Motion-Picture: Actors call for more diverse representation; ‘SOS call to creators of color’

With diverse representation in film a more prominent international issue than ever, calls went up this week for wider representation of heroes, in two senses of the word. First, a flash movement at San Diego Comic-Con urged for creators of color to step forward for more representation in pop culture, making a big splash at the festival. Just a few days later, actress Constance Wu called out Hollywood whitewashing, saying hero-bias and financial reasons are no longer excuses for not casting more people of color in lead roles.

What started out as a flash mob at Comic-Con quickly grew into much more. Award-winning comic book writer David Walker teamed up with Baltimore artist UREAUS to campaign Black Heroes Matter, a continuation of the Black Lives Matter movement that promotes superheroes of color to take up lead roles, rather than appearing just as sidekicks. “It’s an SOS call to creators of color, urging them to bring life to positive, well-balanced heroes that reflect to the world,” UREAUS told Hollywood Reporter. T-shirts for the movement sold at Comic-Con, and a panel at this October’s New York Comic-Con is in talks.

That wasn’t the only outcry for more diverse hero representation this week. “We have to stop perpetuating the myth that only a white man can save the world,” Constance Wu tweeted July 29. The actress, most famous for her role in sitcom Fresh Off the Boat, was responding to the forthcoming film The Great Wall, which stars Matt Damon as a hero fighting fictionalized monsters on the titular landmark. “Our heroes don’t look like Matt Damon,” the note she tweeted said. “They look like Malala. Ghandi. Mandela. Your big sister when she stood up to those bullies that one time.” The actress urged Hollywood studios to cast more people of color in lead roles. “If nothing else, you’d get mad respect which is WAY more valuable than money,” she wrote.

In a time of drastic change, international conversations like these signify how far the film industry has come to get to the point where issues hold such widespread importance, but also how far the industry has yet to go in terms of representation. These stories broke amongst headlines of casting, box office, and awards for filmmakers and entertainers of color. Read on to learn more:

Comedy: Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart’s action comedy Central Intelligence has crossed $200 million at the international box office, making it the top-earning movie of its genre this year. The movie, which currently sits as the tenth-highest grossing movie of the year domestically, debuted to a strong $35.5 million in the United States, and had strong legs in following weeks. The duo is set to reunite and star in a remake of Jumanji in 2017.

Romantic musical Bazodee is set for domestic limited release on August 5. The movie stars Natalie Perera as the daughter of an Indian businessman who second guesses her marriage the night before after meeting a superstar singer who she has instant chemistry with, played by Machel Montano. Shot in Trinidad, the film premiered at the Trinidad + Tobago film festival in 2015.

Meanwhile, Jay Ahn has found astronomical success. The former executive of Toonbox Entertainment which is most famous for creating the 2014 animated The Nut Job, will team up with animation veteran Chris Henderson to create Astro-Nomical Entertainment. The company will develop and produce animated family films. Chinese company Characterplan? will back the company, which will have a heavy focus on Chinese markets.  

Drama: José Padhila’s upcoming movie Entebbe, following the true story of a plane hijacking in Entebbe, Uganda, is already garnering buzz while still in its pre-production phase. Working Title Films will produce the film, while Participant Media is in negotiations to fully finance. Padhila, whose previous works include the critically acclaimed Bus 147, is in talks with Rosamund Pike, Daniel Brühl and Vincent Cassel to join the cast.

Kim Ki-duk is set to direct the anti-war film Who is God? released by Dick Cook Studios and Film Carnival. Ki-duk is a South Korean director best known for his low budget indie films. The film will cost $37 million to create, which is estimated to be three times bigger than the collective budget of Ki-duk’s 20-film career.

Eddie Murphy will return to the big screen in a drama movie, Mr. Church, to be released September 16.  This is Murphy’s first film in four years.  The film follows the relationship between a young girl (played by Britt Robertson) and her family’s personal cook, played by Murphy. Yu Wei Chung served as the film’s executive producer.

Action: Philip Zhou better get ready. The young newcomer will star in Steven Spielberg’s 2018 action/sci-fi Ready Player One, adapted from the popular book of the same name. Zhou will play the role of Shoto alongside an established cast that includes Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg and Tye Sheridan.

Awards/Festivals: The Wailing, a horror/thriller directed by Na Hong-jin, won the Bucheon Choice award at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival. The film screened at the Cannes Film Festival before dominating the Korea box office for two weeks, opening at a $20 million debut, which is the fourth biggest debut of the year at the time. Critics have been showering praises for the film since Cannes and it currently holds a perfect 100% approval rating on Rottentomatoes after 43 reviews.

The Match Factory, a world sales company based in Germany, is sparking up worldwide representation. The company has bought the rights to sell four films that screened in the Venice Film Festival, including White Sun, directed by Nepali Deepak Rauniyar. Rauniyar’s debut, Highway, was the first film from Nepal to ever screen at a big festival. Other movies bought by The Match Factory include Spira Mirabilis, La region salvaje, and Through the Wall, helmed by an Italian, Mexican and Israeli director, respectively.