Black filmmakers have made a lot of progress towards improving its quality over 2011. Films like I Will Follow, Mooz-lum, and Jumping the Broom have been well received by audiences and critics. In their limited releases they’ve provided a diverse array of Black experiences onscreen and some much needed diversity from formulaic ghetto comedies and poorly made Tyler Perry films.
But now a storm brews over these bright spots in Black Cinema. Dark Tide, A shark thriller starring Halle Berry is making the rounds at trade shows and looking for distribution. After reviewing the trailer, I can honestly say it’s a candidate for one of the worst films of the year.
Dark Tide is a poorly made film with a jumbled mess of a story, horrible cinematography, choppy editing and terrible acting. The production standards on this film are so bad they make Tyler Perry films look like they’re well-crafted. And I didn’t think it was possible to surpass Tyler Perry in making a bad film. Yeah, the quality is THAT BAD. Seriously, I’d have to say Dark Tide is the kind of film that Crow and Tom Servo would have a blast roasting on MST3K if it were on the air.
Now if Dark Tide were just some ordinary B-Flick starring some no-name actress I wouldn’t care. But Halle Berry is an Academy Award winning star whose poor business decisions affect other brothers and sisters in the entertainment industry. Her last three films flopped at the box-office, and a fourth Frankie & Alice was so bad it only made $7,000 at the box office.
The long-term impact of Dark Tide could cast a cloud over Black cinema for years. If this poorly made film does receive theatrical distribution, it could derail all the hard work numerous small independent Black filmmakers are making towards improving the quality of Black cinema this year. And if Dark Tide fails at the box-office, it could cause a chain reaction on the business side of Black Cinema that’s just starting to recover from a disastrous 2010.
Long-term Dark Tide’s failure could cost independent black filmmakers financing they desperately need to produce their films. Getting financing from investors for Black films is tough, and it only gets tougher when a Black film fails. When an Academy Award winning actress like Halle Berry stars in her fifth flop it deters investors from investing money and resources in other Black film projects. That keeps filmmakers with better quality stories from reaching the marketplace.
Dark Tide’s potential failure could also prevent now completed Black films from getting distribution to theaters. Several quality black films touring the festival circuit are in the process of getting bought by a studio. Financially the difference between a theatrical release and direct-to-video can be millions of dollars for these projects. Films slated for theatrical release often get promotion budgets, studio support, and exposure to a larger audience.
However, direct-to-video distribution can stigmatize a quality film and reduce its exposure to obscurity. Worse, Direct-to-video is often associated with low-budget poorly made films and can discourage buyers from purchasing what could be a quality Black film, and prevent it from being profitable.
Long-term Dark Tide’s failure could prevent black films from getting greenlit in the future. Studio executives and production company executives are already apprehensive about making films with African-American casts and African-American leads. There are some executives taking risks on greenlighting Black films again, and buying screenplays for Black films. All it takes is the failure of one film at the box-office to stall these projects in limbo once again. When studios and production companies lose money on an African-American film, they don’t make other films with African-American casts or lead performers.
Dark Tide cost $15 million to make, but the long-term damage from this film’s release could cost the Black film industry millions more and put thousands of brothers and sisters out of work. Black filmmakers have made so much progress towards improving Black Cinema this year and I’d hate to see that change of course run aground by Halle Berry and Dark Tide.