After helping to resurrect the Black film movement along with Spike Lee in the late '80s, director Robert Townsend admits he’s a little disappointed with the overall direction that African-American films released in the 2000s have taken.
“We have a few success stories, but we got to step our game up again. Because the images that are out there are not enough,” says the Hollywood Shuffle director. “What will our history books say about films in the 2000s? There was The Pursuit of Happyness. Was that the last modern-day classic that was really well done? [After that] it’s kind of murky and gray.”
Townsend also believes that critics who blast Tyler Perry movies for stereotypical images are missing the bigger picture for Blacks in film and our image in Hollywood.
“People get mad at Tyler Perry. It’s not about Tyler; it’s really not. He’s living his dream and he’s doing what he wants to do,” he says. "The real problem is balance. That’s what it it’s all about. We need more.”
Townsend is currently helming two webseries on Pic.tv, the award-winning Diary of Single Mom and Los Americanos, and has just wrapped a feature film, The Discarded Boys. He says his mentor Sidney Poitier remains a constant inspiration for his selectiveness in choosing film and TV projects.
“The first time I met with Sidney, I asked him, ‘How did you get to have dignity in the movies?’ And Sidney said, ‘The power to say no. I didn’t do that many movies, Robert. I did the movies I believed in and the others ... I saved my money and stayed at home.’ And that’s real talk,” says Townsend. “So now my focus is even stronger because of what is going on.”
(Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)