Thank you to Dexter King for doing the right thing.
This week, the son of civil rights icon MLKing, sold the rights to his father’s story to director Steven Spielberg. This is the first time that anyone has been allowed to purchase the rights.
Good on you, Dex. Way to uphold the Oreo spirit. Who better to tell the story of a black man of modest means and constant struggle than a white bazillionaire?
The fact that Spielberg, in order to justify his need for the rights, produced neither a script nor an outline for the film should raise zero eyebrows. Though he hasn’t proven to Dex that he has the right story, he has proven to the King heir that he has the right amount of cash to put down for it, and what is more Anglo-tastic than capitalism.
Besides, a movie about a black person that is also written and/or directed by a black person suddenly goes from “Oscar contender” to “niche film.” And that’s just not marketable. Unless it’s done by Tyler Perry who is a marketing machine, but is doing nothing but hurting the cause.
Another debt of gratitude then to directors of color like Spike Lee (who has done quite enough, thank you), John Singleton, F. Gary Gary (The Negotiator, The Italian Job, Be Cool),Carl Franklin (One False Move, Devil In A Blue Dress, Out Of Time), Clark Johnson (SWAT, The Sentinel), Tim Story (Barbershop, Fantastic Four 1 and 2) and Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, King Arthur, Tears of the Sun, Shooter) for not picking up the MLK helm and running with it.
Why settle for the predictable nuance, verisimilitude and personal experience a black director could bring to the MLK story when a sweeping John Williams score and a perfectly timed push-in can tell us exactly how to feel and will guide us out of the guilt and toward a sunny, unchallenging ending.
Also, Spielberg has proven that we don’t really need black people to tell black people’s stories. After Amistad and The Color Purple, I say let’s turn over all of “our” movies over to him. That way, we can concentrate on how the powers that be see our struggles and learn to more accurately adhere to their vision.
The best part of this puzzle: A rich, powerful white man now owns the rights to a black man’s life. Makes you nostalgic for the old days, doesn’t it.