A Look At Industry Diversity Amidst The Little Mermaid Backlash And Amazon Prime Video Signing Its First Deal With An African Filmmaker

Amazon Prime Video has signed its first-ever deal with an African filmmaker to create and develop films and TV series’. The deal with Nigerian filmmaker and producer Jáde Osiberu spans three years and will be exclusive to the streaming platform.

Osiberu will develop productions through her company Greoh Studios. She is known as one of Nigeria’s most successful filmmakers with credits that include Isoken, Sugar Rush, and Giddi Up.

“I am overjoyed with this collaboration and already feel like I’m part of the Prime Video and Amazon Studios family,” said Osiberu. “It will be an absolute pleasure to introduce Prime Video audiences to the most exciting talent and storylines Nigeria has to offer, and I’m looking forward to continuing to help elevate Nigerian stories on a global scale.”

Amazon reportedly sees Nigeria as a key international growth area and is pushing to expand in the market at a rapid pace. The platform recently commissioned a Nigerian local version of its hit series LOL: Last One Laughing which stars actor Bright Okpocha aka Basketmouth.

Recently screened at the 47th Toronto Film Festival, Osiberu’s latest project Gangs of Nigeria – which she is credited as the creator, writer, director, and producer – received strong reviews and will launch on Prime Video later this year as the streamer’s first exclusive Nigerian original project. The piece stars Tobi Bakre, Adesua Etomi-Wellington, and Chiké.

“Collaborating with visionary and respected talent is foundational to delivering a curated and elevated slate of Originals for our local audiences in Nigeria,” said Ned Mitchell, head of African and Middle East Originals, Prime Video and Amazon Studios. “It is a joy to announce our collaboration with Jáde Osiberu in a deal that is the first of its kind for us in Africa. We are constantly delighted by Jáde’s talent for weaving her visual magic and voice into heart-stopping storytelling and characters that sear into our memories, and together we will create authentically African hits for our Prime Video customers worldwide.”

Insight on industry diversity

Speaking at the Toronto Film Festival, Franklin Leonard, CEO and founder of The Black List, stated that Hollywood was the least diverse business in the United States.

Leonard spoke at the TIFF panel called Microsession: Underrepresented to Unstoppable. He was joined by Parks and Recreation actress Natalie Morales.

Leonard and Morales addressed the damage consistent and biased reputation does to racialized communities across the U.S., and how diversity wasn’t just important for equity and equality but also for social development and education, plus increased revenue.

Leonard’s comments on Hollywood noted that though there has been some small growth, overall value has not been ascertained. “It’s less diverse than oil and gas, less diverse than finance, less diverse than Donald Trump’s cabinet was,” he said.

“Why is it easy for people to chant ‘build the wall’? Why is it easy for people to embrace the idea of a type of Muslim man?” he continued. “It’s because the people that have exposure to those communities get them through our media, and the exposure that they get is pretty narrow and non-representative of those communities as a whole.”

The monolithic nature of certain communities – outside of those of European descent – negatively perpetuated by media has been noted as a direct byproduct of racist, segregationist policies that haunt the history of the U.S. and the wider western world. With there being a lack of healthy dialogue and communication between different ethnic groups, predicated often by location, and economic groupings – once again inherited from the aforementioned policies – people have looked to media for education and understanding. What they have received back has statistically been biased viewpoints and one-sided narratives.

“There’s three archetypes [for a Latina actress]. It’s either the maid, the sexy seductress, or the New York Rican and tough girl,” she said. “And I never really fit into any of those rules. They felt inauthentic. Not that those people don’t exist… but they’ve been so grossly overrepresented, as far as Latina women and Latino people are concerned, that there’s so much more out there.”

“It’s great that the directors and writers and showrunners are looking a little different now but it’s not enough. It’s not going to make a dent in the entire business,” Morales said. “And, frankly, I think we’re going lose out because movies and TV are already less popular with TikTok and YouTube, because people that are creating content are not commanded and run by CEOs.”

Leonard continued, after stating that Hollywood “loses $10 billion annually”, due to anti-black bias and that the industry has the chance to make much more money. “Even if you can’t wrap your head around doing good for doing good sake, do it for the wrong reasons,” he said.

Leonard concluded, “Diversity alone will not solve all the problems that we have, but it just happens to be the least expensive, and fastest way for us to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace,” he said. “The results are more movies from more diverse places, and better economic outcomes.”

The hypocrisy of character representation is still rife, as is noted by the notorious backlash that Little Mermaid has received for having a brown-skinned female in the titular role. An ironic turn of events as there is a proven lengthy history of white actors playing roles historically of dark-skinned actors. Specifically that of ancient Egyptians, with Egypt at the time representing pre-colonial Africa that was absent large swathes of any European or Arabic influence.

With CNN deciding to post a rebuttal to the racist arguments that were made in regards to the Little Mermaid, from a noteworthy part of society, it once again proves Hollywood must be diligent and action-oriented in shifting the narrow-minded viewpoints around diversity.

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