Friday, April 10, 2009

What's Up With That?

I’ve really been enjoying HBO’s The #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency starring my girl, “Jilly from Philly,” Jill Scott. I love everything about it, from the open/closing credits, to the casting, music score, costuming, hair and makeup. The series is depicting modern-day Botswana as a progressive, vibrant country and it’s rare to see an African nation reflected in such a positive light. I’m also a huge fan of the book series, written by Alexander McCall Smith and can attest that the T.V. adaptation is wedded pretty closely to the books.

After last Sunday’s episode, Loverman and I checked out the half-hour special detailing the making of The #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and I must admit some of my enthusiasm for the show was dampened when the only brown faces working on the project were the actors. This special introduced viewers to the project’s producers, set and wardrobe designers, hair and make-up artists, and there was not one person of color in the bunch.

Yes, I’m ecstatic for Jill. I can’t say enough about the dynamite job she's doing as Precious Ramotswe and Anika Noni Rose is dead-on as her trusty assistant Grace Makutsi, and yes, it’s refreshing to be introduced to so many incredible African actors, but filmmaking is an incredibly collaborative process and it seems that this project is an ideal opportunity to hire a diverse crew. I mean damn, they couldn’t even find a Black hairstylist?

Sure, I understand when it’s time to crew-up, folks gravitate to those they know and trust to get the job done, but to create a more diverse work environment, people have to make a conscious effort to reach beyond their comfort zone and tap new talent. The recent FESPACO Film Festival in Burkina Faso showcased Africa’s robust film industry and I’m sure there are dozens of African film professionals who would have welcomed the opportunity to work on this high profile project.

Despite my disappointment, I’ll keep watching the series, supporting and loving the continued evolution of Miss Jill. I just hope that if the series gets another season, the plethora of color depicted on the screen will also be reflected behind the scenes.

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