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The Long Journey to the Big Screen for Alma's Rainbow Highlights a Bigger Issue Facing Black Women Filmmakers

24/02/2023

Alma's Rainbow [working title was Violette (Balancing Dreams) ] being developed in the 1984 Directors Lab.

by Aramide Tinubu

Well into the 21st century, Hollywood remains almost entirely white and mostly male - like most major industries in America. Women and people of color, specifically Black people, have undoubtedly made strides in various divisions, including acting, filmmaking, and countless other aspects of storytelling. Yet, seeing the contribution of Black women in the film industry requires cinema lovers to look a little bit more closely at what's hidden beneath the apparent glittering surface of Hollywood and seek out that varied films and projects Black women have contributed to the medium.Taking a closer look will reveal just how the industry has continually stalled and shut out Black women filmmakers despite the quality of their work.

Three years after Julie Dash became the first Black woman to have a full-length theatrical release in the U.S. with Daughters of the Dust (1991 Sundance Film Festival premiere), Sundance Labs alum Ayoka Chenzira debuted her glittering coming-of-age drama, Alma's Rainbow. Alma's Rainbow is a mother/daughter love story that encompasses what it means to be on the precipice of womanhood. Set in the '90s in Brooklyn, the film follows Rainbow Gold (Victoria Gabrielle Platt), a vivacious teenager who lives with her strict beauty-salon owner mother, Alma Gold (Kim Weston-Moran). A single mother who has always had a tight leash on her child, Alma's influence over Rainbow begins to wane when her glamorous sister Ruby (Mizan Kirby) comes gliding back to town from an extended stay overseas in Paris.

Immediately enamored with her aunt, Rainbow begins to see womanhood from a different perspective. However, Rainbow's awakening frightens Alma to her core. Alma's Rainbow emerged when there was a renewed interest in Black life in Hollywood. However, that focus was primarily on Black men. Since Rainbow's concerns were about boys, being seen by her mother, and valuing herself as a young Black woman, the film was dismissed. Instead, Hollywood favored grittier male-dominated stories like John Singleton's Boyz n the Hood (1991) and the Hughes Brothers' Menace II Society (1993).

Some of the distributors had questions and comments because they had not experienced these characters or knew of a Black woman owning a beautiful home, Chenzira told Shadow and Act. Therefore, it could not exist. So there is this assumption of the all-knowing distributor, marketer, or PR person who seemed very unwilling to go on this different kind of journey at that time. [Alma's Rainbow's] lack of distribution told me more about the business and the people in the business than anything else.
LINK: https://www.sundance.org/blogs/the-long-journey-to-the-big-screen-for-...
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