Ava DuVernay, one of the most gifted and significant filmmakers of today, has been sharing her warm and non-intimidating classic film knowledge on TCM (Turner Classic Movies.). I write "non-intimidating" because I've heard some male film critics and historians get on TV or radio and when they begin discussing some classic films, they sound as engaging as a college textbook. You wonder if they're trying to bring viewers and listeners into an appreciation of the film arts or if they're trying to impress their fellow high-tone male film critics and historians. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay (of the Oscar-nominated SELMA and Netflix's blistering, brilliant WHEN THEY SEE US) is for the people and bringing them into an appreciation of the film arts.
Some of the work that got me the New York job offer included an interview of Ben Kingsley, the screen newcomer in GANDHI. My interviews of Kingsley and GANDHI director Richard Attenborough aired nationally a week before they won Oscars for the film.
The 1982 junket, the studio's promotional weekend of press interviews, took place at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. I was invited to it. In those days, the number of other Black correspondents doing entertainment interviews for TV was always small. We'd make a point of seeking each other out at the screenings or the post-screening dinner. After the GANDHI preview screening, I was chatting with two other Black men covering it for TV. We were all stunned by Ben Kingsley's brilliance. It didn't seem like a performance. It seemed like Mahatma Gandhi himself had resurrected. That's how remarkable Kingsley, born Krishna Pandit Bhanji, was in performance and look. One of the guys said, "If he wins Best Actor, and he should, I sure hope he can get work afterwards."
The lack of opportunities for actors of color and the lack of inclusion of film critics of color have been hot issues in the entertainment industry for the last three years.
Sir Ben Kingsley won the Oscar for Best Actor. GANDHI won for Best Picture. Kingsley went on to get Oscar nominations for BUGSY (1991), SEXY BEAST (2000) and HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (2003). Bravo, Ben!
He chose to direct the film version of the huge Broadway musical hit, A CHORUS LINE. He chose Michael Douglas to play the choreographer/director. Did you see the movie?
If Mahatma Gandhi had been alive, he would've gone on another fast to make sure something like that never, ever happened again to a hit Broadway musical.
Watch Ava DuVernay and Ben Mankiewicz present GANDHI Saturday July 13th at 8p ET/5p PT on TCM.
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