In 1989, Spike Lee changed the directorial landscape with his critically acclaimed film “Do The Right Thing”. After the success of the film, many directors followed Lee’s example, narrating the lives and times of black Americans through big screen storytelling. From John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood (1991) and Ernest Dickerson’s Juice in 1992, there was finally a proven method to generate profit by introducing audiences to the everyday struggles of African Americans.
Despite this early success however, many black directors tell stories of how these culture changing depictions did little to change Hollywood’s push for diversity and inclusion throughout the industry. “In a recent report by The New York Times, prominent directors from the ’90s like Dickerson, Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust), and Darnell Martin (I Like It Like That) spoke about their experience with discrimination in Tinsel Town.”
According to the directors the support and creative freedom expected after hits was never given and, in some cases,, their ideas were outright ignored. According to Dash, “After Daughters, I tried to get representation at the Gersh Agency in New York,” she said. “They told me I didn’t have a future. They saw no future for me as a black woman director. What were they going to do with me?”
While today’s Hollywood is a lot different with directors and program creators like Ryan Coogler, Issa Rae, Jordan Peele, and Ava DuVernay creating their own lanes and keeping those doors open to others, there is still a question of what could have been to previous talent had they been given a support network. In truth we will never know, but at the very least, today more opportunities are given to those who earn it.