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Why Colin Kaepernick’s Netflix docuseries is bigger than football

Colin Kaepernick’s long journey will be made into a Netflix documentary.

The streaming service announced Monday that a six-part series of Kaepernick’s life will be produced by director Ava DuVernay. DuVernay earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture in 2014 for her film Selma, and again in 2016 with 13th.

The project will be titled Colin in Black and White, and will reportedly portray the quarterback’s adolescent years, showing the events and experiences that led to his career in activism.

Kaepernick played six seasons in the NFL, leading the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2012. His last game was on January 1, 2017 in a regular-season loss against the Seattle Seahawks.

Kaepernick’s career in activism has been his defining characteristic for the past several years. He began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, and when faced with criticism, pledged to donate $1 million to organizations working in oppressed communities.

His donations were dispersed among multiple organizations including Mothers Against Police Brutality.

Later in 2016, Kaepernick and his partner Nessa founded the “Know Your Rights Camp.” The camp held free seminars to underprivileged and disadvantaged youth in order to educate them about legal rights and self-empowerment. The camp launched a relief fund for the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020.

Kaepernick’s Netflix documentary is an important and unique step for activism because it gives a place of representation for his personal life and work. Both of these sides have faced much controversy.

While the documentary will likely focus mainly on his adolescent life, the publication of his life will help bring an understanding and perspective to his work. Netflix is taking a clear risk in developing this project, but the decision shows its belief in giving a new perspective to activism.

Ava DuVernay is the perfect choice to direct the project. The California-born filmmaker received critical acclaim for her historical drama telling the story of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights marches, led by James Bevel and Martin Luther King Jr.

The picture received four Golden Globe nominations and two Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.

DuVernay’s 2016 film, 13th, delved into the topics of mass incarceration and racial justice in the United States. Its title references the thirteenth amendment of the United States which “abolished slavery” and ended involuntary servitude.

The film garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature, and won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary.

Being clearly accomplished, DuVernay’s past work and framing ability will help her create a powerful portrayal of Kaepernick’s early life. Any film project that is tackling activism must have a balance between truth, respect, and accountability.

This is an extremely difficult thing to accomplish, and is one of the reasons why many activist projects face widespread criticism.

DuVernay, however, has demonstrated that she has the ability to address sensitive topics in a gripping and respectful fashion. Her experience working with historical events will give her a powerful edge in addressing Kaepernick’s current activism, and his early life events that led up to his work.

Colin Kaepernick’s life has been a whirlwind of athletics and activism. Netflix is taking a risky, but powerful stance in adopting his story for its streaming site. The fact that such an enormous media service is adopting this story shows the necessity of perspective in activism.

Activism projects are met with much controversy when they lack perspective. Not enough people know the story of Colin Kaepernick and why he decided to follow the path that he did.

Having a live representation of his adolescent life is the perfect opportunity to shed perspective and honesty on a movement that has been grabbing media attention for nearly five years. We cannot wait to see the project unfold on Netflix in the near future.

Black directors brought in a combined $1.3 billion at the box office in 2018

2018 revealed Black audiences’ box office power, proving to the gatekeepers of Hollywood that Black film, with Black casts, are indeed financial viable. This year, there were more films by Black filmmakers to receive theatrical release than ever before.

In 2018, the domestic box office hit an all-time high of $11.383 billion and the top ten feature films by Black directors accounted for a combined $1.363 billion of that domestic figure.

Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther grossed $700M domestically and became the #3 all-time top domestic-grossing film. The film has grossed more than $1.3 billion at the global box office and has become a cultural phenomenon.

Ryan Coogler’s film earned three Golden Globe nominations — Best Original Score, Best Original Song and most notably, Best Motion Picture for the drama category.

Though receiving a Golden Globe nomination is not always a predicate for an Academy Award nomination or win, most of the time, the Golden Globes do provide an indication as to how the Academy Awards will shape up.

Nonetheless, the film will stand in history and continue to be a cultural phenomenon, with or without an Oscar nod. #WakandaForever.

Steven Caple Jr.’s Creed II, which has brought in $109.6M to date and is expected to surpass the first installment o Creed box office figure of directorial $109.7M. The sequel has also made been a huge success at the global box office, earning $138M.

Plus, Creed II is the first film of the Rocky franchise to be released theatrically in China and will guarantee more financial success given that China is the second-largest movie market in the world

It’s been a while since Spike Lee has been a part of a major Hollywood film. In 2006, the studio-backed heist drama Inside Man was perceived by film critics to be a radical departure for the filmmaker and was perceived as apolitical (though the film is not devoid of racial politics by any means).

Inside Man was a blockbuster and had taken in $48.169M domestically. Lee’s latest film BlacKkKlansman ran close behind his 2006 hit, earning $48.21M domestically and receiving 4 Golden Globe nods.

