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Shadow & Act - June 2019

"White supremacy, including acts of racial discrimination and terror, should not be veiled in an effort to disguise what it actually is: terrorism. There is no reason that Hollywood should be bringing us narratives focused on anything but showing white supremacists and white supremacy for exactly what they are."

Unless you’ve totally checked out of what’s been going in Hollywood, it has been hard not to notice what is a disturbing trend. There have been multiple projects that are in the works that seem to either sympathize with white supremacists or present them in a non-threatening nature. 

Although these projects may seem harmless to some, they are extremely dangerous and participate in violent rhetoric that continues to perpetuate white supremacy. 

Two projects in particular have gained lots of attention over the past month. Burden, a film that premiered back in January 2018 at Sundance, is set to be released in theaters on November 2019--just in time for awards season. A literal Ku Klux Klan redemption tale, it is the true story of a man who decided to leave the terrorist organization and was later taken in by a Black church while he was on the run from other Klan members. Like most of these films, this one has a starry ensemble cast that features Forest Whitaker, Mudbound’s Garret Hedlund and even Grammy-winning R&B singer Usher.

Last week, this trend continued in what just might be the most disturbing of these films and projects that have been put into development. Shameless producer John Wells signed a huge deal with Warner Bros., putting 13 shows in the works. Chief among them? You guessed it -- a white supremacist sympathy tale! According to The Hollywood ReporterHeart of Lion, based on a Finnish film “revolves around a white nationalist who falls in love with a woman who has a Black son and has to confront his own past, his family and beliefs in a rapidly changing America in the age of Trump.” So, now we are legitimately putting Black children in the crossfire for the sake of a white supremacist's redemption story? 

Earlier this year,  Best of Enemies, bombed at the Best which starred Taraji P. Henson as iconic civil rights activist Ann Atwater and Sam Rockwell as the Grand Wizard of the KKK. Instead of focusing on Atwater, Best of Enemies flattened her character in order to make space for the KKK member's character to develop and garner audience sympathy. And though last year’s Oscar-winning film, BlacKkKlansman, was not a KKK redemption tale, it did present members as a bumbling group of fools with sometimes interspersed moments of humor, as opposed to lethal white supremacists.  

Last year’s Where Hands Touch, directed by Amma Asante, starred Amandla Stenberg as a biracial girl in Germany who falls in love with a young Nazi. Though the film was released in late 2018 to mostly mixed-to-negative reviews, it didn’t receive much attention until the following January when it was released on demand. As people discovered the film, memes were created and fresh criticism was unleashed, showing that Black audiences and other moviegoers don't want to see white supremacist redemption stories, no matter who is starring in them.

But Hollywood isn't getting the message. The short film Skin--which depicts Neo-Nazis beating a Black man and referring to him as racial slurs--just won the 2019 Oscar for Best Short Film. The same director now has made a feature film of the same name, though the feature chronicles the story of a real-life man who co-founded one of the biggest white power/skinhead organizations in America who decides to get his many tattoos associated with the organization removed after he becomes a father and decides to stop being racist. The feature premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018 and will be released this July, backed by the same production outfit that brought us Moonlight, A24. ...
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