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Wednesday
Apr152009

Coming Soon:Madea Grows Some "American Violets"

Just kidding about that title, but I figure it would draw the attention of those Tyler Perry stans that have cyber-riding and dying up in the comments section for the past week :)


Several readers have emailed me asking me to promote American Violet. It is a story about a Black woman (gasp) and from what I can tell, she's not riding a pole, dressed in pasties or the best friend or daughter of a cross dressing 6ft 5 man. I would have posted earlier, but the marketing team didn't send me any images or the trailer (like so many other pests)so I had to hear about it from you:


American Violet, a quietly impressive film that screened at SXSW last month. Based on a true story, it’s about an African-American single mother in Texas, Dee Roberts, who, as was routine at the time, got scooped up in a housing project drug raid based on flimsy or fabricated warrant-supporting affidavits. District Attorneys would then hold these arrestees in jail until they agreed to a plea bargain — whether they were guilty or not — thus quickly increasing their conviction rates and bringing in more federal money. Newcomer Nicole Beharie plays the single mother, and she’s excellent. .. There’s nothing particularly momentous about American Violet but it is a swell little legal drama that benefits from strong performances and a nice lift-me-up-light feel good ending.Scathing Reviews

I doubt that the members of a certain sorority and church groups have arranged to go see this film en mass. But then again, whose fault is that?

Reader Comments (41)

This is a film that I will definitely go see. The lead actress Nicole Beharie was in "The Express: The Ernie Davis Story"; I thought she looked interesting in that because it was a period piece (50's) and she did a great job of playing an educated Black woman from that time. This role is very different from that and based on the trailer she does very well. This movie is like a biography and that is my favorite genre of films. I think Black people do better when we stick to reality rather than fantasy because reality tends to inspire and addresses the many many problems we have. Still, however, I'm looking for another Black Woman super hero/super spy/super cop...etc. Also, something for black children!

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJustMe

Another reason to go to SXSW. I'm still hoping for a mini-series or feature film of the Vampire Huntress Series. If I can just hit that lottery.....

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFaith

Actually, the title of your post is not to far off, since Tyler Perry is one of the people who helped finance the film. There was a free screening of this in NY last week. I was unable to go, because of a prior engagement, but a few people I know went and all of them had rave reviews. Also, almost all of them went on and on about the phenomenon of men and women choosing plea deals because they can’t afford bail, a private attorney, don’t want to risk losing their job and can’t afford to spend time away from their family and responsibilities. The fact that this woman maintained her innocence despite all of these obstacles is impressive to say the least. Any movie that gets people talking like that is a good one.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteriman

I don't think TP helped out with this film. It was Push and For Colored Girls movie he is helping out with

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaima

Someone please verify or prove the involvement of TP. I would have to take back some of my comments about him if proven true. I can't imagine he would be interested in funding something true and positive for black women.

I will see it when it's here. There's no way alot of our people will see it because it probably won't make it to the bootleg scene.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercinco

cinco, Yes Tyler Perry is involved in either financing or promoting this film, just like he is involved with Push and the movie adaptation For Colored Girls......... He said of the movie Push that even though it is not the type of film his studio makes, he loves it and believes in it and I'm sure he feels the same way about American Violet.

"I will see it when it’s here. There’s no way alot of our people will see it because it probably won’t make it to the bootleg scene."

I think it's sad that you have such a low opinion of other black people. People can be fans of Tyler Perry films and other types of films too.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterthenderson

This is not a Lion's Gate Film, I don't see what TP what would have to do with this. I think people are getting their tragic poor black woman movies mixed up.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaima

Tyler Perry did not finance this film nor did he help promote it.

This film debuted at Telluride last year to goodreviews and was supposed to be released in the fall but because of the election they decided to wait. The film drudges up a lot of ugly memories of the 2000 election.

It is a good film, a little heavy-handed at times but black films tend to be that way anyway. Nicole Beharie is definitely one to watch - she is pretty amazing.

