Black Hollywood is poised to have a stellar 2013, as a crop of films head for multiplex cinemas worldwide. Foregoing the stereotypical slapstick route that critics love to pan Black films for, this year marks a redefinition of sorts for what our filmmakers have to offer. Be it stirring action starring two members of the Smith clan, or chronicling the real life story of baseball’s most groundbreaking hero, our time to shine is nigh!
2013 also finds new and familiar faces hitting the big screen in a major way, aiming to challenge conventionality (LUV, Snitch) and, yes, of course, make us crack a funny bone or two. This list is your guide to learning more about the upcoming films from both the Black indie world and mainstream Black Hollywood. And while it only scratches the surface, know that there’s more great Black cinema to come... we’re only just getting started.
Filmmaker Sheldon Candis makes his mainstream directorial debut with the drama-filled motion picture, LUV. Starring relative newcomer Michael Rainey Jr., the 11-year-old thespian plays Woody, a young boy who has to decide whether to follow in his hero’s footsteps or become his own man after spending the day with his recently paroled uncle. Rapper-slash-actor Common plays the wayward Uncle Vincent, fresh off an eight-year prison stint and hoping to teach his young nephew a thing or two about becoming a man. As the legit life begins to fail, questions about manhood are put full center for cinephiles to watch and enjoy. With a brilliant cast including Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton and Meagan Good, LUV is a complicated tale of Black life in the do-or-die streets of Baltimore. The picture rolls into theaters January 18.
Based on a PBS Frontline documentary, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as a father who is willing to risk everything, including his family and his own life, all for his son. When his progeny is wrongly accused of a drug distribution crime and is looking at 10 years in prison, The Rock steps up to rescue his son at all costs. Desperate and focused on ensuring his son’s safety, he makes a deal with the U.S. attorney to work as an undercover informant and is soon charged with the task to infiltrate a drug cartel. With fan favorites Michael K. Williams, Benjamin Bratt and Barry Pepper along for the ride, Snitch crashes into theaters February 22.
3. Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor
This year marks more original, Madea-less fodder from Tyler Perry as Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor aims to be the filmmaker’s riskiest film to date. Actress Jurnee Smollett (Friday Night Lights) plays an Ivy League-educated marriage counselor who gives marital advice but finds it difficult to address issues with her own marriage. No, no, this isn’t Why Did I Get Married: The Prequel. Smollett’s character is caught between two men. While married to Bryce (played by Lance Gross), Judith (Smollett) gets bored with her hubby and begins an affair with one of her clients (smooth-talking Robbie Jones). You can expect a lot of ups and downs, twists and turns in Tyler Perry’s upcoming flick. Rounding out the cast are Vanessa Williams, Brandy Norwood and (yes) Kim Kardashian, whose big budget film debut has angered a few folks. You’ll be able to share your opinion when Temptation hits theaters March 29.
The anticipation for director Brian Helgeland’s 42 has been so high that even President Barack Obama visited the set to make sure that the biopic was “accurate.” The story revolves around the legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier joining the roster of the Brooklyn Dodgers. 42 stars newcomer Chadwick Boseman (Lincoln Heights); Nicole Beharie (Shame) as Rachel Isum, Robinson’s love interest and supportive right-hand; and Harrison Ford as the innovative Dodger’s general manager, Branch Rickey. 42 will be heavily scrutinized if it doesn’t hold weight to the bigger-than-life true story of baseball’s first African-American hero, but we have no doubt that this flick will be a grand slam. This out-of-the-park film slides into theaters April 12.
5. Tyler Perry’s We the Peeples
Another Tyler Perry movie sans Madea in the central role may be just want audiences are hoping for with We the Peeples. In this romantic comedy, Craig Robinson (of NBC’s The Office) stars as Wade Walker, a man eager to propose to his girlfriend, Grace Peeples (Kerry Washington). But after 365 days of living, breathing and being together, the ultra-sexy and successful Grace is still unsure about introducing her average Joe to her highly ambitious, snooty family. So when Grace leaves for an annual reunion at her parents’ swag-filled Sag Harbor compound, Wade decides to crash the party, charm his soon-to-be in-laws and put a ring on Grace’s finger. As you may already expect, things don’t go exactly as planned, and Wade (along with the audience) finds himself caught in a web of white lies and hilarity. David Alan Grier, Melvin Van Peebles and Everybody Hates Chris’s Tyler James Williams co-star in this comedy, which rips into theaters May 10.
The British Film Institute, with Bankside Films, is responsible for this period piece. The film stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Miranda Richarson, Matthew Goode and Tom Wilkinson, and is based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle. Mbatha-Raw plays the mixed-race girl raised as an aristocrat in 18th-century England. Belle focuses on the trials and tribulations of the adopted lovechild and illegitimate daughter of John Lindsay (a White British Naval officer) and an African slave woman known only as Belle. Directed and written by British actor Amma Asante (A Way of Life), Belle looks to be a film festival darling this year, which should make its way onto the big screen this spring.
