Why We Hope The Rihanna & Lupita Nyong'o Movie Is Taken Seriously

Photo: Billy Farrell/BFA/REX/Shutterstock.
The collective powers that be on Black Twitter and Tumblr are still patting themselves on the back after the movie of their dreams has come to fruition simply because they asked for it. What started as normal online commentary on a yaaass-worthy picture of Lupita Nyong’o and Rihanna sitting next to each other at a fashion show has become the theme of a 2019 Netflix film starring the two celebrities, directed by Ava Duvernay, and written by Issa Rae. It’s a day of celebration and Black joy if there ever was one. The story has already been picked up by major media outlets and Forbes has offered a breakdown of why this is a best-case situation for Netflix.
I’m excited, too, because I think it’s going to be one hell of a movie. Issa Rae is responsible for the Awkward Black Girl franchise and one of the best shows on HBO, Insecure. To call Ava DuVernay’s directorial résumé impressive would be an understatement. Lupita Nyong’o is already an Academy Award winner. And Rihanna is also proving herself to be a capable actress. This film has a lot going for it and it hasn’t even been written yet.
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However, I can already imagine the ways and reasons that it may not be taken seriously by elite film crowds. The tone of the Forbes piece seems to imply that the film isn’t likely to perform well at the box office, so being picked up by Netflix — a platform that doesn’t “care” about the performance of individual projects — was a good move. It may feel easy to dismiss a film that's come to be based on what was essentially a meme (we live in a culture that still can’t make up its mind about whether it should respect social media). But that would be unfair to the brilliant minds who have signed onto this project.
Not to mention the fact that Black girl-led feature films are still scarce. Even if, by some horrific consequence, the film doesn’t live up to our expectations, we should be grateful that it ever existed in the first place. Finding inspiration in their Twitter mentions isn’t kitchy in 2017; it’s visionary. This is exactly the kind of experimentation we need to see in filmmaking right now. Hopefully, Netflix will also acquire whatever James Franco has dreamt up for the infamous Twitter story of Zola, her hoe-ism, and that fateful trip to Florida. I'm here for it; we all should be.
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