Mixed feel­ings in Hol­ly­wood

Films rarely por­tray in­ter­ra­cial cou­ples un­less mak­ing a spe­cific point

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - ENTERTAINMENT - Lau­ren La rose

it’s been 50 years since the de­but of Guess Who’s Com­ing To Din­ner, yet film por­tray­als of in­ter­ra­cial cou­ples re­main a rar­ity in hol­ly­wood.

The 1967 movie was a wa­ter­shed in its pos­i­tive de­pic­tion of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween an ac­com­plished black doc­tor (sid­ney Poitier), and his white fi­ancée (Katharine houghton), at a time when in­ter­ra­cial mar­riages were still il­le­gal in many u.s. states.

a half-cen­tury on, there are few ex­am­ples in mod­ern films of ro­mances in­volv­ing in­ter­ra­cial cou­ples. if any­thing, the sub­ject of race tends to be the fo­cal point of such pair­ings — such as spike lee’s 1991 film Jun­gle Fever and 2006 ro­man­tic comedy Some­thing New — or are based on real-life sto­ries like the Golden Globe-nom­i­nated Lov­ing and Lion, and forth­com­ing biopic A United King­dom.

Lov­ing writer-di­rec­tor Jeff ni­chols says hol­ly­wood seems re­luc­tant to give screen-time to in­ter­ra­cial cou­ples un­less “you’re try­ing to make a point about some­thing.”

“Where we need to get is that you could have (in­ter­ra­cial cou­ples) in­cluded and it not be some­thing you’re try­ing to make a point of — it just hap­pens. This just is,” said ni­chols dur­ing an in­ter­view.

“i’d like to think we’re get­ting there. i think it will hap­pen. But i also think writ­ers work from their own ex­pe­ri­ences, and the more di­ver­sity that we get in these groups of sto­ry­tellers and these writ­ers, i think the bet­ter the re­flec­tions will be.”

Lov­ing cen­tres on Mil­dred and richard lov­ing, the Virginia cou­ple at the heart of a his­toric 1967 u.s. supreme Court rul­ing that unan­i­mously struck down all an­timis­ce­gena­tion laws. still, it wasn’t un­til the year 2000 that alabama be­came the last state to over­turn laws that crim­i­nal­ized in­ter­ra­cial re­la­tion­ships.

“We’re talk­ing about hun­dreds of years of in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized racism in the form of laws, but also in the form of so­ci­ety, hearts and minds,” said Ken Tan­abe, founder and pres­i­dent of lov­ing day, a global net­work of an­nual cel­e­bra­tions com­mem­o­rat­ing the land­mark lov­ing case.

“Bring­ing that to the present day, you don’t re­verse some­thing like that overnight when it’s so deeply in­grained. so i think the ab­sence of in­ter­ra­cial cou­ples and fam­i­lies and mul­tira­cial in­di­vid­u­als in film and television is a part of that sys­tem,” added the new york-based Tan­abe, who is of Ja­panese and Bel­gian her­itage.

Tan­abe re­called a 2013 Chee­rios com­mer­cial fea­tur­ing a black fa­ther, white mother and bira­cial child. The back­lash to the ad pro­duced enough vit­riol on youtube that the com­pany re­quested that com­ments be turned off.

Gen­eral Mills, which owns Chee­rios, had said it was look­ing to re­flect the chang­ing u.s. pop­u­la­tion with the ad, and didn’t re­lent in the face of neg­a­tiv­ity. The same fic­tional fam­ily was brought back for a 2014 su­per Bowl com­mer­cial.

“Those who de­pict in­ter­ra­cial cou­ples and fam­i­lies in a non-con­tro­ver­sial way are try­ing to re­set the stan­dard to demon­strate a way for­ward,” said Tan­abe.

Mixed unions made up about 4.6 per cent of all mar­ried and com­mon-law cou­ples in Canada in 2011, ac­cord­ing to data from the na­tional household sur­vey, up from 3.9 per cent in the 2006 cen­sus, and 3.1 per cent in 2001.

Van­cou­ver-based film­maker Jeff Chiba stearns ex­plored his own her­itage in the doc­u­men­tary One Big Hapa Fam­ily, and set out to dis­cover why ev­ery­one in his Ja­panese-cana­dian fam­ily mar­ried in­ter­ra­cially af­ter his grand­par­ents’ gen­er­a­tion.

his lat­est doc­u­men­tary Mixed Match, which looks at the need to find mixed-eth­nic­ity bone mar­row and cord blood donors for mul­ti­eth­nic pa­tients, won awards at the Van­cou­ver asian Film Fes­ti­val and Toronto reel asian in­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val.

“it’s great that these fes­ti­vals ex­ist be­cause there’s a plat­form for peo­ple that want to tell these di­verse sto­ries, but again, it’s still kind of within the in­de­pen­dent realm,” said Chiba stearns.

“it’s like guys like me who are (say­ing): ‘yeah, i’m mixed, so i’m go­ing to tell the mixed-race ex­pe­ri­ence.’ if i was do­ing hol­ly­wood stuff, i would def­i­nitely be putting that in.

“The only way that we can be rep­re­sented prop­erly is by ac­tu­ally speak­ing from our own ex­pe­ri­ences. i think it is hard for some hol­ly­wood ex­ec­u­tives who maybe are not well-versed in those ar­eas to re­ally think about it,” he added. “Maybe there’s some of that hap­pen­ing, but it’s also the writ­ers, the direc­tors, the pro­duc­ers.

“as long as we have the cre­atives who iden­tify as mixed or par­tic­u­lar mi­nor­ity groups, we will get some of those sto­ries or char­ac­ters seep­ing into our movies. it’s just one of those things that we’ve got to fight the good fight and make movies that re­flect our so­ci­ety — and that’s what’s hap­pen­ing.”

Post­media net­work

Joel Edger­ton and Ruth Negga in Lov­ing, a film about the his­toric 1967 U.S. Supreme Court rul­ing that unan­i­mously struck down all anti-mis­ce­gena­tion laws. It may be 50 years since the de­but of Guess Who’s Com­ing To Din­ner, but Hol­ly­wood is still re­luc­tant to por­tray an in­ter­ra­cial mar­riage on-screen.

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