Optical Illusions of Black Characters on Film: Part 2

Optical Illusions of Black Characters on Film: Part 2

Since the 1980s, as all ethnic groups in western societies have gained access to higher education, occupying wider ranges of jobs, pursuing broader ranges of careers and living in more locations within and outside of major cities, the absolute number of working black actors and film making professionals have also ...

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Jimmy Akingbola on the red carpet for BBC adaptation of Roald Dahl story Esio Griot which he stars.

The British Blacklist Discusses Going Stellar with Jimmy Akingbola...(Part 1 of Our Exclusive Interview)

We, at TBB, had been waiting for confirmation to interview actor Mr Jimmy Akingbola. It seemed serendipitous that it finally happened when it did - right between the premiere of TV movie Esio Trot and the TriForce Short Film Festival. "Hi, lovely to hear from you... you guys have always been ...

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WATCH New The British Blacklist Advert Happy 2nd Birthday #TEAMTBB

WATCH the latest British Blacklist Advert! Happy Birthday Team TBB!!!   TBB Advert Mark One Group from Mark One on Vimeo.

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I’mPossible & The Guardian Launch The Biggest Demographics Survey on British Women of Colour TODAY! Deadline Dec 31st 2014

I'mPossible & The Guardian Launch The Biggest Demographics Survey on British Women of Colour TODAY! Deadline Dec 31st 2014

Today, the biggest online demographics survey on British women of colour has launched by London based social enterprise, I’mPOSSIBLE. Global CIC. Entitled ‘The Invisible majority: defining success and debunking the myths’ , the survey is set to lift the lid on the lives, aspirations, habits and current economic state of women ...

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Leann O’Kasi

Leann O'Kasi

Leann O’Kasi has appeared alongside actors Gregor Fisher and Tony Roper in the BAFTA award-winning BBC2 comedy ‘Rab C. Nesbitt’ and with Gangs of New York actor Gary Lewis in ‘Last Order’. She played the female lead in short film ‘Passing Shadows’ directed by Channel 4 'Coming Up' Director Iftekhar Gafar. On ...

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Sharron Spice

Sharron Spice

No biography available, to update please contact the British Blacklist: info@thebritishblacklist.com

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Abidemi Sanusi

Abidemi Sanusi

Abidemi Sanusi is an author, photographer and founder of Ready Writer - www.thereadywriter.co.uk, a digital content agency and budding film-maker. Born in Nigeria, she moved to the UK in her teens. Abidemi has an MSc in Development Studies, an MA in Christianity & the Arts and in her past life, has ...

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Madison John Speaks to MOBO Nominee Afrikan Boy Ahead of This Weds’ Awards!

Madison John Speaks to MOBO Nominee Afrikan Boy Ahead of This Weds' Awards!

Olushola Ajose better known as Afrikan boy is a Grime MC artist from Woolwich, South East London who is best known for his popular song released on YouTube many years ago 'One Day I Went To Lidl'. Since then, Afrikan Boy took some time out from the music industry to study  for a ...

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Director, Destiny Ekaragha

The British Blacklist's @DescantDeb Goes Pretty Far with Director Destiny Ekaragha

Destiny Ekaragha has a soul full of passion. It's mainly taken up with a love of film, but there's a significant proportion devoted solely to Jollof rice.   Sometimes I'll just stop what I'm saying and start talking about food... Honestly, the amount of interviews where Jollof rice is mentioned... I swear, ...

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Playwright, Ade Solanke

Playwright, Ade Solanke Speaks to The British Blacklist About Her Play 'Pandora's Box'

"I like the British Blacklist! I'm a friend on facebook, actually. You do really interesting stuff. Things have changed completely from 2 or 3 years ago." How can you not immediately take to someone who uses that as an opening greeting? This was my introduction to the multi-talented Ade Solanke, currently ...

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The British Blacklist Looks At The 1990s A Pioneering Decade of Black Film. Part One: Choices From the Past…

The British Blacklist Looks At The 1990s A Pioneering Decade of Black Film. Part One: Choices From the Past...

Part One: Choices from the Past It's never too early to start thinking about your legacy; to help you along August is the month which has been earmarked to remind you. Designated, 'What Will Be Your Legacy?' month in 2011, the intent is to spend August's 31 days taking stock, looking ...