The director, Tim Disney, is much more suited for documentary films. His last docu was called "The Price of Sugar" about the sugar industry in the Dominican Republic and its abusive labor practices. Good stuff.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHollywood Blackout

I am fascinated by this investigation into whether or not Perry financed/promoted this film. some say it would even change their opinion of him.

I am reminded of the familiar practice of drug lords handing out turkeys at Thanksgiving. Pretty effective apparently.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergem2001

I just want to also point out that Tyler Perry barely finances his own projects - LOL.

He did not "finance" Push, he simply made a deal with the distributor to help with the marketing and promotion. This was AFTER the film was already made and received tons of press and recognition at Sundance. And it was his agent who brokered the deal and linked him with Lee Daniels. So please stop giving this man credit for stuff he did not do. He would not have gone anywhere near "Push" if there wasn't press attached to it.

He was also NEVER a financer of "For Colored Girls". Whoopi Goldberg had some funders lined up but hey dropped out when the financial crisis hit. Tyler Perry was never one of them and they were mostly all older jewish businessmen. Take that as you wish.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHollywood Blackout

*dead* at the turkeys comment

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaJane Galt

Oh well, I thought I read that he financed it somewhere, didn’t mean to launch an investigation…lol. I do know for a fact however that there was a free screening and people I know who went thoroughly enjoyed it, so I would encourage others to check it out. It’s playing right down the block from me, so I will be doing so myself this weekend.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteriman

HB,
There is a Colored Girls movie now being made. It is being directed Nzingha Stewart. Stewart directed TP's The Marriage Counselor. I don't think he has a direct artistic or financial stake in this. Maybe he simply introduced Stewart to some folks over at Lions Gate.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaima

Naima,

I was speaking specifically about the Broadway revival that Whoopi was producing. I thought that's what you meant. Tyler had nothing to do with that.

As far as the film goes, Nzingha is also one of Charles King's clients (Tyler's agent at William Morris). Charles tries to get all of his clients working on stuff together which means more $$$ for him.

Nzingha was able to direct the short for Tyler because Charles brokered the deal.

From what I know, "For Colored Girls" the film has been optioned but not officially greenlit. More than likely it will take years to get that film made and hopefully the Broadway revival will happen first to drum up interest.

I think India Arie was attached to that production.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHollywood Blackout

I know you like to pigeon hole people into good and bad categories, but most people aren't one or the other...most reside in a shade of gray.

Like he said..those aren't the type of films he makes, but it doesn't mean they don't deserve to be made.

I'm not a Tyler fan in the least, and this doesn't change my opinion about him...but I don't know why people find it so hard to believe that the man would help finance other black fims.

Like I've said on all of the posts there are plenty of movies that are made that aren't "sterotypical" black films.

Push has been completed awhile. But its having a hard time finding its way to the big screen because of the nature of the story.

American Violet has been completed awhile as well. Read about it last year...beleive it was screened at Sundance or some other film festival.

If these movies reach a wide audience...great. If not, then they will have critical success, hopefully some awards and maybe it means they can make another movie.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

HB,
Ok that explains the Stewart -Perry connection. I was wondering how a talent like Stewart got involved in a TP project.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaima

thenderson wrote

"I think it’s sad that you have such a low opinion of other black people. People can be fans of Tyler Perry films and other types of films too."

That's true. The first ad for American Violet I saw was in the window of a local salon that also promotes Perry's films. Clearly, somebody in the salon likes a variety of Black films.

Here's the sad part. If not for that pro-Perry salon, I would never have heard about "Violet." Promotion for the film in my hometown is non-existent despite all the critical acclaim it has earned.

Bottom line, you don't know who's going to support your film and who will snub it.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFred

gem 2001 wrote:

"I doubt that the members of a certain sorority and church groups have arranged to go see this film en mass. But then again, whose fault is that?"

