There was a period in the late 90’s and early 2000’s that ushered in an era of Hollywood films with predominantly black characters, writers and directors. These films highlighted issues pertaining to black culture and spoke to issues such as family, friends, love and career. I remember movies such as The Wood, Brown Sugar and Love and Basketball as favorites of mine during this period of time; while also influencing my understanding of North American society and how black people fit into the narrative.
I still revisit these types of films when I get a chance and sometimes date myself by going back to Eddy Murphy’s Boomerang. Over the years I never took into consideration who the architects of this time period were and I recently found out about Rick Famuyiwa. It was by coincidence that I came across his name given that I had heard his name but always assumed he was not a black director for whatever reason. Another interesting discovery about Famuyiwa was that he directed both The Wood and Brown Sugar, two movies that resonated with me as a young man and into adulthood and he is a Nigerian-American.
Famuyiwa’s recent film was titled “Dope” and it was received very well by audiences when the film was released. I have been pushing off watching the film for a while and as I started to read more about the film last week, I came across Famuyiwa and his directorial work. From what I gather, Dope is another coming of age film and it ties well to the other films directed by Famuyiwa that have tackled this very issue. One thing that I always appreciated from his films was that they presented both sides of a black man and his struggle to find balance with life, love and/or work over a time period. Famuyiwa is a Nigerian-American director, born to Nigerian parents who grew up in Inglewood California. While I couldn’t get information on where Famuyiwa was born or raised prior to Inglewood, it is clear that some of the films are linked to the transitions into new areas, finding friends and falling in love that he may have experienced as a black man in North America.
His directorship debut was the movie titled “The Wood”. I watched this film as a young man living in the City of Toronto. While the movie was based on friends living in Inglewood, California, the stories shared by the characters in the movie highlighted the importance of brotherhood, growth and coming to an understanding of the steps taken to reach adulthood. I remember migrating to Canada and having to find new friends and some of the struggles I faced trying to fit in coming from Nigeria. I eventually did make friends but it came through playing sports and excelling before I was embraced fully.
Brown Sugar was the second film I watched in the early 2000’s directed by Famuyiwa. The movie focuses on two friends who everyone knows or feels should be together but the friendship is too strong to overcome and risk for the sake of a romantic relationship. While in Brown Sugar the two characters eventually do come together, this is not always reality. The key thing I took from this film is the professional struggle that the main protagonist feels when it comes to career progression or passion progression. This again highlights an issue that we ultimately have to come to grips with as we progress in our careers.
I will be attending a few weddings this year and as they approach I reflect on us as young people figuring things out, making mistakes and ultimately forming ourselves as adults in this world. Famuyiwa has always done a great job highlighting these transitions through his films and as I get older they seem to have more depth than I ever recall. I still haven’t watched the movie Dope, but I do plan on catching it very shortly.