The book, set in Kenya, follows a 19-year-old Black, White, and Jewish woman who travels to Egypt with a friend and ends up in Kenya where she falls in love with a Swahili Muslim man named Adé. After falling head-over-heels for each other, the couple plans to marry and reside in Kenya, but a growing civil war threatens to pull them apart.
The film, which many believe was inspired by Walker’s real life, will be produced by Bruce Cohen (American Beauty, Milk, Silver Linings Playbook), Jessica Leventhal, and Rebecca Walker.
The story seems like fodder for an interesting film, but the addition of Madonna as the director gives me pause.
Though I’m not completely opposed to White filmmakers telling Black women’s stories (see: how masterfully Steven Spielberg handled The Color Purple), Madonna’s past film credits do little to inspire confidence in her ability to handle a serious film (ehem, set in Africa).
Adé will be Madonna’s fourth time in the director’s chair (her third feature film), and the first since her 2011 effort, W.E., was lambasted by critics. Back then, Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post called W.E. a “gorgeous mess”, and veteran film critic Joe Williams declared Madonna “directed a potentially provocative story like a virgin.”
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 it remains to be seen if Madonna will turn Adé, into another “glorious mess” or if she’ll surprise critics and deliver a great film, I’m worried about leaving the telling of Black women’s stories in seemingly incompetent hands.
I mean, if someone outside of our sister circle is going to direct films about women of color, I’d prefer they were up to the task, not still trying to get their cinematic weight up.
What do you think? Who should tell Black women’s stories?