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Sarah Jane-Crawford & Idris Elba

2014 MOBO Awards Nominations Announced!!! Idris Elba is A Surprise Winner. Voting For Nominees Now Live...

After a five year hiatus, the MOBO Awards are back in London by popular demand. Marking its 19th anniversary, the internationally established brand is celebrating nearly two decades of its growing success. This year’s emerging talents will champion the stage at The SSE Arena, Wembley on 22nd October, with the ...

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Amy Winehouse Foundation Ball Auction Raises £80,000…Amy’s Yard Artists perform for the Stars…


The third annual Amy Winehouse Foundation Ball took place at The Landmark Hotel in London (November 18th). An incredible £80,000 was raised to support fantastic Foundation projects and, ultimately, thousands of young people.

A host of celebrity attendees including Alexandra Burke and Mica Paris. Foundation supporters were stunned by performances from the young people of the Foundation’s Amy’s Yard project.

The Amy’s Yard programme is based at Amy’s own studio in Islington and provides talented young people with the opportunity to utilise a professional studio and work with a professional producer/engineer to nurture their talent, while increasing their confidence, skills and self-esteem. Workshops are provided by Island Records, MTV and Metropolis Music, all with the objective of these performers becoming self-sustaining music artists.

6 of the performers showcased their talent last night – Shakira, Labraya & Benofficial, Zodiac and Mainee Montana & Porsha.

By the end of this year, the Amy Winehouse Foundation will have donated over £1 million to projects up and down the country and abroad, growing both the range of charities they work with and issues they are tackling.

In March, the Foundation received a grant of £4.3 million from the Big Lottery Fund to expand their Resilience Programme for Schools. This has rolled out across the UK, bringing drugs and alcohol education to secondary school pupils, training their teachers and providing helpline support – http://www.amywinehousefoundation.org/resilience-programme-for-schools


UK Music Calls Time on Unpaid Internships…


UK Music has joined forces with Intern Aware, to launch an Internship Code of Practice for music companies and young people.

The code will help employers understand their role and duty when hiring an intern, and importantly show them their responsibilities in terms of pay and tenure. The guide also provides potential interns with information about what they can expect when joining a music company, to safeguard them against poor quality and unpaid positions.

To coincide with the launch, UK Music has conducted research around careers and skills. In the poll, the music industry was perceived as the most open industry in terms of attracting ‘talented people, no matter what the background,’ polling top, over Sport, Film & TV, Banking and Government. 30% of those surveys believed that it was ‘very open.’ Furthermore when those aged 15 – 24 were polled, music remained the ‘most open’ industry. This research, shows that despite a perception that the music industry is competitive, young people believe that there are career opportunities for them.

The Code of Practice will be launched at an All Party Parliamentary Group meeting, Chaired by John Robertson MP. At this parliamentary event, a panel of industry experts and interns currently employed in music companies will talk about their roles and how their internship is providing vital experience for them to progress with a career in the music industry.

Jo Dipple, CEO of UK Music said; “Music is one of the UK’s strongest cultural assets, to maintain our standing, we must ensure that our businesses are filled with the most talented people, constantly refreshed from the widest pool of creative talent. Internships are a fantastic way for a young person to get their foot in the door, but we must attract and retain people from all walks of life and all backgrounds. Diversity is a necessity, not an option.
Our research shows that despite common myths, people perceive music as an open industry. This means we must ensure that music companies offer paid internships to maximise the number of candidates applying to any role.
The policies and advice in this guide will ensure that employers respect every young person for their talent and not their ability to work for free. Adherence to this code will benefit both the employers and the intern.”

Gus Baker Co-Director of Intern Aware said; “Unpaid internships make access to the music industry exclusive and rule out talented young people who can’t afford to work for free.
We are delighted to be supporting UK Music’s fantastic new guidance which will help ensure fair access to the music business.”

For more information contact:
Dorothy Levine, UK Music, 07834335525 / dorothy.levine@ukmusic.org

Optical Illusions of Black Characters on Film: Part 2

Optical_Illusions_part_2 copy

Since the 1980s, as all ethnic groups in western societies have gained access to higher education, occupying wider ranges of jobs, pursuing broader ranges of careers and living in more locations within and outside of major cities, the absolute number of working black actors and film making professionals have also increased.

