I don’t know if you know this, but Regina King is kind of a big deal.
The Oscar-winning actress is specifically a big deal at the 2020 Venice Film Festival having made history as the first Black woman director to have a film selected for the prestige festival with her feature directorial debut, One Night in Miami.
One Night in Miami is a dramatized account (by former journalist Kemp Powers) based on the real-life 1964 meeting between Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali (when he was still Cassius Clay), Sam Cooke and Jim Brown. The film stars Eli Goree (Cassius Clay), Aldis Hodge (Jim Brown), Leslie Odom Jr. (Sam Cooke), and Kingsley Ben-Adir (Malcolm X).
But, back to this history-making achievement. Yes, we’re still doing firsts in 2020.
In addition to Black folks still making history in this current time (especially at a film festival that’s almost 80 years old), both this milestone and the attention the film is getting place an extremely heavy burden on King. During a virtual press conference for the film, King spoke out on the sobering fact that her film could either “open doors or close doors for more Black female directors” based on whether it succeeds or fails.
“Unfortunately, across the world, that’s how things seem to work. One woman gets a shot and if she does not succeed, it shuts things down for years until someone else gets a shot,” she added.
It certainly is a unique burden to carry for Black or female directors (or both), while white male directors in Hollywood get chance after chance to “fail up.” It’s why we have stories like Gina Prince-Bythewood, who had to over-prove her ability with an extensive resume in order to direct an action film (The Old Guard) while Colin Trevorrow had one modest indie film under his belt (Safety Not Guaranteed) before Steven Spielberg handpicked him to direct the mega-franchise film, Jurassic World.
“I am so grateful for our film to be a part of the festival but I really, really want it to perform well. There’s so much talent out there—so many talented directors—so if One Night in Miami gets it done here, you’ll get to see a lot more of us,” King noted.
King already has a good chunk of TV director credits, helming episodes of Scandal, Being Mary Jane, This Is Us, Insecure and more. King’s directorial debut at Venice has officially thrown her and her film into the Oscar race, with a possibility that she could become the first Black woman to be nominated under the Best Director category at the Oscars. Yeah...more firsts! With Selma, Ava DuVernay became the first Black woman director to have a film nominated for an Oscar period (under the Best Picture category), but she was infamously snubbed under the Director category.
Though the pandemic-based pushback of the 2021 Academy Awards (it’s not happening until April) means this could be a bit of an unpredictable awards season, the Venice Film Festival has been known to kick off the conversation for serious Oscar contenders.
Given the early buzz at Venice, here’s hoping One Night in Miami turns into many successful nights during awards season for King and her cast and crew.