DIVERSITY IN MOVIES

Since African Belgian actor Mark Zinga was announced in the cast of the next James Bond Movie, I have been asking myself how diversity is integrated in movies nowadays. From the actual landscape, we can notice that very few black actors are given significant roles in movies. Those black actors in lead roles are sometimes the few that have not only proved that they could carry a long feature film by themselves but also that they have potential to increase box office revenues. And when they are not in leading roles, some Black actors are cast as supporting characters are just in for diversity.

Defenders of diversity in media representation believe that populations must be accurately represented in visual and other media. In order to avoid backlash from those defenders, most movie use statistics to estimate the ratio Black to White to Hispanic to even Asian sometimes. The most flagrant examples are horror movies where, although all the ethnics are represented when the film begins with the Caucasians being superior in numbers, the story is filled with stereotypes and almost always leave the “whitest” character as the sole survivor.

So what does that mean for African Cinema? Nothing you might want to think. Since the population in the movies is supposed to represent the population in the country, the ratio Black to White to Asian is relatively low. We might have one White or Asian person for every 20 Africans. And it would be fine if we were making movies for our neighbors or for our cities only. But today movies are a universal medium. It is hypocritical to not include the world in our movies and expect it to connect with us.

The way I see it, African movies are not only a moving picture of how we see our own lives but should also be a representation of what we think of the world. Whether it being via biopics or simply fiction, the inclusion of diversity in the African cinema is inevitable and it is the duty of the new generation of filmmakers to initiate the shift into a more global approach of filmmaking.

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