The studio that produced "Violet" would be most at fault. The movie would have lots of buzz by now if it has been screened early in Black churches.

A great example is the blockbuster, "Passion of the Christ." The movie raked in lots of money because director Mel Gibson held early screenings for his film at various churches: White , Black, etc. Many Hollywood "experts" thought Gibson was wasting his time since "churchgoers don't go to movies."

However, Gibson's marketing strategy was soon vindicated. The early screenings caused lots of positive buzz, which caused even more people to check out the film. In turn, this results in tons of profits.

Gibson also inspired smart studios to copy his strategy and thus generated their own surprise hits. These include Tyler Perry Studios, Walden Media ("Chronicles of Narnia"), and Sherwood Pictures ("Fireproof").

So, Black churchgoers would check out "Violet" in large numbers if the studio actually held some free early screenings.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFred

“American Violet” is a film based on the true story of Regina Kelly. In 2000, Regina Kelly, a mother of four, was falsely accused of delivering a controlled substance in a “drug free school zone.” Giving the option to plead guilty and accept 10 years of probation for a crime she did not commit, Regina instead took a stand and decided to take on the Texas justice system to clear her name. With the possibility of facing up to 99 years in prison, Regina was determined to be victorious. To learn more about Regina Kelly and her story, visit www.reginakelly.com.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterOnetta

Fred,

In order for your theory to work, black preachers would have to be comfortable holding a viewing for a film like "American Violet" in their churches. I have worked grassroots marketing campaigns for films and trust, the black church is ALWAYS the first place a studio looks to market a black film. BUT more often than not, the church says "nuh uh". The film has to be pro-Christian with a religious message or theme - this is not most films black or white.

Of course the worked for Passion because it was duh - abou Christ. As far as Walden media, they had to go through an arduous process before churches agreed to screen Narnia because some folks thought it celebrated witchcraft. The entire marketing campaign was about kids and fantasy and that was stressed over and over again. And even still some churches said "Nuh uh".

So the black church theory works but it depends on the film. "First Sunday" was screened in black churches and it was the #1 movie when it opened. It was about two dimwits robbing a church but it took place in a church and had black people going to church so that = win!

"Malcolm X" was screened at Black churches but "Girl 6" was not. "Remember the Titans" was at black churches but "Deja Vu" was not. It depends on the genre and message.

The American Violet producers have absolutely no money to do a marketing campaign and the film has been picked up by internet blogs which has helped it tremendously. Could they have gone the "church" route - I don't think so.

There was a movie funded by conserviative Christians called "The End of the Spear" afew years ago. This film had not one dime of "liberal hollywood" money spent on it. All the marketing was done through religious group and churches. Speculation was that this film was going to prove that the religious market could turn a profit just as well as secular Hollywood.

The film cost $10 mil and made only $11.7 mil. It was a huge FLOP. The church thing only works in tandem with big media.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHollywood Blackout

Looks like an interesting story that is not mocking or making Black women the villian for a change. I will check it out.

As for Perry. A supporter of Black women does not have his signature character meant to be an homage to us played by a man in drag and expect us to take it as a compliment. That vaudeville-esque stunt told me all I need to know about that man's feelings towards Black females-which are NOTHING good.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFed up observer.

I read about this movie awhile back, can't remember where!!! But this movie doesn't seem like your typical TP cliche'. I was turned off by him way before he was making movies, black families love those bootlegged Madea play DVDs.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLD

@Onetta - thank you for that information. I knew this movie had "Biography" written all over it. Just proves what I was saying - real heroines and heroes are better than the fantastic any day.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJustMe

Well, Tyler better hit the screen before Sapphire's Push, another ghetto girl Norma Rae (Sally Field) woven in the drug culture, comes on the screen.

It looks like the movie is a rip off composite of Kemba--you know the Black girl Clinton pardon or commuted and the drama down in Tulia, Texas where the Black folks got locked up based on the corrupt testimony of a joke for an officer.