Life has, therefore, produced characters and film makers which, in comparison to the previous stereotyped examples, must be considered as non-stereotyped. Some have even been accepted as examples of film making excellence…

Non-Stereotyped Fictional Roles

These have generated no (Academy / Oscar) wins from 7 roles. The gender spread is 5 male to 2 female roles:

  • Dil (The Crying Game, 1992) – a transgender singer and object of desire of a black squaddie and a white IRA man: Jaye Davidson (NSA) – the first ‘mixed-race British actor to be nominated for an Oscar’ (- Wikipedia)
  • Hortense Cumberbatch (Secrets and Lies 1996) – a woman grieving for her black adopted mother seeks her white biological mother, described as “an optometrist and the epitome of the sleek and fashionable young urban European woman”, played as “cool, understatedly elegant”: Marianne Jean-Baptiste (NSA)
  • Max Durocher (Collateral, 2004) – a cab driver who is reluctantly drawn into the nightmarish world of psychopath Vincent’s night of multiple contract executions: Jamie Foxx (NSA)
  • Solomon Vandy (Blood Diamond, 2006) – a fisherman who survives the Sierra Leonean civil unrest to expose the evils of the blood diamond trade and make a difference: Djimon Hounsou (NSA)
  • Chris Gardner (The Pursuit of Happyness, 2006) – non-typical portrayal of a humble father struggling to find work and provide for his son in the city. He complains about the mis-spelling of ‘happiness’ at his son’s school: Will Smith (NL)
  • Mrs Miller (Doubt, 2008) – a mother seemingly more motivated to advancing her son’s educational aspirations than the alleged misconduct between him and Father Flynn: Viola Davis (NSA)
  • Captain William “Whip” Whitaker (Flight, 2012) – a veteran pilot who saves the lives of the majority of occupants on a commercial flight, despite being in the grip of his chronic, multiple substance abuse. The ensuing investigation forces a re-examination of his life: Denzel Washington (NA)

No wins from a low number of nominated roles might suggest that these are not portrayals popular in the mainstream. This seems truly baffling, accepting that film making is such an expressive art form.
This leaves the only other category in which all races should be equal – the non-fictional, historical figure. People who have made their mark on history and of whom someone thought, “This would make a great movie!”

Diana Ross in her Oscar Nominated role portraying Jazz legend 'Billie Holiday' in the 1972 film 'Lady Sings the Blues'

Diana Ross in her Oscar Nominated role portraying Jazz legend ‘Billie Holiday’ in the 1972 film ‘Lady Sings the Blues’

Historical Figures

2 wins from 18 roles (11.1%). The gender spread is 13 male to 5 female. Both wins were men – Forest Whitaker and Jamie Foxx – and both stories did not offend White America’s sensibilities:

  • Jack Jefferson (The Great White Hope, 1970) – modelled on the life and career of famous boxer Jack Johnson, the search for ‘the great white hope’ to defeat him in the ring and his disastrous affair with a white woman: James Earl Jones (NL)
  • Billie Holliday (Lady Sings the Blues, 1972) – the heroin-addicted blues singer, the men who inspired her music and style in the lead up to her triumphant comeback concert at Carnegie Hall – the first black person to be engaged there: Diana Ross (NL)
  • Geechee (Cross Creek, 1983) – A black woman ( The wife of a convict) who accepted work from white novelist Marjorie K Rawlins, despite the low pay offered: Alfre Woodward (NSA)
  • Steve Biko (Cry Freedom , 1987) – the famous South African anti-apartheid activist beaten to death in police custody, reduced to a supporting role in his ‘own’ story told from the point of view of the white journalist Donald Woods: Denzel Washington (NSA)
  • Malcolm X (Malcolm X, 1992) – El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, the assassinated African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist: Denzel Washington (NL)
  • Ike and Tina Turner (What’s Love Got to Do With It?, 1993) – Down-trodden singer overcomes her brutal musician-manager husband to re-make a triumphant solo career: Laurence Fishburne (NL) and Angela Bassett (NL)
  • Rubin ‘The Hurricane’ Carter (The Hurricane, 1999) – the middleweight boxing champion wrongly jailed for murder and freed by the determination of black adopted-Canadian Lesra Martin: Denzel Washington (NL)
  • Muhammad Ali (Ali, 2001) – the fast-talking, rhyming heavyweight boxing champion, considered one of the greatest: Will Smith (NL)
  • Ray Charles (Ray, 2004) – the blind musician and singer: Jamie Foxx (WL)
  • Paul and Tatiana Rusesabagina (Hotel Rwanda, 2004) – Altruistic African hoteliers who attempted to rescue and shelter thousands during the Hutu massacres of 1994 Rwanda: Don Cheadle (NL) and Sophie Okonedo (NSA)
  • Idi Amin (The Last King of Scotland, 2006): the Ugandan dictator: Forest Whitaker (WL)
  • Frank and Mama Lucas (American Gangster, 2007) – the Drug Dealer kingpin and his mummy: Denzel Washington (NL) and Ruby Dee (NSA)
  • Nelson Mandela (Invictus, 2009): the anti-apartheid activist and first black South African President hosts the 1995 Rugby World Cup and attempts to bring South Africa’s ethnic groups together under one flag and one National Anthem: Morgan Freeman (NL)
  • Abduwali Muse (Captain Phillips, 2013) – one of four Somali hijackers of the MV Maersk Alabama currently serving 35 years in a US federal prison: Barkhad Abdi (NSA)
  • Solomon Northup (12 Years a Slave, 2013) – a free New York violinist and father conned, drugged and kidnapped into Louisiana slavery: Chiwetel Ejiofor (NL)
Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo in their Oscar nominated roles in 'Hotel Rwanda'  (2004)

Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo in their Oscar nominated roles in ‘Hotel Rwanda’ (2004)

These amount to two apparently genuine criminals, slaves/ex-slaves, supporters of human rights, musicians, singers, boxers and, it’s true, most achievements within the Diaspora are made against a background of racial and gender bias or downright oppression. But sometimes, racial difficulty is just that…background!

There are so many overlooked achievements that cannot fit into a stereotyped role. Still, black characterisations seem firmly fixed and fairly negative in the dramedy genres and reinforced by mainstream measures of excellence.
This is despite at least 100 indispensible inventions attributed to black ingenuity (including the elevator, air conditioning unit, gas mask, cell phone, typewriter, refrigerator and fountain pen from as early as the 1830s. (See http://www.blackinventions101.com/inventionslist.html).

Despite recognised doctors since 1800, pioneers of scientific and medical techniques in the last two centuries and recognised nurses since the American Civil War (first registered nurse in 1879) this is in addition to achievements in non-boxing sport (including tennis, baseball, football, winter sport, swimming and coaching), the Law, Government administration and literature (See references below) and I really can’t bear yet another ‘black soldier with attitude’, which utterly belies the historical military honours and distinctions earned by many men and women in all military arenas since the US Civil War.

It is, therefore, not unreasonable to expect to see a black family doctor in an 1800s town, a black hospital doctor in a 1900s city, a mad, black inventor (à la Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) or a bohemian poet seeking a patron. It is also not unreasonable to look to other film making genres and make comparisons. Considering the rich contributions that black scientists, inventors and writers have made to science, it seems only fitting to look to the fantasy and science fiction genres. For there, surely, progress has been made…?

See references:

  • Carney-Smith, J. (2003). Black Firsts: 4,000 ground-breaking and pioneering historical events. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, Inc.
  • Cowan, T. & McGuire, J. (1994). Timelines of African American History: 500 Years of Black Achievement. New York, NY: Berkley Publication Group.
  • Hornsby, Alton (1991). Chronology of African American History: Significant Events and People from 1619 to the Present. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc.


optical illusions part 2 article for the british blacklist by  @DescantDeb

New Short Film ‘Sweet Taboo’ by Campbell X & Mojisola Adebayo Will Explore Gender and Sexuality…

sweet_TabooTalawa is working with Campbell X, Mojisola Adebayo and 12 talented emerging theatre-makers to create Sweet Taboo a short film which will be launched with an accompanying resource pack for schools, colleges and youth groups in February 2015.

Directed by Campbell X of BlackmanVision and set at a speed dating event, Sweet Taboo is a fast and playful film aimed at young people which tackles gender and sexuality; confronting prejudice and preconceptions head on with humour. The Sweet Taboo screenplay has been adapted by Mojisola Adebayo from a play of the same name that was devised by Talawa’s TYPT participants under her direction in 2013.

