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By: Heidi Levitt
Hollywood, the dream machine, the center of global entertainment and movie culture was built by immigrants like Samuel Goldwyn, from Warsaw and Louis B. Meyer to Minsk.
The history of Hollywood includes films and filmmakers who challenged the status quo, went to jail for defending their free speech and who have made a difference by speaking out. And yet, in 2016 Hollywood cinema, perhaps The United States most important export, the beacon for global cultural exchange is dominated by blockbusters, tent pole, sequel, superhero popcorn movies that are led by a white male presence.
Now is the time more than ever to shift the paradigm and make movies that matter. We need to include voices and faces of those who have been left on the perimeter of our industry.
Last years #OscarsSoWhite seems small in light of this past week’s election results, but it is not small by any means. In fact, now more than ever we need to show the country and the world that we in Hollywood have compassion, empathy and the power to open hearts and minds. We must make certain that those behind and in front of the camera reflect who we are; Black, White, Brown, Yellow and every shade in between.
Recently, the hugely talented actor Jon Leguizamo wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about this subject called “Too Bad You Are Latin.”
In this year’s Oscar season we have already seen an excellent contender in Barry Jenkins film, “Moonlight“ that authentically allowed us into the world we seldom see on the big screen. I hope that Moonlight gets the attention it deserves, because not only is it a powerful film, but it is a film about people who are black, gay and poor. It delivers a sense of hope through humanity. Donald Trump and his supporters could take a few lessons from watching a film like this one that opens your heart and leaves you feeling breathless and transformed.
For example, if we only tell the story of Mexicans crossing the border without papers, then that story becomes the story of the undocumented and we fail to see and know the individual. Through great storytelling and the power of global cinema, we can break racial and ethnic prejudice by allowing us to see the person, the character and not merely the color of their skin nor the accent in their voice. These kinds of stories will enable us to see how much we share in common as the human experience is not defined as much by color and language, as it is by the universality of the shared experiences of mothers daughters, husbands, wives, fathers, and sons.
2017 is the year for Hollywood to focus on producing films that reflect the true population and not the Electoral College. 2017 is the year to push the envelope not only in America but also around the world where the refugees and the disenfranchised are fighting for freedom and a better life. Let us show President Trump and the rest of the world that making films and television reflect who we are.
To the 11,000,000 undocumented, the refugees, the exiled living in poverty, the minorities, women and anyone else who feels marginalized – Hollywood can help make America great again because in less than 15 years from now the American population will be more brown than white. I hope and pray that inclusion and diversity in our voices and numbers will translate into a society that is accepting and empowered. Hollywood can and must do their part to change the culture.
Los Angeles Protest, November 12, 2016 @Chessdesign