7. After Earth
After Earth finds humanity forced to escape from the only planet they’ve ever known after cataclysmic events threaten their existence. Now, with Nova Prime as mankind’s new home, the legendary General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) hopes to be able to rest and be a father to his 13-year-old son, Kitai (Jaden Smith), after experiencing an extended tour of duty in outer space. The father-son outing is quickly put in jeopardy when an asteroid storm damages Cypher and Kitai’s spacecraft, crash-landing them on a now cold and unfamiliar Earth. As his father lies dying in the cockpit, it’s up to Kitai to trek across the hostile terrain to recover their rescue beacon. Young Kitai has wanted nothing more than to be a soldier like his father for his whole life, and in After Earth, he gets his chance. This marks the second time the Smiths have shared the big screen together (see 2006’s Pursuit of Happyness), and their latest looks to be another summer blockbuster. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, the sci-fi actioner will land in theaters June 7.
8. Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain
Comedian Kevin Hart has continued to raise his stock with hilarious (and scene-stealing) appearances in films such as 35 and Ticking and Think Like a Man. His most recent stand-up comedy film, Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain, generated an impressive $7.7 million at the domestic box office playing in limited release in September 2011. Summit Entertainment, sensing that Hart’s comedic moment is now, is preparing Hart’s 2012 concert tour, Let Me Explain, for a summer ’13 release. The Philadelphia native’s excursion to 10 different countries and 80 cities has already grossed $32 million in ticket sales. Targeting a theatrical release for the Fourth of July holiday weekend means that comedy fans will have a chance to bust a gut till their stomachs shoot fireworks.
9. The Best Man 2
Black Hollywood wanted it. Black America wanted it even more. And now, director Malcolm Lee is bringing back the cast of the critically acclaimed The Best Man for a reunion of sorts. The sequel—starring Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, Terrence Howard, Nia Long, Sanaa Lathan and Harold Perrineau—will follow the group of old friends that reunite for, yep, you guessed it, another wedding. While there’s still no synopsis to the picture, Lee (who wrote and directed the original) will surely add a fresh take to the story we’ve all been waiting 14 years for. You can grab your friends and see The Best Man 2 en masse November 15.
10. Tyler Perry’s A Madea’s Christmas
Based on Tyler Perry’s play of the same name, Madea closes out what’s expected to be a spectacular year of original entertainment from the moneymaking filmmaker. In A Madea’s Christmas, the Atlantean everyone loves to hate gets coaxed into helping a friend pay her daughter a surprise visit in the country for Christmas. The biggest surprise comes when the duo finds out what’s waiting for them when they arrive. The small, uniquely rural town holds an annual Christmas carnival; as it prepares for the festivities, Madea’s friend uncovers new secrets while old relationships are tested. And as expected, throughout all the calamity and drama, Madea is right in the thick of it all to dish her own brand of Christmas spirit to one and all. A Madea’s Christmas is currently in pre-production, but expect it to be celebrated in nationwide theaters December 13.
11. 12 Years a Slave
If Django Unchained and Lincoln weren’t enough to convince you that slaves are the latest Hollywood trend, the critically acclaimed Black English director Steve McQueen (Shame) brings a drama that’s sure to test your convictions. 12 Years a Slave, written and directed by McQueen, stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as a New York free man who’s tricked by slave traders, kidnapped and sold into slavery. There he’s made to work on a Louisiana plantation for 12 years, desperately trying to find a way to get back to his family. Based on the actual events of Solomon Northup and his novel (Twelve Years a Slave), his daily life experiences mirror that of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Ann Jacobs or William Wells Brown. 12 Years still doesn’t have a confirmed release date, but it’s expected to hit theaters sometime this year. Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) are all confirmed to co-star in what will surely be considered a must-watch movie of 2013.
12. The Keeping Room
Actress Nicole Beharie (42, American Violet) stars alongside Olivia Wilde and Hailee Steinfeld in this Civil War drama. The period piece focuses on the last days of the war and three women’s attempt to defend their home against a large group of rogue Union Army soldiers. Wilde and Steinfeld play sisters, while Beharie co-stars as an entrusted slave. Director Daniel Barber (Harry Brown) will helm the project, which its producers have called “cinematic, thrilling and dangerous.” While IMDB posts this picture as debuting in 2014, according to Shadow and Act, principal photography is set to begin in March of this year. So it’s not entirely impossible that The Keeping Room won’t drop in 2013; either way keep your eyes out on this project.
13. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
If you were upset that actor Idris Elba wasn’t Django in Django Unchained, don’t worry. There’s another project that’s nearly as anticipated. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom has been sitting in development limbo for a while, but will now be adapted into a film directed by Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl). Starring Elba, Mandela is based upon the South African president’s own memoir, and began filming in May of last year. Skyfall ingénue Naomie Harris will portray Winnie Mandela in the film, and that’s pretty much all that’s been revealed. The acting duo has been hush-hush about the project, keeping every minute detail under lock and key, though the film has been in post-production for a few months. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom has the former South African president’s full support and looks to be an iconic biopic covering the activist leader’s entire life and political career.