To some degree, it was the normal thing to do on a Christmas day. I had first seen the advert of INTO THE WOODS a couple of months back and had promised my daughter we would see it on the first day of release. Purchasing the tickets with half of my family, we were told tickets were almost sold out, and like the little girl who got the last cookie; my excitement went up a notch!
I wasn’t too sure at first how to react to the song that bellowed from Cinderella. The movie is a potpourri of quite a number of fairy tales you see. Artistically blended with just the right amount of originality to make it interesting to sit through for two hours! I kept remembering how I had been warned making my own film recently, not to go beyond the ninety minute mark.
My first sign of discomfort came when the narrator, describing the family of Cinderella, described them as beautiful on the outside, but BLACK at heart? Hmmm… I wondered uncomfortably if my daughter and nephews had dutifully stored that little piece of information away just as subconsciously as they must be storing away all the unique form of messaging that forms us into adults that we become, no matter what race or continent you are from.
It may be my writing sense that has always made me notice and feel the little things that no one else seems to pay attention to; very often, to my own annoyance and to the exasperation of others. My mind wanders off a lot you see… by this time, I am noticing that we are half way though the movie, and I haven’t noticed any BLACK person as yet. Well, I thought, ‘you really can’t blame the film makers, these are WHITE FAIRY TALES!’ I grew up on these stories, right in line with the rest of the world. They always describe skin as white as snow or milk and cherry red lips that accompany flush cheeks. Some things are just that way! Like me reading recently about a certain someone protesting against a BLACK JAMES BOND! Some things are just that way, you know… why blame the messenger!
STORIES SHAPE OUR WORLD AND INFORM OUR PERCEPTIONS. Take it from someone who makes a living ‘telling people stories!’ As a filmmaker, I appreciated a film beautifully made. Meryl Streep was at her best. The makeup, by god! Costumes, etcetera, etcetera…
Art that has taken generations to build! It takes patience, planning, tears, dedication to the craft, and a dedication to doing things right, over and over again. As I sat there, I struggled to come up with competing vivid folklores from my part of the world… not one came to mind. Not one!
Images, images, images! Images that fill my universe and direct my Art are all white, beautiful, excellent images. Images that generations have spent time shaping for the next generation. And as those beautiful images rolled across the screen, perfected and delivered by talented artist dedicated to their craft, and delivered par-excellence, another generation is born. Another generation of people calved… and amongst them, was my beautiful black daughter, who within those two hours will not see one beautiful image like herself, and the only reference she has to her, is a black hole.
‘In the woods’ is layered with lessons…. The song at the end says, ‘be careful the things you say, for children will listen; be careful the things you do, for children will learn… be careful the wishes you make, for they are children… I am having a child this very moment…