Writer-Director John Singleton: ‘Negritude’ Sells

The Oscar-nominated filmmaker told a Los Angeles Film Festival audience that “negritude” can be commercially viable and also teased details about Snowfall, his in-the-works Showtime series about cocaine. 

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Director John Singleton at the world premiere of Abduction at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., Sept. 15, 2011

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

John Singleton, who received two Oscar nominations for Boyz N the Hood and is currently working on a Tupac Shakur biopic, spoke at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Saturday about diversity. “Don’t be afraid to be black,” he told a predominantly black, packed audience at a session moderated by film critic Elvis Mitchell at the Conga Room in downtown L.A., according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Singleton urged the audience to be true to themselves because, after all, black films have a proven track record of standing toe to toe with “mainstream” films with a predominantly white cast. “Everyone’s gonna copy our s--t anyway. I made the blackest Fast and Furious, I made Paul Walker say ‘cuz’ in the movie. I elevated it,” Singleton said, according to the site. “You can’t front that [black films] don’t make money. I haven’t lost anybody money. People said, ‘12 Years a Slave,’ I don’t want to feel bad, oh, that’s a hard sell—$178 million, so what the f--k is commercial, you know?’”

Singleton criticized black actors too reluctant to take on out-of-the-box or violent roles in films. “They tuck their balls up under their ass to be accepted, you know what I mean?”

Mitchell chimed in, “I know exactly what you mean.”

Singleton added, “A lot of people were afraid to take that Jamie Foxx part in Django Unchained, but it’s Quentin’s most profitable move, $425 million. It has negritude in it,” the Hollywood Reporter notes.

He explained that music critic Stanley Crouch introduced him to the concept of “negritude,” a literary and ideological movement developed by black francophone intellectuals and artists who influenced the Harlem Renaissance.

Executives “want directors they can control,” Mitchell said.

“Yeah, that’s why I haven’t worked as much as I could’ve,” responded Singleton, who has made it a point to be commercial in his own way.

Singleton, who met Tupac Shakur in 1991 at a New York hip-hop club, said he’s screening classic films driven by “singular performances” to prepare for his upcoming biopic, such as All That Jazz, Scarface, American Gangster, Wolf of Wall Street, Taxi Driver and Tupac’s films.

Singleton enthusiastically told the audience about his talks with Showtime for a new series about cocaine, Snowfall.

“I think they’re gonna take it. It’s set in 1981, before cocaine hit L.A. It’s in the hood, but it’s also in the Valley and East L.A. It’s about a courier for the cartel and a CIA guy who gets the government in the cocaine business. It’s got negritude, but it’s also La Raza, and there’s a Fast Times at Ridgemont High element in the Valley,” said Singleton. “I’m not just in a black bubble; I can tell different stories.”

Read more at the Hollywood Reporter.

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