Listen, I am not here to protest Madonna directing this film. In fact, I am not against White directors working on Black films. Steven Spielberg did the damn thing with “The Color Purple” and I think Brian Helgeland did an exceptional job with Jackie Robinson biopic, “42.“
However, Madonna hasn’t been well-received as a director. This is Madonna’s 4th time directing and her 3rd feature. In 2011, she directed the feature film “W.E.,” about the relationship between British King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. Everyone hated it.
In the novel, 19-year old Black, White and Jewish (just like Walker) American student sets out to travel with her friend to Egypt and ends in Lamu, off the coast of Kenya. It is there where she falls in love with a handsome Swahili Muslim man named Ade. As the couple prepares to marry and live in Kenya, they’re caught in the middle of a civil war that threatens their union. Could Madonna tackle this in a way that’s not a “deafening series of clunks?”
Madonna’s lack of storytelling skills is one thing, but coupled with her complicated history of associating with Blackness when it suits her (i.e. using a ‘Black Jesus’ and Black church choir in her controversial video for ‘Like A Prayer’; dating Dennis Rodman; adopting an Malawian child; calling her White son a “n*gga”), and her addition to the film feels like a bad idea.
While Walker will be producing this film alongside the incredible Bruce Cohen (“American Beauty,” “Milk,” “Silver Linings Playbook”), I’m worried. Sure Madonna is a huge name, but does she have what it takes to tell a Black woman’s story? There’s a ton of Black women directors who I’d rather see take this awesome project into their capable hands–Ava DuVernay, Victoria Mahoney or Gina Price-Bythewood to name drop a few.