I wish Tyler all the best in his venture. However, I think we overlook too often how we contribute to our own demise and exploitation. Stop! I don't want to go there. Just enjoy the films.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBlackAchievement

Gina, this is off topic, but I just wanted you to know that I was in England some days ago and there was a journalist interviewing Whoopi Goldberg(she's in London doing some West End stuff). The journalist asked Whoopi a question and said: "Gina McCauley, from an American blog that is dedicated to combating negative images of Black women, said......" (It was something about you being tired of everyone only concentrating on what Micelle Obama was wearing).

I was like, wow, Gina had gone international!

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJaliliMaster

This is my first time hearing of this movie, and I'll definitely check out a screening if it comes to town.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSassyJ

@jaliliMaster

Are you SERIOUS???? I need to head overseas :)

I actually contribute quite a bit to to some publications in the UK, my first book credit is going to be in a book published by a UK company and the reason why I haven't responded to the Divestment debate is because I am on deadline for a UK magazine.

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergem2001

My only opinion of TP that I might change is the fact (if ever proven), that he can financially support a positive movie about Black women- otherwise I stand firm on my prior views on him and his media.

People can like whatever they want. I don't care, another's opinion of his work, his motive, his ?talent, and his hustle doesn't make me toot a horn for him. No way.

My comments about the bootleg dvds was sarcasm- as I know well what 'type' of movies our people tend to illegally promote and purchase and the enlightening movie that started this post is not one of them imo!

April 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercinco

I saw the film at a screening. It's a great film. Go see it. Tyler Perry was not involved. The director of the film is the grand nephew of Walt Disney but this is NOT a Disney Film.

April 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCocoa Fly

Since "American Violet" is based on a true story and the fact that more and more of our sisters are filling up prisons for non-violent drug crimes, yes, we need to go. As a church sister myself, I'm embarassed to say most church folks won't line up to see AV as they would a TP film, but perhaps this is my cue to suggest AV to my church's youth ministry . . . . :)

April 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRevMamaAfrika

OMG - can we get off the Tyler Perry conversations! The amount of protectionism and investment into a complete strangers who cares not an ounce about one person who reads this blog - unless we spent $$$ on his crappy movies - is just ridiculous. Shoot Bush probably did something nice for someone during his administration but does that lessen the amount of harm he did to this country because we let him!!??

April 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFaith

Congrats Gina on you internation endeavors!!
Have you checked out female MCs in the UK? They actually rap w/ their clothes on and don't rap about sex acts-gasp. You should check out Ms Dynamite

April 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaima

Um, Naima, I'd have to part with you on that one. When the rappers in the UK(whether male or female) start 'rapping' in a way that doesn't seem like they have just run a 200m dash, and they all stop sounding the EXACT same, maybe they might get a listen. And Ms. Dynamite hasn't been relevant since, well....after her first album. Her last one was wack and sooo pretentious!

April 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJaliliMaster

I don't want to hijack this into a Hip Hop thread. Ms Dynamite is postive female MC who speaks about somethings that this blog dicusses. Maybe she didn't get big in the states b/c she was too positive and her first song was against rappers who rap about the same ol, same ol. I happen to like both her albums by the way.

April 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNaima

Re Naima: Fair enough.

April 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJaliliMaster

Oh I had to add to the Ms. Dynamite shout-out. I lived in the UK when her 1st Cd was released. She's awesome live!! There was actually some promotion over here in the US but she got pregnant and stayed in the UK. They also remixed her songs with male rappers which ruined the songs. But it def had to do with the bulk of her songs being empowerment songs like "Put Him Out" and such.

April 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFaith

I went to a premiere here in LA on Monday night and also to the press day round tables on Tuesday. It is a very powerful film, but getting to sit down with Regina Kelly and Nicole Beharie at the same time was really something. I really hope everyone who can goes out to support this film in its opening weekend.

