Racial diversity has been a hot, contentious, divisive topic in some movie news; but there has also been some wonderful news about racial diversity redemption in current movies. Filmmaker Antoine Fuqua has cast Denzel Washington as his leading man in the remake of the classic cowboy movie, The Magnificent Seven. The racial makeup of America’s real Wild West has been a “melting pot” of Europeans, Chinese, Mexicans, Native American and African Americans. Fuqua’s movie is a “reimagining” of the 1960 western starring Steve McQueen, which has been a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Japanese-language epic Seven Samurai. Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven also features South Korea’s Lee Byung-hun as well as Ethan Hawke and Chris Pratt, who play the “well-worn trope of a band of heroes defending a community against unscrupulous bandits.” Fuqua says, “…it’s all of us together. It’s white, black, Asian, Indians. It doesn’t matter anymore… We all have to come together to fight tyranny.”
Fuqua’s view of the Wild West redeems misrepresentations of this period of American history. Fuqua’s movie reflects the reality that African Americans brought to America as slaves were familiar with cattle herding from their homelands in West Africa and moved West to find better lives on the open range. African American cowboys worked on ranches throughout Texas by the early 19th century. Others were hired after the American Civil War to break horses and herd cattle across the rivers. Others became soldiers.
Jim Austin, president of the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, says, “What we found is that if you talk to some (modern) cowboys they’ll say 80 percent of the cowboys were actually people of color…The accurate figure is probably closer to 40 percent across the Western Frontier, he said, while other historians put it at a more conservative one in four, and only in some parts of Texas.”
Austin points to The Lone Ranger, a fictional masked gunslinger whose character is widely believed to have been inspired by Bass Reeves. Austin says that Bass “…was a real-life black lawman who, legend has it, went through his entire career without being shot, despite bagging 3,000 outlaws…Hollywood took Bass’s story… flipped it, from an African-American man — six feet two inches… black hat, black horse, sidekick a Native American, always got his man — and turned it into The Lone Ranger.”
The historian says that “studies of modern day moviegoing consistently show that films with diverse casts tend to do better at the box office.” The Oakland Black Cowboy Association, stages an annual parade to raise awareness of the role of non-whites in settling the Old West. They point out that “people of all nationalities plied the great cattle trails and built the railroads.” The Magnificent Seven is about the redemption and restoration of a brutalized town; but there have been many other successful redemptive movies that deal with even broader and deeper themes of redemption.
Provident Films and Affirm Films have partnered with the Kendrick brothers to produce their fifth movie. Sony Pictures distributes the movie. “War Room is the ideal addition to our August slate, following in the footsteps of last year’s hit, Heaven is For Real…” said Rory Bruer, President, Worldwide Distribution for Sony Pictures.
Miracles from Heaven and Heaven is For Real are both movies about true Caucasian stories produced by African American producers. Miracles From Heaven features diverse notable actors and actresses: Jennifer Garner, Queen Latifah, and Eugenio Derbez.
Many highly successful redemptive movies have been produced and performed by racially diverse writers, producers, and cast. Other recent outstanding examples of movies that deal with redemption and reconciliation by racially diverse teams have included: Captive, Woodlawn, McFarland, and many more. These movies have been successful at the box office and have drawn racially diverse audiences, as they have promoted social healing coupled with eternal redemption.