Colombiana vs. Straight to DVD Black Films

Colombiana made me very sad.

I’m very glad that I waited then waited some more for its DVD release. If I’d spent full price at the theater, I would have been angry.

I wanted to like this movie. I love the action adventure genre and I’m a huge Zoë Saldaña fan. She’s a fiercely proud Afro Latina who refuses to deny or dilute her heritage. A supporter of other women: you have to love the scene in Punk’d where she goes after her friend’s boyfriend whom she believes was cheating. Great acting chops — she started in theater. I’d hoped this vehicle would place her in the Angelina Jolie category: i.e., mastering the action adventure genre to give her the box office basis to do other projects.

Oh well.

The film’s box office was disappointing. $60M profits versus $40M budget. More discouraging is that international revenue was much lower than domestic office. That bucks the trend in a very negative way. The success of diverse actors like Will Smith, Eddie Murphy and Denzel Washington is based on international success. If she could have tapped into Latin markets, she would be golden.

In critical terms, no sale. The story is formulaic and implausible. And for the love of all that’s holy, who thought it was a good idea to go the Jennifer Lopez route (Enough)  and give her an insipid white lover, Michael Vartan best known for Alias? There’s some sparkle from Saldana but not early enough. As she was done in by the technology of Avatar, she is defeated here by subpar material.

The best hope for diversity on film? African American straight to DVD movies. This success builds on the enormous black theater circuit  that emerged in the 1980s after the success of Mama, I Want to Sing and The Wiz.  It includes gospel and relationship plays, catering to a working and middle class that only sees its culture mocked, if it addressed at all. David Talbert and Tyler Perry are wealthy men because they understood that asking someone where they fellowship is normal.  They and their colleagues wisely recognize that even “nice” black  families are touched by the scourge of drugs and violence. They balance these tough issues with a healthy dose of respect, affection and wish fulfillment. The gorgeous cinematography depicting Atlanta in many Tyler Perry films is the black equivalent of the white middle class home and hearth idolatry found in Architectural Digest and Oprah.

Check out this month’s Redbox’s offerings (minus the Tyler Perry filmed plays):

  • The Bachelor Party
  • Cheaper to Keep Her
  • Doing Hard Time
  • Double Wedding
  • He’s Mine, Not Yours
  • Joy Road
  • King of Paper Chasin’
  • Lord, All Men Can’t Be Dogs
  • Somebody Help Me 2

Some very interesting talent percolating in this Blaxploitation remix — actors, musicians, personalities. These movies are a quiet but effective antidote to the mainstream legacy media’s continuing lack of diversity. Perhaps Saldana should take note and consider making the Clooney/ Barrymore/Streisand move and produce for herself. And for us.


About liftingasweclimb

Mildred Lewis writes and directs for theater, television, film and the web. She's also a full time professor, Christian, activist and troublemaker with a passion to save as much of the world as she can.
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