Antoine Fuqua teamed up with Denzel Washington again to direct the sequel to the action-packed The Equalizer 2 acquired $102M at the national box office. The two have previously linked up for the films, Training Day and The Magnificent Seven.

Though some took to Twitter to point out the lack of Black women directors featured on the list, Ava DuVernay’s retweet of the article assured that we can expect to see more Black women filmmakers appear on similar lists in the near future.

DuVernay’s success has also made serious ground for women and particularly women of color to take their spot at the directors’ chair as well as work behind the scenes.

One only has to look at her female-led directors’ initiative — a kind of informal enacting of affirmative action by DuVernay for women to direct episodes of her series Queen Sugar

DuVernay became the first Black woman to direct a $100M feature with A Wrinkle In Time. The visually dazzling film adaptation of the Madeleine L’Engle young-adult novel grossed $100M domestically.

Overall, 2018 has been a huge year for DuVernay. The pioneering filmmaker inked a multi-year and multi-million dollar deal with the television branch of the historic heavyweight Hollywood studio, Warner Bros.

She is directing and serving as executive producer to the scripted miniseries on the Central Park Jogger case, called Central Park Five which is set to be released next year.  Plus, two months ago, it was announced that DuVernay will direct a Netflix documentary on the legendary artist and musical genius, Prince. 

Other Black talent to feature in the top ten list of directors was Tyler Perry’s Acrimony, which brought in $43M at the box office and starred Taraji P. Henson, as well as Charles Stone III’s Uncle Drew, which grossed $42M domestically.

Ava DuVernay continues to boss up with multi-million dollar Warner Bros. deal

Ava DuVernay continues to boss up. The pioneering filmmaker inked a multi-year and multi-million dollar deal with the television branch of the historic heavyweight Hollywood studio, Warner Bros.

According to the studio, the deal is set to span multiple genres from “drama and comedy series, documentaries, digital content, event projects, and longer form projects for broadcast and cable, premium cable, as well as streaming services and other platforms.”

Having already worked with DuVernay on Queen Sugar and the CBS drama series, The Red Line, Warner Bros. expressed their excitement in continuing their collaboration with DuVernay, declaring,

“Ava DuVernay is one of the leading lights in our industry, a brilliantly talented writer, producer, director and entrepreneur whose ability to inspire with her art is exceeded only by her ability to entertain.”

A major gain from DuVernay’s deal with Warner Bros. is that the filmmaker can sell her projects to other networks and not be restricted to a singular distribution platform. In broadening her distribution outlets, more and more people will have access to see her important, critical and formative work.

In the meantime, DuVernay has continued to expand her collaboration with Netflix since the streaming service released her first feature all the way back in 2010, with I Will Follow. Since then, she has debuted the documentary 13th and is directing and serving as executive producer to the scripted miniseries on the Central Park Jogger case, called Central Park Five which is set to be released next year.

Plus, last month it was announced that DuVernay will direct a Netflix documentary on the legendary artist and musical genius, Prince. 

DuVernay’s career, however, is already a firm and emphatic demonstration that she isn’t in it exclusively for herself. She has been helping people all along the way, making sure everyone,and I mean, everyone gets their shine.

One only has to look at her female-led directors’ initiative — a kind of informal enacting of affirmative action by DuVernay for women to direct episodes of her series Queen Sugar

In the short time DuVernay has been directing, she has been a major success.

Importantly, her success has also made serious ground for women and particularly women of color to take their spot at the directors’ chair as well as work behind the scenes.

How Ava DuVernay is helping these 5 women directors get their shine

In the short time Ava DuVernay has been directing, she has been a major success. Importantly, her success has also made serious ground for women and particularly women of color to take their spot at the directors’ chair.

This matters because this position has historically been designated to white heterosexual men and these same men have and continue to be, in control of what viewers see on screen.

In the time preceding her career as a director, DuVernay has dabbled into the world of writing and producing, and her additional experience in both documentary and independent filmmaking, all demonstrate that she is well versed on how the film industry really operates.

Despite her recent successes (Selma, 13th, and A Wrinkle in Time), DuVernay hasn’t forgotten the struggle of trying to make it in a predominately white male-dominated industry as a person of color and especially as a woman of color. She has remained grounded.

From first-hand experience, DuVernay is conscious of the institutional obstacles that women and particularly women of color encounter in their attempt to move through the professional ranks, simply get opportunities for work, or have their films perceived as viable for financial backing from studios, networks, and financiers.

As a response, DuVernay has taken matters into her own hands. She has developed a female-led directors’ initiative — a kind of informal enacting of affirmative action for women to direct episodes of her series Queen Sugar

Finishing up its third season, with a fourth to come, Queen Sugar is offering the opportunity for women to develop their directorial skills and for some to have their directorial debut for TV.