TYPT is Talawa’s flagship programme for emerging theatre makers, aged 18 to 25 years old. Set up in 1995, it provides a truly unique stepping-stone for emerging theatre makers, including actors, stage managers and designers at the beginning of their careers.Every year, Talawa puts emerging practitioners into a rehearsal room with a professional multi-disciplinary team, to devise and produce an original piece of theatre.

In 2013, over four weeks of intensive rehearsals the TYPT company worked together to develop their practice, test ideas and explore new ways of working. Out of this came Sweet Taboo, a fast-paced rude and irreverent play which re-writes the old sex, gender and race rules. Talawa has brought back this original cast of some of London’s freshest new performers to create the film.

Past TYPT participants have gone on to have successful careers in theatre; working asperformers, producers and writers for a range of organisations, including The Bush Theatre, Oval House, Theatre Centre and StoneCrabs Theatre Company. Alumni include: Femi Oguns (Director ofIdentity Drama School), Nonso Anozie (Dracula, Game of Thrones and Death of a King’s Horsemen), SandraThompson-Quartey (Artistic Director of Writers Avenue), Michaela Coel (Chewing Gum Dreams – National Theatre and Channel 4) and Shanika Warren-Markland (Adulthood, 4321, Victim).

Sweet Taboo will be screened in 2015. For people wanting to stay abreast of the project go to: www.talawa.com

A TBB Re-Overview of Upcoming Indie Film ‘A Moving Image’ by Shola Amoo


Nina wants to create the perfect piece of art but her creative juices aren’t flowing. She returns to Brixton, where she grew up, in search of inspiration but finds a very different community to the one she left behind. A Moving Image is a film about becoming a 21st century creative amidst a rapidly gentrifying city. – amovingimagefilm.com

Shola Amoo, a rising filmmaker, embarks on his first feature film A Moving Image (2014). Fresh from the success of his short film Touch (2013),which won him acclaim for its Afro-futuristic narrative and stylistic approach to visual story-telling, and was recently selected by Oscar nominated cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Brokeback Mountain (2005)) for winner of the Shooting Peoples Film of the Month competition.

Amoo, known for his previous shorts (The Prayer, Reparations for the Soul), of which he also wrote and directed, has released the promo for A Moving Image (produced by Rienkje Attoh).

The story centres on Nina, played by Tanya Fear (Kick Ass 2); Nina is an actress and self-proclaimed artist (photographer) who isn’t making much gains in either fields but somehow manages to keep a light mood about her lacklustre situation. The teaser shows Nina walking through the vibrant backdrop of Brixton, taking pictures, enjoying the perks of an ‘unnaturally hot summer’ and spending time in her spacey but mostly empty warehouse apartment. Her friend Kara played by Kae Alexander (Bad Education, BBC 3), jokes that Nina is the cliché ‘poor, starving artist’ and although Nina can find this claim amusing she can hardly deny it.

Nina is also casually dating two men: a film star and a performance artist. The four characters featured in the promo make up a multi-cultural cast that truly reflects the community living in South London. The topic of gentrification is an important and reoccurring theme, Nina must come to terms with whether or not she is part of the problem and how she can make art that will have a positive impact on her childhood home.

The promo’s main function is to gain visibility and support for the filming that is set to begin after a CrowdFund. This seems to be the route many indie art projects are now taking when it comes to making films that don’t ring as commercial hits for big industry production companies. The notion that certain films are not profitable because they do not adhere to mainstream story-telling is now being actively challenged with people funding the projects they want to see. This new wave of community funded projects have been the launch pad for a number of creative endeavours including the recent hit Dear White People (2014) which has a current score of 91% (Fresh) from critics on the Rotten Tomatoes film rating website. We may be looking at the future of film. Crowd-funded projects bring alternative stories and characters to our screens and in doing so grant visibility and a more balanced picture of the societies they emerge from.

London based filmmaker and National Film and Television School graduate, Shola Amoo, is currently working in collaboration with an iFeatures scheme in the development stage for his drama The Last Tree (produced by Lee Thomas).

To follow the progression of the ‘A Moving Image’ project go to: http://amovingimagefilm.com/

review by Nora Denis / @lifeandstuff_ for the british blacklist

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