April 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLos Angelista

Hollywood Blackout wrote:

"Fred,

In order for your theory to work, black preachers would have to be comfortable holding a viewing for a film like “American Violet” in their churches. I have worked grassroots marketing campaigns for films and trust, the black church is ALWAYS the first place a studio looks to market a black film. BUT more often than not, the church says “nuh uh”. The film has to be pro-Christian with a religious message or theme - this is not most films black or white.

Of course the worked for Passion because it was duh - abou Christ. As far as Walden media, they had to go through an arduous process before churches agreed to screen Narnia because some folks thought it celebrated witchcraft. The entire marketing campaign was about kids and fantasy and that was stressed over and over again. And even still some churches said “Nuh uh”."

But most churches were fine with screening the Christian fantasy film "Narnia," which became a blockbuster hit. This resulted in Hollywood movie studios trying to tap into the long neglected Christian audience.:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123249904737100583.html

Clearly, Walden Media's efforts were worth it.

“Malcolm X” was screened at Black churches but “Girl 6″ was not. “Remember the Titans” was at black churches but “Deja Vu” was not. It depends on the genre and message."

Don't Malcolm X and Remember the Titans contradict your theory that Black churchgoers only support explicitly Christian films?

April 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFred

Hollywood Blackout wrote:

"There was a movie funded by conserviative Christians called “The End of the Spear” afew years ago. This film had not one dime of “liberal hollywood” money spent on it. All the marketing was done through religious group and churches. Speculation was that this film was going to prove that the religious market could turn a profit just as well as secular Hollywood.

The film cost $10 mil and made only $11.7 mil. It was a huge FLOP. The church thing only works in tandem with big media."

Actually, "Spear" flopped because it was viewed as a cynical attempt to woe Christian moviegoers. The Wall Street Journal explains:

Yet evangelicals and Catholics will punish offerings that they deem cynical. "The Nativity," for example, suffered because the life of Keisha Castle-Hughes, who played the Virgin Mary, seemed to mock the art: The 16-year-old star announced before the movie's opening in 2006 that she was pregnant out of wedlock. The same year, "End of the Spear," a stirring true story about American missionaries in South America in the 1950s, lost audience because a lead actor was a gay activist.

And bad filmmaking turns off Christians just like everyone else. "Left Behind" movies starring Mr. Cameron appealed to eschatological certainty, for example, but the low-budget flicks couldn't mount special effects that did justice to the Apocalypse.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123249904737100583.html

By contrast, Fireproof became 2008's most popular indy film despite being ignored by Big Media. This is due to the evangelical Christian filmmakers putting their faith in God (i.e., Jesus Christ), who then gave them an effective marketing strategy:

How did they do it? By flipping Hollywood marketing on its head, said Ben Howard, who runs Provident Films. Provident, which is owned by Sony, conducted the grassroots marketing of Fireproof. Howard says instead of spending millions on advertising, Provident gave sneak previews to 200 select groups.

"We did a lot of screenings showing the film to 'influencers,'" he explained. "That would be pastors, ministry leaders, those would be people who speak to the audience."

And so, like the blockbuster book, The Purpose Driven Life, which sold 17 million copies before it was reviewed in the mainstream press, Fireproof became a topic of sermons, Bible studies, radio talk shows -– and an inspiration for the young Christian filmmakers in San Antonio.

Read the rest of the story here:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100927647

In short, conservative Christian films like Fireproof can be successful if they are (a) Christ-centered, (b) well-crafted, and (c) respectful of the values and faith of the target audience.

April 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFred

Just Me wrote:

"I think Black people do better when we stick to reality rather than fantasy because reality tends to inspire and addresses the many many problems we have. Still, however, I’m looking for another Black Woman super hero/super spy/super cop…etc. Also, something for black children!"

JustMe,

I think you'll enjoy this blog called Black Superheroines:

http://blacksuperheroines.blogspot.com/

April 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFred

I am so in the movie theater this weekend.

April 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAttorneymom

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