Fundamentally, its an opportunity to make money and earn a living, since its extremely difficult for women to get the green light from studios to direct film projects.

In a climate in which women directors often only getting the occasional stint to work on projects what DuVernay is doing is huge and is an admirable model for those who are better established in their career to follow.

With DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey serving as executive producers for Queen Sugar, these up-and-coming female directors have the reassurance that powerful women have their back and are supporting them. Here is a list of directors who have had the opportunity to sit in the directors’ chair and a little bit about their careers thus far:

DeMane Davis

DeMane Davis directed two episodes of season two of Queen Sugar.

She has directed commercials, music videos and made two feature films Black & White and Red All Over and Lift. Both of her feature films premiered and gained critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival.

So Yong Kim

Directed one episode of season one, So Yong Kim‘s most recent feature film Lovesong is actually one of my favorite films to be released in the last five years and is still available on Netflix.

Lovesong is perhaps the most nuanced depiction of queer love between two women that I have seen in cinema. Plus, doesn’t reproduce heteronormative stereotypes or gender roles, now how about that?! She’s also responsible for the critically-acclaimed films Lovesong and Treeless Mountain.

Tina Mabry

Most known for her feature film Mississippi Damned, Tina Mabry directed an episode for Queen Sugar but has also had a series of stints on a variety of television series.

Her other works include episodes of Dear White People, Insecure, and Power.

Kat Candler

Kat Candler directed several episodes of Queen Sugar but is best known for her feature Hellion.

Before directing television, Candler had made several short films and is well known within the international film festival circuit.

Victoria Mahoney

Starting her career as an actress, Victoria Mahoney has now moved behind the camera.

Her feature film Yelling to the Sky is available on Netflix and she has directed episodes for several television shows.

She has also recently been asked to be a second unit director for the Star Wars: Episode IX film, making her the first African-American woman to serve in any directing role.

How LA Mayor and Ava DuVernay are making the entertainment industry more diverse

On Monday, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti teamed up with film director Ava DuVernay and producer Dan Lin to announce the Evolve Entertainment Fund (EEF), aimed at encouraging diversity and unheard voices in film and entertainment.

The fund, which is a public-private partnership, plans to raise $5 million by 2020 and distribute grants to different entertainment organizations.

Billboard reported further on EEF:

“The Evolve Fund is an alliance between the City of Los Angeles, industry leaders in entertainment and digital media, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions, dedicated to building career pathways into film, television, and music for women, people of color, and low-income Angelenos through paid internships, focused mentoring, and an ongoing series of workshops and panels.”

Garcetti said at a Monday press conference that recent initiatives in Hollywood, including ‘Oscars So White’ and ‘Time’s Up’, have put an emphasis on the need for diversity, inclusion, and voices from typically unrepresented demographics.

“When ‘Oscars So White’ and ‘Time’s Up’ put a spotlight on inequality in Hollywood, they captured the frustrations of people shut out of opportunity in what the world knows as L.A.’s signature industry. We created the Evolve Entertainment Fund to give people in underserved communities a new opportunity to chase their dreams in Hollywood.”

Garcetti went on to point out that these opportunities include everything from being a  director to behind the scenes work: “Whether they want to be the next award-winning director or screenwriter, or are looking to secure a future in below-the-line jobs that are the bedrock of this city’s middle class.”

The mayor explained that the initiative mirrors the cultural fabric of Los Angeles, the most diverse city in the world. Garcetti clarified the aim of the fund:

“Tell the stories of all the beautiful complexity of this city, which is the most diverse city in the world today, a place where 39 countries find their largest population outside their home country.”

In order to promote the voices and work of typically underrepresented demographics in film, EEF will provide mini-grants to non-profits that connect young people with mentors and job opportunities in film.

Ava DuVernay, director of Selma and The 13th, spoke about her optimism about the fund and her vision of EEF helping shape “a new reality”:

“I’m always optimistic every time I go in the room. I think that if you don’t have hope that this moment is going to be different then there is really no way forward. Hope is intrinsic to any of these efforts. I am hopeful that this will really blossom into something dynamic for this city. There’s a lot of incredible people involved so the hope is that we can all just stay committed to it so that it becomes … I don’t really like the word movement – I just want it to be a fact, a new reality.”

No matter the field, diversity improves the quality and cultural accuracy of the work. More and more spaces should take a page from the people behind EEF and actively implement policies and funds that encourage diversity.

Social media campaigns and initiatives are effective, Garcetti referenced a couple in his statement about EEF, but when efforts come from public administrations with a substantial budget, that’s when real change can go down.