RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Let's continue with our look at the numbers that tell the stories of the year and the big story for movies in 2013 is the record number of Hollywood and independent films involving black directors and black stars. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang tell us that number is 11.
HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: So I was at the movies recently, just south side of Washington, D.C. standing with Kahlila Liverpool in front of a box office board listing show times. We were there for a movie and a meal with the D.C. Black Film and Media Club.
KAHLILA LIVERPOOL: Yeah, so this is a great meet-up group. So, it's about people who are interested in film and in particular, black directors, black actors.
WANG: So let's look at this board. How many films fit that criteria?
LIVERPOOL: So we have "Black Nativity," "The Best Man Holiday," "12 Years A Slave," "Madea"...
WANG: As in Tyler Perry's "A Madea Christmas," which brought the number of films at this multiplex staring black actors and by black directors to four. But this year's list goes on.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Five, four, three, two, one. Happy New Year.
(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSION)
WANG: The social drama "Fruitvale Station" was part of a banner year of 11 films each grossing from about half a million to more than $100 million. It's almost double the number of last year's group of comparable films, and it comes after perennial criticism of Hollywood's lack of roles for black talent on and off screen.
LIVERPOOL: I was surprised at how many black films were out this year. I told one of my friends in California, oh my gosh. There's tons of black movies out. Did you notice that?
WANG: Moviegoers like Liverpool and critics have also noticed the range of this year's eleven films shattering the stereotype of, quote, "black film." From Oscar bait introducing audiences to untold historical epics...
(SOUNDBITE FROM MOVIE, "12 YEARS A SLAVE)
(SOUNDBITE FROM MOVIE, "THE BUTLER")
WANG: Like Lee Daniels' "The Butler" and "12 Years a Slave" and smaller dramas like "Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor," and "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete," to a Christmas musical plus romantic comedies like "Baggage Claim" and "Peeples." And more straight-up comedies from Kevin Hart and Tyler Perry, who teams up this time with Larry, the Cable Guy.
(SOUNDBITE FROM MOVIE, "A MADEA CHRISTMAS")
REGINALD HUDLIN: It's a cyclical thing.
WANG: Filmmaker Reginald Hudlin helped produce "Django Unchained." He also wrote and directed the 1990 hit...
(SOUNDBITE FROM MOVIE, "HOUSE PARTY")
HUDLIN: We saw in the 1970s an explosion of black filmmakers, then not so much.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
WANG: And there were earlier explosions of black film makers in the '80s and the '90s. In 1992, Hudlin directed the big-budget Eddie Murphy comedy "Boomerang." It came out in the same year as director Ernest Dickerson's "Juice" with Tupac Shakur and Spike Lee's biopic "Malcolm X" starring Denzel Washington in a Oscar nominated role.
HUDLIN: And we thought, OK, here we are. We're switching gears. We're going to the next level. But the fact is that was the end of an era.
WANG: An era that can be kept alive with a more solid infrastructure of support in Hollywood, according to Wesley Morris. He's a film critic for Grantland, which means...
WESLEY MORRIS: I've seen all of those films.
WANG: All 11 this year and only one of them, Universal Pictures' "The Best Man Holiday," was produced by a major Hollywood studio.
MORRIS: They can't all just be independent movies. They can't all just be movies about slaves. And they can't all star the same three actors. And I think this year, you got a real sense that that is definitely something that is not only possible, but it's viable as well.
LIVERPOOL: Me being African-American, it's really important to validate my experience and see some of my experiences portrayed on screen.
WANG: What moviegoer Kahlila Liverpool doesn't see enough of on screen is black women in leading roles. Of the top eleven films starring black actors by black directors only three were carried by a lead female role, and of the three, one was played by a man, Tyler Perry as the outspoken grandmother of "A Madea Christmas." Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News.
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