“I saw Dreamgirls last night for the second time, and I’m wondering if there really isn’t something to the notion that black and white audiences sometimes see things differently. Because this was a mostly black audience. And vocal audience, which can be both hilarious and irritating. But also, with a film like this, it was…right.
“I am also black (this I think you knew) and I loved it again, Jeff. And last night’s audience really loved it. So did the audience in Conyers, Georgia. which was sold out and had maybe four black folk in the theater. But this audience, here in Tallahassee…it was like the film was ours.
“Does that make sense? Like there are films like Inside Man, in which the lead character is black, but the story is so universal that it isn’t about him being black…it’s about him and he happens to be black. God bless Spike Lee for that. There are films like The Departed in which every major character is white, but they just happen to be that way, and God bless Martin Scorsese for that (and, by the way, black folk love The Departed — huge black contingent there).
I am a high-school drama teacher, and divisiveness is not something I tolerate. I am a firm believer in all of us mixing it up and hanging in there together. But a story like this? It’s like our story, which hardly ever happens.
“I wonder if Dreamgirls holds more resonance with black folk because we get it — we know black songs were redone by white artists, we understand assimilating equaled acceptance and most definitely success, we know single mothers and absent fathers and all the other things that (white) critics feel the movie glosses over. Except for black people, just the mention of these things make them valid.
“Maybe it’s just so cool to see so many different kinds of people of African-American heritage up on the screen (and a narrative that is specific to black people – not like a Glory or Blood Diamond, but more like a Hotel Rwanda or even a The Color Purple). It was cool to see black people of different hues and shades and sizes and ages…acting and singing songs that speak to us — all of us really, but especially other black folk.
“And maybe, after all the flash and glitz, Bill Condon is saying that we all –ALL — want the same things. Success and love and to be heard, you know? Now, I am well aware that many people don’t get this from Dreamgirls. But I did. And so did most of the black people who stood up at the end of the movie last night.
“It’s funny that two of the best movies about black folk, Dreamgirls and the great Akeelah and the Bee, were written and directed by white men. That gives me the most hope — and makes me think in my corny, liberal way, that we are all connected after all.” — Roderick Durham, in an e-mail he sent to me directly,