz N the Hood: “I learned that no one was going to write the films I wanted to do except for me. No one was going to have the vision to tell the stories that I wanted to tell except for me.”
“You’re seeing dreams die right before you,” he said of the film’s final moments. “It adds to the pathos of the scene, you’re seeing dreams die right before you. The authenticity of it comes from, I’m directing this and I’m doing it from the heart. These are stories that I’ve seen and that I’ve heard of in my environment. I’m following the axiom of ‘dramatize what you know.’”
Black filmmakers aren’t doing that anymore — at least not with major studios — because executives won’t let them. “The black films now—so-called black films now—they’re great. They’re great films. But they’re just product.”
Unlike Boyz N the Hood, “they’re not moving the bar forward creatively or anything you want. It’s not that you have to say something or you have to make an important movie. We’re in the entertainment business. We’re in the business where you’ve got to get as many butts in the seats and get people excited on Friday, Saturday, and even come out Sunday to see the picture. And even after that, they got to want to buy it, they got to want to order it, push a button and get it.”
“When you try to make it homogenized, when you try to make it appeal to everybody, then you don’t have anything that’s special,” he said. “Boyz N the Hood wasn’t made for everybody. It was made for like a young black audience that buys Hip Hop records.”
Watch the entire interview via The Hollywood Reporter below.
["John Singleton At World Premiere Of Paramount Pictures Four Brothers, Clearview'S Chelsea West Cinemas, New York, Ny, August 09, 2005" on Shutterstock]
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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