Thursday, June 28, 2007
Please Welcome Dr. Jolie
You might have heard about some controversy surrounding Angelina Jolie's casting as Marianne Pearl, a woman of mixed heritage, in the film 'A Mighty Heart.' Though Pearl is Dutch, Chinese, French, and black, few in America would confuse her for anything other than a black woman. I was pretty upset about the casting choice given the already small number of roles for black women and the historical legacy of blackface (and brown and yellow) in Hollywood. Then, I heard Pearl sought out Jolie for the role making it her decision and not one by the Hollywood establishment. While I still think it's a weird choice, who knows how Pearl self-identifies or thinks regarding racial issues. However, the production team has been very silent on the issue and even quietly persisted that Jolie did not put on any skin darkener, an obvious lie considering the picture above.
Also, Brad Pitt's production company bought the rights to this film awhile ago when he was still together with Jennifer Aniston. And, you guessed it, Aniston was scheduled to play Marianne Pearl until that ship sunk. My guess is Jolie, as the next Ms. Pitt, was tapped to play the role and giving the real Pearl any decisionmaking privilges was simply a courtesy that worked out conveniently with her eventual approval of Jolie.
Anyway, Jolie finally spoke to the issue at a recent press junket.
“The idea is, if you ask Mariane, because she did address that, and if you did actually want to find somebody that was her exact makeup, she's actually majority Dutch, and she's as black as she is Chinese, and she's Cuban, and she's French. So, it could have gone to many different racial backgrounds, probably, if you went technical on it. And that, you know, is a reality. At the same time, to her, the importance was the essence of her spiritually, and I think that was what mattered and I think that is a question to ask her. But no, if you break down the DNA, it's very complex.”
Thanks Jolie. Technically, black Americans who are the descendents of slaves have some pretty intense DNA results too. It's not an issue of DNA. It is one of representation, resources, and commercialism that always results in white actors getting a lion's share of Hollywood parts. This does not even begin to discuss movies where white supremacy is the focus (The Last Samurai, the first third of Batman Begins, Karate Kid, and almost any American movie about Africa). As always, I don't think things will change until we're allowed to break into the Hollywood system as writers and directors to tell our own stories and recruit allies who will reconsider their own storytelling.
In lighter news, congrats to Tim Story, an African-American filmmaker and director of Barbershop, who scored a #1 last week with Fantasic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. First one didn't exactly transform our discussion on race and I don't think the second one did either, but he's breaking barriers nonetheless. One of the few directors of color who have handled ready made blockbusters. Let's make it a trend.
So, what do you all think of the casting in 'A Mighty Heart'? Benign, disappointing, or just handled improperly?