Film director Rick Famuyiwa is quite a success in African American cinema. Previous box office credits include The Wood ($25M domestic) and Brown Sugar ($27.4M domestic). Earlier this year when the director went to find a home for his comedy Dope, the major studios didn't want it. Famuyiwa along with producers Forest Whitaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi (Fruitvale Station) made the film outside the studio system. After its premiere at Sundance, Dope was at the center of a major bidding war and eventually won by Open Road and Sony.
Dope has been on a buzz tour worldwide, including stops at colleges across the nation. The film will play at the Los Angeles Film Festival before its open. I'm pretty excited for this movie. I was also amazed to discover that major studios wouldn't pick it up. Deadline has a great interview with director Rick Famuyiwa who talks a bit about African American cinema and how Dope was made. You can read the full interview here.
What I found most captivating was Famuyiwa's input on major studios and Black cinema. He thinks that part of the problem is that Black cinema is thought of as a small niche. He says:
"When there’s a film that has success, like in the ’90s with the crime hood films; when one of them does well, it becomes the replication, or there’s a romantic comedy that breaks out, it becomes a singular way of looking at it. (The thinking is that) there can only be one representation at a time– it’s like they’re reading tea leaves on what Black people want. What should be driving the conversation is: What’s the story? What’s the movie about? Is it a compelling story? And if it is, then you make it regardless of the color of the people behind or in front of the camera." (Deadline).
Amazing. I don't see how anyone could compare a film like this to a comedy such as Think Like A Man. They're two completely different works. But apparently that's the problem. The formula is only a success in some people's eyes when it's the same every time.
Famuyiwa contributes the film's success so far to the connection it makes with the audience. "...People relate to the honesty of this kid even if they’re not from that environment. It’s the same way that I connected to The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off even though I wasn’t a white kid from suburban Chicago". He continues "...people will say that The Breakfast Club is a mainstream movie and try to characterize Dope as niche. But as I connected to those characters in Breakfast Club, so can audiences connect to Dope." (Deadline)
Another thing that I think audiences can appreciate about this indie film is the cast of fresh faces. There was no pressure or need to have a big name on the poster. The biggest name in the film is Zoe Kravitz (who isn't on the poster). Rick Famuyiwa praises his actors and believes that they are stars in the making. In addition to Kravitz, the film stars Shameik Moore (lead Malcom, modeled after Famuyiwa), Kiersey Clemons, and Tony Revolori. Famuiywa notes that the young actors have a strong connection through social media and have a following because of that. After this movie's release, I'm sure the young actors will have an even more fervent following.
Dope is also being co-executive produced by Sean Combs and executive produced by Pharrell Williams. Pharrell Williams has also curated the soundtrack which I hear is amazing. Dope hits theaters July 19. Check out the trailer below. What do you think?
Sources: Deadline, IMDb