Last weekend I went to the movies to see “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” But when I left the theater, the banter between Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds wasn’t what was on my mind. I was more interested in the trailer I’d seen before the movie had started. The trailer was for a movie called “Marshall.”
“Marshall,” a biographical film about Thurgood Marshall’s work as a lawyer for the NAACP, is set to release Oct. 13. Marshall had quite an impressive resume, including (but not limited to) being a main attorney on the Brown v. Board of Education case and serving as the first African-American Supreme Court justice.
I’m incredibly excited to see this movie for the same reason I can’t wait for “Black Panther,” and why I was so happy about the releases of “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight” last year: They have complex black protagonists instead of black characters who are just the sidekick, a sassy woman or a slave.
I’m tired of slave movies. Not to say that slavery isn’t an important topic and that it doesn’t deserve recognition on the silver screen … for awhile it felt like most of the Oscar-winning films featuring black people were about slavery. There was “Django Unchained” (2012), which won two Oscars, and “12 Years a Slave” (2013), which won three Oscars. It felt like a cop-out, almost as if studios were saying, “Sure, there are lots of interesting, never-done-before stories that we could be producing. But hey, at least there are movies starring black actors.”
But last February, something different happened. “Moonlight” won three Oscars, including Best Picture. A movie about the life of an African-American man won. People — by people I mean Hollywood film industry executives — are finally starting to realize that complex black narratives make good feature films.
Movies like “Marshall” are important because the black character is just a new character that audiences haven’t seen before — it’s a breath of fresh air. People don’t have to make the trek to the Sundance Film Festival or the Tribeca Film Festival to see compelling storylines that they can relate to and enjoy. The fact that I can pay just $12.50 and see a piece of work that inspires me, that makes me feel like my story is as valuable as anyone else’s, is great (albeit long overdue). But still, I’m happy.