Shaping the Future of African American Film, Shaping the Future of African American Film, 0813562554, 0-8135-6255-4, 978-0-8135-6255-1, 9780813562551, , , Shaping the Future of African American Film, 0813562562, 0-8135-6256-2, 978-0-8135-6256-8, 9780813562568, , , Shaping the Future of African American Film, 0813562570, 0-8135-6257-0, 978-0-8135-6257-5, 9780813562575, , , Shaping the Future of African American Film, 0813573122, 0-8135-7312-2, 978-0-8135-7312-0, 9780813573120,
Shaping the Future of African American Film

Color-Coded Economics and the Story Behind the Numbers
Monica White Ndounou
10 photos, 5 figures, 6 tables, 6 x 9
Paper, April 2014 $30.95   ADD TO CART
Cloth, April 2014 $88.00   ADD TO CART
Web PDF, April 2014 $30.95   EBOOK VERSION AVAILABLE
epub, April 2014 $30.95   EBOOK VERSION AVAILABLE
Subject Area:
African American Studies, Film, Media Studies, and Communications, American Studies
Received the Distinction Honor for the 2016 C. Calvin Smith Book Award from the Southern Conference on African American Studies, Inc. 


In Hollywood, we hear, it’s all about the money. It’s a ready explanation for why so few black films get made—no crossover appeal, no promise of a big payoff.  But what if the money itself is color-coded?  What if the economics that governs film production is so skewed that no film by, about, or for people of color will ever look like a worthy investment unless it follows specific racial or gender patterns?  This, Monica Ndounou shows us, is precisely the case.  In a work as revealing about the culture of filmmaking as it is about the distorted economics of African American film, Ndounou clearly traces the insidious connections between history, content, and cash in black films.

How does history come into it?  Hollywood’s reliance on past performance as a measure of potential success virtually guarantees that historically underrepresented, underfunded, and undersold African American films devalue the future prospects of black films.  So the cycle continues as it has for nearly a century.  Behind the scenes, the numbers are far from neutral.  Analyzing the onscreen narratives and off-screen circumstances behind nearly two thousand films featuring African Americans in leading and supporting roles, including such recent productions as Bamboozled, Beloved, and Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Ndounou exposes the cultural and racial constraints that limit not just the production but also the expression and creative freedom of black films. Her wide-ranging analysis reaches into questions of literature, language, speech and dialect, film images and narrative, acting, theater and film business practices, production history and financing, and organizational history.

By uncovering the ideology behind profit-driven industry practices that reshape narratives by, about, and for people of color, this provocative work brings to light existing limitations—and possibilities for reworking stories and business practices in theater, literature, and film.


"Anyone hoping to accelerate the current momentum in black cinema, develop new models of production and distribution, or simply gain a better understanding of how race impacts business decisions in Hollywood, should consult Ndounou’s well-researched book."
—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University

"Ndounou compiles a phenomenal archive to diagnose and guide possibilities for the development of un-segregated, internationally viable Black film liberated from structural restraints that endorse racism and curtail creative freedom."

—Stephanie Batiste, author of Darkening Mirrors: Imperial Representations in Depression Era African

"Ndounou provides a comprehensive examination of African American filmmakers' experience in producing, distributing, and marketing economically profitable films in the Hollywood cinema industry.  Most compelling is her demonstration of how industry standards make it difficult for black films to generate profits. This thorough, well-researched book is a must read. Highly recommended."

Author / Editor Bio

MONICA WHITE NDOUNOU is an associate professor of drama, and affiliate faculty in American Studies and International Literary and Visual Studies at Tufts University. 


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