Just as diversity was front and center in a lot of fashion publications, so was 2016 a year of films that featured diverse casts and stories that put people of color front and center. This holiday season several holiday films feature strong performances by actors of color. From Denzel Washington and Viola Davis (“Fences”) to Taraji Henson, Janelle Monae, and Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”) to Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”), 2016 has turned into a year where Hollywood embraced the wide swarth and tone of the African American narrative and voice.
Since opening on Broadway in 1984, there has been much talk about bringing this epic African-American story of love, strength, betrayal and forgiveness to the silver screen. Finally, August Wilson’s great American story has come to the big screen and Denzel Washington and Viola Davis do the late August Wilson pride in the pivotal roles of Troy Maxson and his wife.
Set in segregated Pittsburgh of the 1950s. Sanitation worker Troy Maxson, played with nuance, passion and strength by Denzel Washington denies his son’s chance at a football scholarship, opting for a trade career for his son. Maxson own career as a professional ballplayer was deferred due to his age.
The long-suffering wife, played magnificently by Viola Davis, as the tensions between the human triangle reveals raw wounds, witnesses the tension between father and son. Wilson’s “Fences” is in the great tradition of “Death of a Salesman,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” and “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” and with exquisite film adaptation global audiences can finally witness its glory.
In a somewhat opposite vein is “Moonlight.” Set during the ‘War on Drugs’ era in Miami, “Moonlight” centers on a young man dealing with his sexual proclivities while struggling with a dysfunctional family. Told in three stories as the protagonist Chiron moves through childhood to young adulthood.
This poignant film, based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, not only examines the raw, sometimes violent life of drug communities in Miami, but also the emotions of abandonment, sexual ambivalence, and denial. Though dissimilar from “Fences” in many ways, the thread of deferred dreams also runs through “Moonlight.”
Most people know Tom Ford from his stint at Gucci and later as the creative director of eponymous brand. With “Nocturnal Animals,” consumers will get to see Ford in a different light.
Based on 1993 novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright, “Nocturnal Animals” is a neo-noir psychological thriller that looks at the dark truths that people run away from. Haunted by a script by her first husband that arrives unexpectedly, Amy Adams is forced to look at her own deep past that has lots of secrets.
Jacqueline Kennedy was the epitome of classic style and regality. As the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy distinguished herself as the FLOTUS that brought style and sophistication to the White House. Jackie as the FLOTUS used luxury designers to dress her, namely Halston, Oleg Cassini, Coco Chanel, Givenchy and Dior.
In the biopic “Jackie” after John Kennedy’s assassination, Jackie’s (Natalie Portman) world comes apart. Over the course of the next week she must confront the unimaginable: consoling their two young children, vacating the White House and planning her husband’s funeral. Jackie quickly realizes that the next seven days will determine how history will define her husband’s legacy—and how she herself will be remembered.
Did you know that African-American women in the early 1960s played an important part in the development of NASA, putting the first American man into orbit? You probably didn’t know that fact, most people don’t.
“Hidden Figures” tells the untold story of three African-American women that played an indelible role in NASA’s early history. Taraji Henson, Olivia Spencer and Janelle Monae portray three African-American mathematicians who must deal with racism, sexism and bigotry as they build their careers and fight for the opportunity to play a significant role in launching the first American astronaut into space.
—William S. Gooch