Does Denzel Washington present only an idealised, impossibly noble image of black America?
1 Heavyweight contender
DENZEL WASHINGTON received an Oscar nomination with the help of director NORMAN JEWISON for his portrayal of Rubin Carter in The Hurricane. But he's been accused of representing only an idealised image of black America.
Words: Hannah McGiIl
The actor least likely to be found in bed with a sack of cocaine and a couple of schoolgirls is as composed and elegant in person as one would expect. It‘s clear that both Den/cl Washington and director Norman Jewison are glowing with pride about The Hurricane. a biopic of boxer Rubin Carter. jailed in 1967 for a triple shotgun murder in a drugstore in Paterson. New Jersey. After a tortuous courtroom battle (and a legendary protest song by Bob Dylan). (‘arter was finally freed in 1988.
The core of his network of friends and supporters was a young black man named Lesra Martin. who was living in (‘anada when he first read and was inspired by Carter‘s autobiography. Along with a group of ('anadian friends. Martin dedicated himself to (‘arter‘s case. and their struggle is central to .lewison‘s version of events.
Washington and Jewison both became intrigued by the story some time ago. 'l‘m a storyteller. so like any director I‘m always looking for a strong. rich story.~ .lewison explains. Washington. meanwhile. initially intended to produce a film on the subject. ‘I met Rubin and his (‘anadian friends in 1992. and was very much interested in the possibilities. as a producer or as an actor.‘ He was surprised by the man
22 THE “ST 30 Mai 13 Apr 2000
'I was looking for the angry man. But Rubin says he ‘1 wouldn't change a thing, because everything that's happened to him has made him the person he is today.’
he would eventually portray. ‘The pictures of him show a strong and angry man —~ with reason to be. But that‘s not who I met. I was very surprised; I was looking for the angry man. But Rubin says he wouldn‘t change a thing. because everything that’s happened to him has made him the person he is today.~
Rubin might not want to change a thing. but the film does twist historical fact. which has resulted in no small amount of controversy. .lewison and Washington are aware that many would still question (‘arter's innocence. but they‘re quick to defend a film that like any number of biopics before it — resolves numerous shades of grey into comforting black and
white. In their hands the (‘arter tale becomes a myth '
about human dignity and grace: Jewison‘s chief concern was not the facts of the case. but the bond between (‘arter and his young disciple Lesra. ‘You could spend the whole film talking about the tremendous legal battle that took place over a period of years. but it‘s really the emotional story between l.esra and Rubin that I think is at the heart of it.’ he argues.
Washington came close to winning Best Actor ()scar. That would have made him only the second black actor to take home Academy laurels for leading role. He’s conscious of his illustrious predecessor‘s legacy. saying. ‘I would love to have had the opportunity to talk about Sidney Poitier. up on that stage.‘ However. a problem that affected Poitier also looms over Washington. Poitier was accused of presenting only an idealised. impossibly noble image of black America. Esquire magazine recently asked whether Washington. too, was becoming ‘hemmed in by nobility.” ‘I don‘t think so.‘ he responds. “l‘lu' Bone (‘ullecmr was a very different part. and l have some scripts on my desk which are also quite different.‘
l‘or all its weaknesses. 'l'lte Hurrime does provide conclusive evidence of Washington's heavyweight talent. It only remains for him to shake off that halo.
The Hurricane opens Fri 7 Apr. See review.
Rough cuts Lights, camera, action. . .
EDINBURGH'S CAMEO CINEMA hosts the first of its annual Jim Poole Short Film Awards on Sun 2 April from 1.30pm. The Award, launched at The Cameo's 50th birthday celebration a year ago and named after the former owner and cinema entrepreneur, recognises new and ; outstanding short filmmaking in Scotland. Six finalists have been selected by a panel of judges including Scene By Scene's Mark : Cousins, Total Film associate editor Alan Morrison (formerly of The List) and filmmaker Morag McKinnon. The films - Paul Carroll's 10CC, Rachel Bevan Baker’s Beelines, Joern Utliken's My Job, Andrew Coats' The ‘ Insidious Dr Fumanchu, Andrew Pennycuick's White and Adrian J. McDowall's Who’s My Favourite
Girl? - will be screened at the event, where the prize winner will be announced. Tickets for the event, which also includes a preview of Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog, are available from The Cameo box office.
G-MAC IS THE snappy new acronym for what used to be The Glasgow Film And Video Workshop, which has now been relaunched as the Glasgow Media Access Centre. The facility has been the long time provider of training and equipment to aspiring filmmakers and over the years has helped launch the careers ; of luminaries such as Peter Mullan and Aileen Ritchie. To mark the launch, G-MAC will run a series of masterclasses by directors, writers and producers throughout the year. For more details phone 0141 553 2620, email: G-MAC@cheapnet.com or check out their website at: www.G-MAC.com
THE NEW BATCH of Tartan Shorts has been announced. The three films currently in production for Scotland's premiere short filmmaking scheme, funded by Scottish Screen and BBC Scotland and showcased at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, are: Morag McKinnon and Hannah Lewis' Birthday, Ewan Morrison and Paul Welsh's The Lovers and Andy Goddard and Becky Lloyd's Rice Paper Wars.
Jim Jarmusch joins (in spirit) the finalist of The Cameo Short Film Award with a screening of Ghost Dog