Are Hollywood films too removed from reality? Gabourey Sidibe said so this past weekend while at a film festival in Berlin promoting her latest film, the street drama Yelling to the Sky. Tackling violence, mental illness and drugs, the movie is actress-turned-director Victoria Mahoney's debut feature. She also wrote and produced it.
The movie, which also features musician Lenny Kravitz's daughter Zoe in the lead role of 17-year-old Sweetness O'Hara, is in the main competition line-up in Berlin.
"Yelling to the Sky" has drawn comparisons to "Precious", the 2009 picture for which Sidibe was shortlisted for an Academy Award. Both are no-frills treatments of a young woman's struggle to emerge from domestic abuse and poverty.
The muted reaction among journalists and critics at a press screening in Berlin, however, suggested it may not enjoy the same critical acclaim.
"I think the similarity between this film and 'Precious' is that it's not a perfect, pretty story, which is what we get most of the time out of Hollywood," Sidibe told reporters.
"It's gritty and honest and it's not trying to make you like it. It's really a slice of life and it's this one girl's life and her struggle and her fight to really become a person and to define who she is.
"I think there needs to be more stories like that because my life has never looked like anything that Hollywood has produced."
Whether you like your films to be about real life or fantasy (yes, some of us just like to escape when we go to the movies), there's no doubt that we need to see more stories depicting the lives of black women, written and directed by black women.
For more about the challenges facing black women in filmmaking, read, "Black Women and the Hollywood Shuffle."
Sheryl Huggins Salomon is senior editor-at-large of The Root and a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based editorial consultant. Follow her on Twitter.