A Guide to Important Content By Black Talent in 2018
Like 2017, 2018 is shaping up to be a big year for Black film. We’ve got some huge, blockbuster projects coming up that will center Blackness, but there are also some smaller projects that aren’t on people’s radar that should be. So I’m here today to introduce some of the projects that I’m the most excited about in the new year, and tell you why you should be excited, too!
1. Black Panther, dir. by Ryan Coogler
Anyone with common sense would know this was going to be the first selection on my list. And it has every right to be. Black Panther is arguably one of the most important films of the year. It has an almost entirely Black cast, one that includes Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, Chadwick Boseman, Michael B Jordan, Danai Gurira, and Florence Kasumba. It’s got seasoned Black pros like John Kani, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and Sterling K. Brown, as well as some newcomers like Winston Duke, Letitia Wright and Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya. And come on–it’s the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, and major superhero production in the recent era to star a Black man. Isn’t that worth celebrating in and of itself?
Not to mention the people involved behind the camera, which is some of the best Black talent working today. Fruitvale Station and Creed helmer Ryan Coogler is at the helm here, with writing from Joe Robert Cole, Moonlight and Lemonade production designer Hannah Beachler making Wakanda look as fabulous as it does, and gorgeous megastar Ruth E. Carter making the costumes look as beautiful as they do. It’s practically impossible for this to fail. (Oh, did I mention Kendrick Lamar is curating the soundtrack?)
Black Panther hits theaters February 16th, during Black History Month. It is distributed by Disney.
2. A Wrinkle in Time, dir. by Ava DuVernay
Ava was originally supposed to direct Black Panther, but she turned it down due to creative differences and opted for A Wrinkle in Time instead. And if the trailers are any indication, it looks to be yet another slam dunk for the director. A Wrinkle in Time‘s gorgeous Alice in Wonderland aesthetic, mixed with a lace front wig for the ages on Oprah (possibly the queen of everything after her rousing speech at this years’ Golden Globes), a killer soundtrack (Sweet Dreams fits this perfectly) and a race-bent Meg Murry played by the beautiful Storm Reid, A Wrinkle in Time is important for numerous reasons. Not only is it going to educate kids about STEM and provide a fantasy adventure that is also scientific, but it’s a fantasy adventure starring a mixed-race family. How cool is that?
Plus, Ava is the only Black woman to ever receive a budget of above $100m. By supporting the film, you are supporting women of color, creators of color, and projects that simply happen to star us. If Ava’s previous work (Queen Sugar, Selma, 13th) is any indication, A Wrinkle in Time will be amazing.
A Wrinkle in Time hits theaters March 9th. It is distributed by Disney.
3. The Hate U Give, dir. by George Tillman Jr.
Based on a wonderful book by new author Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give will finally bring Black Lives Matter, police brutality and racism to the mainstream in Hollywood. The plot centers around Starr, a young Black girl who attends a predominantly white school and witnesses her best friend be shot by police, unarmed. Starr is called upon to testify for him and tell the world what she saw, and that turns out to be much harder than it sounds. The film adaptation stars Amandla Stenberg and has a killer cast that includes Common, Regina Hall, Issa Rae, Algee Smith, Russell Hornsby, Lamar Johnson and Anthony Mackie. What a cast! Not to mention that the book was #1 on the charts and is one of the most real, raw and honest things I’ve ever read.
George Tillman Jr. is a Black producer, writer, and director who has helmed many iconic, classic Black films including Soul Food, Notorious, and Men of Honor, all of which were incredibly well made. If The Hate U Give movie addresses the topic of Black Lives Matter and activism as sensitively and maturely as the book does, we’re in for a treat.
The Hate U Give does not currently have a release date, but it is set to release in 2018. It is currently filming and is distributed by Twentieth Century Fox.
