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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Daniel Pearl Bio-pic: Blackface or Non-traditional Casting

I believe that non-traditional casting has its place. I also believe that biographical and historical casting should be informed by the racial, ethnic, national and social backgrounds of the subjects of the film--just as it informed their life. Painting someone to look like "the other" is always a dicey proposition. Especially, when as K. Emily Bond points out, there are viable options which don't require adding insult to injury--ignoring race/ethnicity in the casting but acknowledging that it matters by coloring the performer to match the subject.

K. Emily Bond Bio 10.11.2006
Jolie, Even in Blackface? (20 comments)

Pearl is of Afro-Cuban, Dutch and Chinese descent -- and she looks it. Angelina Jolie, even in blackface, does not.

Upon hearing that the white actress was cast as Pearl in an adaptation of her memoir, my own heart did a mighty cautionary flutter. My assumption was that Hollywood wimped out on the interracial element of Danny and Mariane's love story, thinking it easier to convey the drama to a color-conscious mainstream audience by keeping both characters white, much as James Baldwin did in his international, gay intrigue mini-tome Giovanni's Room. To Baldwin in 1956, what could have been the story of a black bisexual ex-pat involved with an Italian man in Paris was better told as a whitewashed tale of two white guys in love. A forgivable disappointment, given that it was fiction. And the 50's.

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