Does Art = Truth?
In another post from Sherri James (http://myspace.com/farfromthetreemovie) about making films, she ponders this question. And in many ways it reflects what rap and hip hop artists have been saying for years. That the music reflects the culture. The question we want to ask is: Is life on the street the only image of African American culture we want to send out into the world? Or is there more--and if there is (which we clearly believe), how do we get it seen and heard?
Responsibility of the Artist Part 2
At its best, an art form tells the truth about our experience, and in doing so, moves us forward as people. But, telling the truth is not always easy and certainly isn't always fun. We must look at ourselves clearly and report without judgment, without criticism, without flinching that which we see. Only then can we break the hold of our limitations. When our art does not tell the truth, it fails us miserably because then it functions only to reinforce stereotypes.
Artists bear the responsibility of waking up the rest of the culture and moving it forward. It is the art that transports us mentally from where we are today to where we can only imagine ourselves being. Who hasn't gotten lost in a painting or a book when, in the moment that you observed it or read it, it took you to another land, another time, another place? That's the great thing about it art – it creates breathing space.
With FAR FROM THE TREE, we hope to bring out the intricacies of African American families – what motivates us to keep secrets; how do our parents feel when we start digging around in their past, drawing back the curtain on things not talked about. You first fell in love with the characters because the book brought out a certain truth about their relationships.
Our job with the film is to honor that truth and bring it to life through our production.
One of the most important elements that helps us tell the truth in cinema is casting. The best actresses know how to find the truth in the moment. Therefore, we've made ANGELA BASSETT our top choice for the role of Celeste English. This role offers an opportunity for an in-depth character study, giving Ms. Bassett the chance to showcase the fullness of her dramatic range. As the seemingly well-put-together older sister, Celeste struggles with a strained marriage, an estranged relationship with her ne'er do well younger sister and an even more disjointed relationship with both her mother and daughter. Conveying the subtleties in these tenuous relationships is what Ms. Bassett does best. So, let's all hope that she agrees to be a part of this picture.
The truth really does set us free. And, we know it when we see it. It's why BOYZ IN THE HOOD and MENACE II SOCIETY resonated so strongly with their audiences. Conversely, the myriad copycats that followed only reinforced stereotypes.
As the producers of FAR FROM THE TREE, it's important to us that we create fully realized representations of Black womanhood. I remember how good it felt to watch WAITING TO EXHALE. That movie created some breathing space to be a Black woman in the United States.
We want to do the same with this film. Hopefully, after you see the movie, you'll hit me on this blog and tell me that you're able to breathe a little easier.