4. If Beale Street Could Talk, dir. by Barry Jenkins
What’s the most logical next step for the director of Moonlight? I know–a James Baldwin novel! Barry Jenkins will helm the adaptation of If Beale Street Could Talk, a novel about a young girl named Clementine whose nickname is Tish. Tish falls in love with Fonny, the two become engaged and she gets pregnant. However, their relationship is stalled when Fonny is falsely accused of raping a Puerto Rican woman named Victoria Rogers; the novel tells the story of Tish and Fonny trying to prove he is innocent. If that didn’t sound awesome enough, the cast should convince you: newcomer Kiki Layne and Stephan James will play Tish and Fonny, with seasoned actors Regina King, Pedro Pascal, Teyonah Parris, Dave Franco, Michael Beach, Emily Rios, Ed Skrein, Colman Domingo, Brian Tyree Henry, Aunjanue Ellis, and Diego Luna rounding out the cast.
Barry Jenkins being the director of Moonlight, one of my favorite films of all time, already has me sold. He proved with that and Medicine for Melancholy, his debut film, that he can handle a story and characters, unlike any director I’ve ever seen. I already know he will knock this out of the park and will be able to handle the sensitive subject matter in a way no other director could.
If Beale Street Could Talk does not currently have a release date, but it is filming now. It is being distributed by Annapurna Pictures.
5. Black Klansman, dir. by Spike Lee
Spike Lee is currently experiencing tremendous success with She’s Gotta Have It on Netflix, which is being praised for its realistic take on Black womanhood. He will use that momentum to carry him into his next project Black Klansman, which is based on a novel of the same name by Ron Stallworth. The project is being produced by Get Out director Jordan Peele, which already has my attention–but wait till you hear the story. Black Klansman focuses on a Black detective in Colorado who, upon doing his research on a Ku Klux Klan chapter in the city, infiltrates the chapter and goes on to become its leading member. The film is currently set to star Denzel Washington’s son John David Washington, who you can catch on HBO’s Ballers. It also has Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Corey Hawkins, Topher Grace and Ryan Eggold.
Of course, this will be great–it’s a Spike Lee film, and he is one of the most talented Black directors of all time. He has made a career in producing poignant Black art that is both conscious and entertaining. If his recent work is any indication, Black Klansman will be no different.
Black Klansman does not currently have a release date, but it is currently filming. It is being distributed by Focus Features, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures.
6. The Stars Beneath Our Feet, dir. by Michael B. Jordan
Michael Bae Jordan has a lot to do in 2018. He’s got his meaty role in Black Panther as the villain Erik Killmonger, as well as a role in Creed 2 (more on that in a moment) and his first directing gig. But this is nothing to cut your teeth on–it’s based on a book, a powerful story about a young Black boy who loves Legos, learning to navigate the projects of Harlem after his brother is killed due to gun violence. The novel, written by David Barclay Moore, has been celebrated and revered for some time now and is finally getting its due in live action. Moore will pen the film’s script, while Michael will produce and direct.
Not only does the story sound exciting and engaging, but it’s a much-needed dialogue about Black mental health and the states Black children tend to find themselves in when state-sanctioned violence, intracommunity problems, and other issues befall them. Bravo on Michael B Jordan for taking this on, and let’s hope he can do it well enough that it succeeds in many other areas.
The Stars Beneath Our Feet does not currently have a release date but is expected to release in 2018. It is being distributed and financed by Endeavor Content.
7. Creed II, dir. by Steven Caple Jr.
The highly anticipated sequel to the much-praised Creed has had a troubled production. First, we were unsure if we would even get it after Ryan Coogler dropped out due to scheduling conflicts with other projects. Then, we were unsure if we wanted it when it was revealed that Sylvester Stallone was attached to direct (sorry, but we all know it’s true). And finally, we’re in the current state of being excited about the project because of who’s attached. Director Steven Caple Jr. makes his studio debut with this film after Jordan and Stallone were impressed by his work on The Land, which premiered at Sundance 2016 right out of Caple’s time at USC.
No one can wait for the sequel to Creed to hit theaters, and neither can the cast. Michael B Jordan, Sly Stallone, and Tessa Thompson are all returning, with production set to begin in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in March. Here’s hoping the sequel is as well made and has the magical directing style of the first (though no one can make a movie quite like Ryan Coogler).
Creed II is tentatively set for release on November 21, 2018. It is being distributed by MGM and Warner Bros.
