One of the biggest TV events of all time is being reimagined for new audiences.
“Roots,” the epic miniseries about an African-American slave and his descendants, had a staggering audience of over 100 million viewers back in 1977. Now A&E networks are remaking the miniseries, to air in 2016.
A&E, Lifetime and History (formerly the History Channel) announced Thursday that the three networks would simulcast a remake of the saga of Kunta Kinte, an African who was captured, shipped to America and sold into slavery to work on a Virginia plantation.
LeVar Burton, who portrayed Kinte in the original, will co-executive produce the new miniseries.
Here we go again. Why?
I’ve watched the original miniseries several times during my life, including first when I was a little kid, and I also read the book as an adult. It’s a great gripping, and at times uncomfortable, story, telling about a part of American history that needs to be told. But it was done perfectly before. Do we need a do-over?
For the record, I’m not one of those folks who just decries movie remakes and reboots in general, even though there probably are way too many of those in Hollywood. But this is a general complaint I have when it comes to Black movies and Black filmmakers. The recent trend seems to be the only “Black” movies getting made are either Kevin Hart’s ghetto comedies or retro films about slavery and the 1960’s. I mean THE BUTLER, and 12 YEARS A SLAVE, and SELMA, and so on, okay I get it, history is important, but is this ALL “we” can do?
We’re also getting a movie version of GOOD TIMES, set in the 1960’s.
I’d like to challenge Black filmmakers, and filmmakers of Color in general, to stop mining the past, and look to the future. Step outside the box that it seems we’ve self-imposed on ourselves, and start competing with the Spielberg’s and Whedon’s. Where’s the Black Star Trek, the Black Star Wars, the Black Lord of The Rings, and the Black Harry Potter?
No, I don’t literally mean making “Black” versions of those movies. What I mean is I’d like to see Black writers and directors branching out into science fiction, space opera, fantasy, and genres like that. Instead of fighting for roles in established franchises, make our own. I want a big-budget CGI-filled story set in outer space or far in the future, with a multicultural cast. Don’t tell me that “Black movies” don’t sell overseas. Look at the Fast and Furious franchise, which is a worldwide phenomenon with a multicultural cast (with prominent leading roles for women). Or instead of complaining about the lack of diversity in Game of Thrones or The Lord Of The Rings, creating a new multicultural fantasy world, with Wizards and dragons and non-White people.
So that’s my challenge to Black filmmakers. I’m not saying stories of the past can’t or should’t be told. But let’s diversify things a bit.
And, hey, if you want to tall stories about ancient history, how about being a bit more creative about it? There are some stories that REALLY need to be told. We can’t count on others to tell our history accurately so why not something like. . .
If that movie was real I’d watch the s**t out of it!