No,it’s not Bird Box, and it’s likely better. But to be transparent, I am completely biased.
I don’t recall where I learned about the film, but the trailer seemed interesting enough. A psychological thriller about a single father with amnesia, trying to recall his old memories, and possibly discovering something terrible about himself. Fractured, comes to mind. (but don’t worry, it’s not what you think). Then the selling point. When I saw my television mom,
Claire, Phylicia Rashad was in it. I clicked *Watch Now*.
And what a pleasant suprise!
Black Box, directed by Ghanian-American Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, features Mauritarian-American actor and producer Mamoudou Athie as Nolan, Nigerian-American actor and director Tosin Morohunfola, and Zimbabwean-Australian actress, writer, and director Charmaine Bingwa.
And this is all you need to know. Watch it!
Haha, just joshin’! But how exciting right? Or is it just me? Here are the reasons, I found Black Box interesting and worthy of support.
Humanity in Stories
Director, Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, aims to tell”authentic, sensitive, human-centered stories”, and that he did. No doubt, Black Box is a story told by people across the African diaspora, about a human experience. It wasn’t about being African. Wasn’t even about being Black. Without giving it away, the story is about attachments, whether good or bad, and to some degree the film entertains the boundaries of science. Regardless of our hue or cultural background, most can relate with relational and professional tensions
Diversity in Stories
Remember when diversity meant the one Black character in a sea of White faces? The creative skills of Black people across the globe were featured in this film, and the racial diversity of the cast was reflective of American metropolitan cities in which Black Box takes place. A project with the contributions from rising stars, there is little information available about their narratives which may (or may not) have played a role in the kinds of stories they tell or are apart of. One thing is for sure though. From the writing to performance, the cast includes a diversity of Black people within the diaspora.
Black Box was originally written by Brooklynite Stephen Herman, a recent graduate from Baruch College and an award-winning director himself. Director, Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour was born and raised in Houston, TX to Ghanaian parents. He studied in Japan for a while and it is there he discovered an interest in a style of storytelling which places emphasis on character’s psychological processing. Though he has directed a few shorts and commercials and received awards for them, Black Box is his first feature length film. Mamoudou Athie, though born in Mauritania, was raised in Maryland, US when his father came to the US to seek asylum. A rising talent, Athie has starred in a notable number of television series including Madame Secretary, The Get Down, and Patti’s Cake.
Tosin (we on a first name basis bc #Naijarepresent), probably best known for his roles in Black Lightning (2018), Love Is_(2018) , and The Chi (2018) defines himself as the proud son of Nigerian immigrants. Not only is he a filmmaker, but he is also the founder of the Multicultural Theatre Initiative, a theatre company which aims to cultivate interest and develop writing skills among diverse groups. Charmaine Bingwa winner of the 2018 Heath Ledger Scholarship, was born in Australia to Zimbabwean immigrants, and thus is the first Black recipient of the award. Bingwa is relatively new to the business, but has already written, produced, and directed a few flicks including Little Sista. Little Sista offers a window into a life of an second-generation Aussie whose mom engages in native spiritual rigutas. To add more complexity to the character, the main character (Bingwa) is also a lesbian. This intersectional approach to storytelling adds nuance often overlooked or undervalued in the mainstream. And of course, Phylicia Rashad needs no explanation.
It doesn’t stop there. The cast also includes other diverse characters including Dr. Reed , played by Hans Soto. In addition, Tosin plays a Ghanian character, Dr. Gary Yeboah. Look at that, an immigrant doctor. His immigrant identity is not relevant. He is just Nolan’s friend and is deeply concerned about him and his daughter.
Why does this matter?
By now, you should know. Representation matters. And representation isn’t sticking minoritized person of color in a script, whitewashing them or coaching them to perform an ethnicity. Representation matters in whose stories get opportunity. Thanks Blumhouse. Representation matters in whose lens through which we view a story, and it matters in the physical presentation of humanized bodies of color we view on screen. It matters because in the absence of these, it is easy to privilege an Anglo-centric view of bodies of color. However, seeing Osei-Kuffour, Athie, Mohorunfola, and Bingwa’s name in the credits reminds us all that our identities are plentiful. Even more, seeing second-generation Americans starring in a screenplay written by an African American and playing alongside an African American presens a view of unity countering some of the other narratives out there about Black American and Black Immigrant relations.
Overall, it was a thought-provoking film, so if my reasons are of no consequence to you, I don’t think you will be disappointed.