1. Black America, written/produced by Will Packer and Aaron McGruber
After the slap in the face that was the announcement of HBO’s Confederate series, a show that would reimagine America as if slavery had never been abolished and became a modern institution, Will Packer and Aaron McGruber came forward to announce Black America, a project they had been working on for some time with Amazon. The project tells the story of New Colonia, a set of countries Black Americans were given as reparations for slavery. The characters will deal with the anti-Black rhetoric and treatment from the other states, as well as come to terms with themselves and learn to find one another.
The show sounds absolutely amazing to me, and I can’t wait to see how it’s brought to life. It doesn’t have a release date yet, but Amazon has picked it up and it is set to begin production early this year. It’s expected to release in late 2018.
2. Insecure season 3, written/produced by Issa Rae
Insecure is dominating. It’s one of the most watched and talked about shows on HBO, and for good reason. The show portrays Black women in a realistic and relatable light and aims to make people of color the protagonist of their own story. It’s doing so well that it’s already set for the third season, and that season sounds like something to foam at the mouth over. Not only does it have an all-female directing crew, but Issa has said that the season will try to tackle LGBTQ+ issues (something I’ve been patiently waiting to be brought up). If you’re at all a fan of television and you want to support Black creatives, watch Insecure–I promise it’ll be worth it.
Insecure season 3 is currently expected to debut July 23, 2018. It is produced and distributed by HBO.
3. Black Lightning, written and produced by Mara Brock Akil, directed by Salim Akil
Though Marvel and DC have both been slow to spotlight heroes of color in their films, both have taken huge leaps with them on the small screen. First Marvel brought Luke Cage and his Harlem flavor to Netflix, and now DC is attempting to do the same with Black Lightning. The show focuses on the popular superhero from the comics and stars Cress Williams, with additional cast members Jill Scott, Christine Adams, China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams and Damon Gupton. It includes an LGBT+ character (one of Black Lightning’s daughters, Thunder) and focuses on a Black superhero family, something much-needed for the culture right now.
The creative team is enough to pique my interest. Director-writer duo Mara Brock and Salim Akil make their return here. If you don’t recognize them, they had an empire on BET for several years with The Game. Mara Brock went on to helm Being Mary Jane, a very successful show for them. Both shows were important to Black culture and spotlighted Black people in real, honest ways. Hopefully, the team can do the same with Black Lightning. Black Lightning debut on January 16 on The CW.
4. Luke Cage season 2, written and produced by Cheo Coker
Marvel is also returning to throw its hat into the Black superhero ring this year on Netflix with Luke Cage season 2, which will keep the flavor of the previous season. Creatively, much of the people who made season 1 happen are scheduled to return with the addition of Finn Jones’s Danny Rand, and Simone Missick’s Misty Knight is said to have a larger and more prominent role. Mustafa Shakir and Gabrielle Dennis join the cast; Alfre Woodard, Theo Rossi, and Rosario Dawson are all returning.
Season 2 of Luke Cage does not have a release date yet, but it is tentatively set to be released in summer 2018 on Netflix.
5. Grown-ish, written and produced by Kenya Barris, Larry Wilmore, and Anthony Anderson
The much-talked-about spin-off to Black-ish, focusing on Yara Shahidi’s Zoey, is already making waves. It’s the biggest show on ABC Freeform and it’s getting rave reviews from those who have seen it. The spin-off focuses on Zoey’s college years and her experiences there; pretty much, it’s the current generation’s version of A Different World. Shahidi stars, with Trevor Jackson, Beyonce ingenues Chloe x Halle, Deon Cole, Francia Raisa and Chris Parnell also having roles.
Grown-ish, like its parent show, will tackle hot-button issues surrounding race, gender, and sexuality. It has already begun airing on Freeform – you can catch it Wednesday nights at 8/7c.
6. Atlanta season 2, written and produced by Stephen and Donald Glover
Everyone has been wondering when Atlanta would return, and the show is finally doing so. Everyone from the first season will return to reprise their roles, and Donald Glover could not be having a better year. In addition to his role here, he’s also Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Han Solo prequel and Simba in the Lion King remake. But hardcore fans of Glover’s just want to see him play his Atlanta character Earn Marks–and Glover is happy to oblige. Atlanta season 2 will premiere March 1st on FX, and I am very excited for us to cover it in its entirety.
There you have it – these are all the things you have to get excited about in 2018. Let’s hope this year is as Blackity-Black-Black as it has the potential to be!