Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Where are the blacks in Woody Allen's films?

Watching Part 2 of the PBS American Masters’ documentary Woody Allen on Monday night and seeing Chris Rock interviewed about Allen, it made me think: where are the black actors in Woody Allen’s films? I really can’t think of any. Allen has made more than 40 movies – about one a year – and his filmography is about as much a cross-section of Americana as you will get. So it’s rather surprising that there have been no – or very few (as I say I can’t think of any) – black actors in his movies. Now I’m not one for saying there should be black actors simply for the sake of racial inclusion. That would be racist. But this being contemporary America and Allen considered to be a big liberal it does beg the question, considering the amount of black talent out there. Is it an oversight? Is it simply because Allen’s world is rather narrow (I.e., Upper East Side Manhattanites)? Is it because he’s in a perpetual bubble and oblivious to the wider world around him, which seems possible, based on his neurotic and self-absorbed personality? In any case, an interesting question.


  1. Chiwetel Ejiofor in Melinda & Melinda.

    Hazelle Goodman in Deconstructing Harry.

    Annie Joe Edwards in Bullets Over Broadway and The Purple Rose Of Cairo.

    Too many to mention in Sweet & Lowdown.

    And the list goes on.

    It's on par with asking "Where are the Jews in Spike Lee's films"?

    Chris Rock adores Woody and rightfully so. Chris also proves just how hard it is to go from being a revered standup comic genius to filmmaker of any note. He freely admits that I Think I Love My Wife is him trying to make a Woody film (and failing). Look for him and fellow Woody pupil Julie Delpy to give the Woody homage another go in 2 Days In New York (which follows up the overtly Woody homage of 2 Days In Paris).

  2. I'm finding this post way too late (almost two years too late), granted, but I have to take major exception to the comment above by Anonymous. Chris Rock can love Woody Allen films all he likes, but it's inexcusable how rarely black actors appear in Allen's movies. He makes a ton of films (an average of one every year), yet black actors are almost entirely absent. Even in Sweet & Lowdown, none of the lead actors are black. (And for whatever it's worth, I'm a white guy.) The great Chiwetel Ejiofor was just one member of a large ensemble. Spike Lee has cast a TON more white actors (with several appearing even in Lee's more personal, predominantly black culture-oriented films) than Allen has cast black actors. It's not even remotely close. There are many things to like about Allen's films, but his myopia in casting black actors is unquestionably appalling.