Film Director Gina Prince-Blythewood has been around long enough to understand the rigorous nature of Hollywood. Despite being responsible for 2000’s cult hit Love and Basketball starring Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan, Prince-Blythewood still has to fight for the right to tell the kind of stories that inspire and potentially transform lives.
Her latest offering, Beyond the Lights, almost didn’t see the light of day, due to push back from the studio who wanted certain adjustments made to the leading man. The film, which stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Noni, as a bi-racial pop star is a love story set against the background of complex relationships and the fight for mental and emotional survival in a world wrought with inconsistencies. Prince-Blythwood was told that she had to get a white actor to play opposite the character of Noni in order to get the greenlight. But the passionate filmmaker refused to give in and insisted on her choice of Nate Parker. The gamble paid off but it was also a draining process that reminded her why Beyond the Lights was such an important film to make.
Price-Blythewood confesses that the reason why she doesn’t work consistently has nothing to do with lack of opportunity or script offers. She gets her fair amount of pitches but they are not the kinds of stories she wants to tell. She is drawn more to the tales that highlight people of color, particularly women. And because of that preference, she has to accept the reality that comes with focusing on minority stories. Movies like that don’t typically get executives excited and usually requires a long waiting period, which explains why it took her latest gem five years to make.
But Prince-blythewood is not discouraged, and those are the life lessons she hopes audiences will get from her new film. Noni, the beautiful singer, who seems to have it all is struggling to find out who she is amidst all the craziness including a domineering mother who she is constantly butting heads with. She finds love with a man who unexpectedly comes into her life but she still needs to authenticate her truest self.
Prince-Blythewood also battles similar issues as a player in an industry that constantly tries to stifle her ability to produce films that feature black actors as the main characters. Through it all she refuses to be silenced, and instead strives to continue her quest to give a voice to the people who always seem to be overlooked.
Her dedication comes at a price but Prince-Blythewood and are her producing partner, Reggie Blythewood are unfazed and look forward to the challenge.
Beyond the Lights opens nationwide on November 14.