We Need to See Black Love on Film

by Nicole Moore for Huffington Post

On the recent cable broadcast of Book Of Negroes when Aminata Diallo says to her former slave owner, "I love that slave man... freely," she was not only claiming her love for her African husband, she was committing an act of resistance. Manifesting their love was a radical expression of freedom for slaves that even chains couldn't suppress. That kind of freedom was a threat to the entire institution of slavery and, seemingly, is one that still leaves Hollywood green-lighters mad shook. A century and a half after the abolishment of slavery and the idea of seeing a Black couple fully in the throws of love is still an intimidating premise, at least cinematically speaking. Even with an African-American First Lady and POTUS whose 2012 victory photo captured them in a sweet embrace and became one of the most retweeted images ever, for many -- if not most -- studio execs, there's still nothing iller on screen than the image of a Black man and a Black woman enjoying a long, deep kiss or God forbid, sweating out their edges doing the wild thing. The fear that a love story featuring two Black actors is not engaging, believable or desirable is very real and one that still defines the mindset of many studio execs, casting agents and producers. They may not own our bodies, but by controlling and limiting our narratives around love and sex, Hollywood, like so many of those pre-Civil War plantation owners, is actively extinguishing the freedom and pleasure of Black folk.

Enter Beyond the Lights, a budding love story between a cop and a Rihanna-esque pop singer that dares to defy those racist constructs. Recently released on DVD,Beyond The Lights features Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker. Due to absurdly poor marketing, it had a short, abysmal run in theaters, which is sad because what initially looked like a bootleg Bodyguard bite from promos is actually a refreshing, well-acted story about identity, authenticity, the complexity of family expectation and grown-folk attraction. The scene when Noni and Kaz are on the beach is Black love #unfiltered, and according to the film's director, Gina Prince Bythewood, something we almost did not see: "Some studios did not want two people of color in the lead. They said, 'Could you make the male lead White?' And that, I would say, is racism."

Photo credit: CBC/BET

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