I've had several conversations about how indie black filmmakers should be she studying Beyoncé and Rihanna's music videos for technical purposes, to learn from their craft and visual artistry. Whether you like their music or not is irrelevant, their music videos are ground-breaking, and offer great lessons in lighting black skin, and framing a "wow" shot.
Bradford Young has become a master of cinematography, and he is at the heart of the Subtle Core movement. His repeat collaborations with Andrew Dosunmu and Ava DuVernay have yielded stellar visual achievements. Selma, and Restless City are beautifully shot. Gorgeous works of art, that offer visual beauty with character and story depth.
We need more black filmmakers and cinematographers to become rising stars in Hollywood. For their visuals: cinematography.
Steve McQueen. Amma Asante. Gina Prince-Bythewood. Dee Rees. Justin Simien. And many others are out there crafting these kind of visually stunning masterpieces. But we need more filmmakers. More opportunities. More chances for black art to shine... Which brings me back to Beyoncé's "Formation." This music video has the kind of potent images, stylization, and cultural impact that black cinema needs more of.
Melina Matsoukas has become a music video auteur with Beyoncé's "Formation" and Rihanna's "We Found Love." She orchestrates these weird, and wild, visual concepts that "wow" us with her visual style and artistry. And that's what black cinema needs... Stunning scenes that illustrate deep focus, and deep staging, breath-taking shots that fill the frame in wonderfully original ways. Black cinematography needs a Days of Heaven, a Terrence Malick kind of grand entrance. The kind where the cinematography takes the forefront. Where the cinematography is a character of its own, where the cinematography "steals the show" and gets the bulk of the spotlight and is at the center of all the write-ups and articles.
It's happening. Slowly. We need more films like Middle of Nowhere, Belle, 12 Years A Slave, and Bessie. I've heard great things about Nate Parker's The Birth of A Nation. It is happening. Black filmmakers are elevating, and excelling in cinematography. I want Hollywood to get to the point where black filmmakers get the same kind of financial backing, and creative freedom to craft weirdly artsy films like The Tree of Life with A-List talent who agree to a project without seeing the script and just go-with-the flow because "hey, it's Terrence Malick." Black cinema needs that. Hollywood needs that. It could produce some amazing films.