He’s been working with Leon Schuster since 1990 and he’s heard no stories of racism – until now, actor Alfred Ntombela tells YOU.
He’s starred in several of Leon’s films, including Mr Bones, Oh Shucks, I’m Gatvol and Shucks! Your Country Needs You and can’t understand streaming giant Showmax’s decision to remove all the Schuster films.
“Why is someone complaining that Leon is racist,” Alfred asks. “Why now? All these years everyone was going to the cinemas and watching the movies. What makes them change their mind in 2020?”
The answer is, of course, that attitudes and what is deemed acceptable have changed dramatically as the Black Lives Matter movement has a ripple effect around the globe.
Plenty of Leon’s films contain blackface – the deeply offensive practice in which white actors paint their faces to depict a character of colour. Although it has always been offensive, removing the content has now become a priority for broadcasters under serious pressure from audiences unimpressed with their inaction.
In the UK popular shows like Little Britain and Fawlty Towers have been removed, according to Sky News.
In the US, HBO Max temporarily pulled Gone with the Wind from its line-up, prompting criticism from actress and talk show host Whoopi Goldberg.
HBO says the film would feature a disclaimer about its “historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions”. The film, which was released in 1939, has several racist depictions which are now deemed unacceptable.
Speaking on The View, Whoopi said streaming services would, using this logic, then have to “pull all the Blaxpoitation movies because they’re not depicting us the right way”.
And, she added, “this is a very long list of films”.
Leon meanwhile is deeply unhappy about his films being removed from Showmax. It has affected his ability to release his newest project, Mr Bones 3, he tells YOU.
“We spent a year working on the film and now we have to go back to the drawing board.
“We were very excited about the project. We finished it two weeks ago and now that it’s complete, I want to cry.”
When asked about Rob van Vuuren’s apology to his fans for “having profited from blackface" in his Schuks! Your Country Needs You movie, Leon says that they don’t see things in the same way.
“I’m not going to criticise anybody for the way they see things,” he tells YOU. “I see things differently. If ever I hurt someone I would be the first one to say that I’m sorry, but no one has told me: “Leon, why do you do this?”
It’s expected more films depicting racist views will be removed from channels and streaming services.
“Films are time capsules, representing the social norms and values of their age,” film critic Stephen Aspeling says. “Bond is considered a reflection of the ever-changing male identity, yet he beat women. Breakfast at Tiffany's is marred by the racist depiction of Mr. Yunioshi.
Hattie McDaniel was segregated from her co-stars upon winning an Oscar for the contentious Gone with the Wind. The ugly, bigoted, and epic black-and-white film, A Birth of a Nation, glamorised the Ku Klux Klan, yet was the first movie screened at the White House.
“There are many examples of politically incorrect films that have become interwoven with pop culture, which weren't banned or censored and are still freely accessible today.”
Stephen believes filmmakers are now trying to be more sensitive as the audience becomes more socially conscious. As the audience evolves with the times issues and norms that are accepted now, could be exposed in the future as being unacceptable.
“It seems pop culture is currently undergoing an audit,” he adds. “Cancel culture is forcing broadcasters to take more responsibility for their content, which is a good thing. But it's also creating scenarios where they can overcorrect.
“Right now, there’s a strong focus on racial inequality, sexual misconduct, and social prejudice, but in a decade it may be around gratuitous sex or gun violence. What society deems acceptable is in a constant state of flux, but with each subsequent sift we seem to be getting closer to a more balanced, fair, and well-represented view.”
EXTRA SOURCES: ETCANADA.COM, THE GUARDIAN, THE VIEW
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