Black Films Reign at Sundance
Two movies win top prizes, and for the first time, an African-American woman is named best director.
Rock, who was there with his new romantic comedy, 2 Days in New York, said, "Sundance is treating me amazing." In the film, the comedian plays the black boyfriend of co-star and filmmaker Julie Delpy. Delpy -- who saw Rock's documentary, Good Hair -- said she wrote the role for him. "If he had not done it, I am not sure the character would have been black," she said.
"I just thought it was a good script. I didn't think black, white; I didn't think any of that," Rock said. He said he enjoyed playing the part and wants to do more movies and hopes to do a stand-up tour soon.
Another big player at Sundance this year when it came to the African-American scene was the Blackhouse Foundation. The nonprofit organization, devoted to expanding opportunities for black filmmakers, made its presence known by taking over a restaurant on Main Street, renaming it the Blackhouse and hosting a series of events, panels and parties. Some of the events included a gospel brunch, a talk with Ice-T and a dinner with Bevy Smith honoring Jesse Williams and Rashida Jones, whose parents, Peggy Lipton and Quincy Jones, were also there.
Rashida Jones starred in, co-wrote and produced Celeste and Jesse Forever, which sold to Sony Pictures Classics. Quincy Jones may be her biggest fan, but it turns out he's also a fan of Drake, whose 1 a.m. concert he attended at Bing Bar. "I love Drake, are you kidding? It's either good or bad and he's the best. He's got a mind, too."
Sundance is as much about seeing films as it is about making the social scene and picking up swag from the gifting suites. There's always an open bar somewhere and free food to be had.
Unfortunately for Tracy Morgan, his trip was interrupted when he fell ill at a Creative Coalition awards ceremony and had to be rushed to the hospital. On his Twitter feed he wrote, "Superman ran into a little kryptonite. The high altitude in Utah shook up this kid from Brooklyn." The best accessory to have at Sundance, and one seen in every filmgoer's bag, was a bottle of H2O. Water helps the body adjust to the high altitude.
Morgan was at Sundance to promote his new movie, Predisposed, in which he plays a drug dealer. Many of the black male roles this year were men on the wrong side of the law or the wrong side of luck. Nate Parker did double duty playing that kind of character in both Arbitrage, opposite Richard Gere, and in Red Hook Summer.
There is an interesting scene in Lee's movie that sums up what some consider the limited options for black male actors in Hollywood. Lee shows a poster for a fake movie called Fat, Black and Crazy. It shows a man dressed as a middle-aged, heavyset woman, with the tagline "coming to theaters."
Julie Walker is a New York-based freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter.