Director John Singleton, who is at the American Black Film Festival in Miami celebrating the 20th anniversary of his seminal work, Boyz n the Hood, sat down with The Root to chat about black film.
The Root: What's happened to black film since the heyday of the 1990s?
John Singleton: There was an attitude at that time that we had to create what is known as a black film aesthetic, meaning films that were made by African Americans, starring a predominantly black cast made for a black audience. I think that it was a very noble thing because so many actors and filmmakers got careers out of that.
That attitude has been diluted over the years because just like [with] anything black and cool, pop culture pervaded. I don't think there are a lot of new filmmakers coming up [or] established filmmakers with new people and new talent fostering that idea of a black aesthetic. That is what this whole film festival is all about.
TR: What's your favorite black movie?
JS: I like a lot of stuff … I appreciate Spike Lee and all of his work and what he has done for black film.
TR: What are you working on right now?
JS: I have a new movie coming out called Abduction. It's a spy thriller with the most popular teenage star in the world, Taylor Lautner, who starred in the Twilight pictures. It's about a teenage kid who finds out his parents aren't his real parents and his real father is a big dangerous spy. I really can't tell you too much more, so what is there to say about it but that I know it's going to be a big hit?
TR: Where do you fall on the Spike Lee versus Tyler Perry debate about black films?
JS: I don't like it. I'm friends with both of them, and I really applaud what both of them have done in their careers and everything. First and foremost, Spike set off a manifesto that fostered my career. He's the one who fostered the black film aesthetic about making films for black people by black people. Tyler has done what he's done off of the work [that] myself, Spike and other filmmakers have done. He's industrialized it, which is great because he's proven exactly what we have always said — that our audience is so huge and varied that you can make an industry of it.
I'm looking at this from a history perspective; we now have a black studio. We now have everything we talked about [that] we wanted. You can say whatever you want about his movies, but he's built exactly what we said we wanted to do. So now it is just about where we take it from here.