Monday, March 05, 2007

It's not a colour but a quality issue

I was reading my favourite newspaper over the weekend, the International Herald Tribune (inspired, of course, by Godard's insertion of the title in À bout de souffle), when an article about international distribution of Hollywood films with black stars caught my attention. The gist of the article was that such films don't do well abroad and used the case of Dreamgirls (pictured left) which has grossed $100 million and has sold 'only' $28 million worth of tickets in foreign lands, as a case in point. One industry insider interviewed went as far as to name 'international' (as in 'international markets') 'the new South' because in the old days black films didn't travel down South within the US. The article does mention some success stories, such as Bad Boys (with Will Smith) and Déjà Vu (with Denzel Washington), but underlines flops like Hustle & Flow, Are We There Yet? and Last Holiday as examples of the failure cases where racism may have been the causal factor.

But this is clearly a case of crying wolf. The article in premised in the assumption, or America's utter conviction, that any national artifact is apt for global consumption, even in the case of films heavily coded with regional signs as the ones mentioned. Secondly, and most importantly, is the sheer awfulness of such films - doesn't it occur to them that some films don't do well abroad because they are not sound for consumption as a consequence of their excessive mediocrity? To me, the article seemed like a case of the empire playing the underdog card and such posturing doesn't strike convincing at all.

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