Mansa Platform Bows New Black Culture FAST Channels

Mansa, the free, ad-supported streaming platform centered on delivering Black culture, has recently launched a slate of new FAST channels.

The recently launched channels feature a diverse collection of studio and independent films, scripted and unscripted series, as well as documentaries and specials that authentically represent global Black culture, according to Mansa.

The channels include: 

 

Mansa was founded by actors/filmmakers David Oywelowo, Chiké Okonkwo and Nate Parker, as well as tech entrepreneur and film financier Zak Tanjeloff.

HBO and Max to Bow Doc ‘Donyale Luna: Supermodel’ Sept. 13

The HBO Original documentary film Donyale Luna: Supermodel debuts Sept. 13 on HBO and will be available to stream on Max.
 
Directed by Nailah Jefferson (HBO’s “Plaquemines”), the documentary chronicles the life and career of Donyale Luna, the first Black model to grace the cover of both Harper’s Bazaar (1965) and Vogue (1966). Breaking barriers in the fashion industry, challenging the prevailing ideals of beauty, and influencing culture in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Luna remains largely unknown despite her stunning body of work and her collaborations with some of the foremost fashion photographers of the 20th century.
 
Donyale Luna: Supermodel details the complex backstory of Luna, born Peggy Ann Freeman in Detroit, Mich., who forged her own destiny by creating an otherworldly persona — a larger-than-life character with an exotic accent and a mysterious aura. Echoing Luna’s unique style, the film highlights the story of someone who refused to be boxed in by the conventions of the time, and who had great wounds from her difficult childhood and the racism she encountered in her profession. After working in New York with famed photographer Richard Avedon and collaborating with Andy Warhol, Luna made her way to London in the 1960s, feeling more at home in Europe, where she also worked with Salvador Dali. She later met and married photographer Luigi Cazzaniga in Italy, where she explored her true love, avant-garde theater and film, before her early death at the age of 33. In revealing moments in the film, Luna’s daughter Dream Cazzaniga reads from Luna’s journals and a poetic portrait emerges of one of the first Black models to change the beauty paradigm, breaking down the doors of the white modeling world, inspiring generations to come, and leaving a far-reaching legacy. 

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Contextualizing Luna’s influence on the fashion and art world in the 1960s are Luna’s daughter Dream Cazzaniga; her husband Luigi Cazzaniga; supermodels Beverly Johnson and Pat Cleveland; Vogue global editor-at-large Hamish Bowles; photographers David Bailey, David McCabe and Gideon Lewin; fashion designers Zandra Rhodes and Aurora James; art history professor Dr. Richard J. Powell; former Essence editor-in-chief Constance White; former president of Next Model MGMT Kyle Hagler; and friends and family members.

Max Launches OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network Hub

Max has launched the OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network hub on its platform in the United States.

“Our mission at OWN is to deliver programming that serves the female Black viewer, and this cross-portfolio collaboration presents a terrific opportunity to expand on that mission,” Tina Perry, president of OWN, said in a statement. “OWN’s premium content will not only be available to our current fans, but it will also be available to a whole new audience that can easily access our programming with this dedicated hub.” 

The OWN hub can be found on the Max platform within the “Brand Spotlight” carousel on the home page among brands in the Warner Bros. Discovery portfolio, including HBO, Max Originals and DC. 

MAX also features thematic curations of content. Within the OWN hub, these curations include “Black Voices” and “More Picks for OWN Fans.” Currently, the “Black Voices” curation, for example, has HBO Originals “Insecure,” “Euphoria,” and “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” Warner Bros. Television’s “Abbott Elementary,” Adult Swim’s “The Boondocks,” and Cartoon Network’s “Steven Universe.”

“OWN’s incredible and diverse programming adds power and depth to Max’s roster of brands, bringing a variety of series and genres to an unparalleled lineup within our Brand Spotlight such as HBO, Max Originals, Discovery, Magnolia Network, and so much more,” said Lisa Holme, SVP of global content strategy, analysis, merchandising and podcasts. 

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The OWN hub on Max currently includes: 

“All Rise,” Seasons 1 – 3
“All the Single Ladies,” Season 1
“Behind Every Man,” Season 1
“Belle Collective,” Season 2
“Dark Nights in the City,” Season 1
“David Makes Man,” Season 2
“Family or Fiance,” Seasons 1 – 3
“Iyanla: Fix My Life,” Seasons 3 – 8
“Ladies Who List: Atlanta,” Season 1
“Love & Marriage: DC,” Seasons 1 – 2
“Love & Marriage: Huntsville,” Seasons 1 – 6
“Marry Me Now,” Season 1
“Oprah’s Master Class,” Season 6
“OWN Spotlight: Honoring Our Kings”
“OWN Spotlight: Oprah and 100 Black Fathers”
“OWN Spotlight: Oprah and Quinta Brunson, Abbott Elementary”
“OWN Spotlight: They Call Me Dad,” Season 1
“Put a Ring on It,” Seasons 1- 4
“Ready to Love” Season 1 – 7
“Shattered Hearts” Season 1
“Speak Sis,” Season 1
“Super Soul,” Season 1
“Super Soul Sunday,” Seasons 1, 2, 4, 5 & 9
“The Great Soul Food Cook-Off,” Season 1
“The Legacy of Black Wall Street,” Season 1

FilmRise Acquires Streaming Rights to Content from Urban Home Entertainment

New York-based film and TV studio and streaming network FilmRise has inked a North American distribution deal with African-American content distributor Urban Home Entertainment for its FilmRise Streaming Network.

The agreement gives FilmRise AVOD and FAST rights for its apps and FAST channels in the United States and Canada.

The deal includes more than 60 films and series, including eight volumes of “Laffapalooza,” hosted by Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx and featuring stand-up comedy acts such as Tracey Morgan, David Alan Grier, Sherri Shepherd, Loni Love, Kevin Hart, Cedric the Entertainer and Steve Harvey.

“As we continue to grow our global streaming network it has been a major priority for us to super-serve diverse audiences,” Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-productions at FilmRise, said in a statement. “Urban Home Entertainment’s titles are high-quality programming starring incredible talent which we are excited to feature on multiple channels within the FilmRise Streaming Network, including our flagship FilmRise app, as well as FilmRise Comedy, FilmRise Black TV, FilmRise Free Movies apps and FAST channels and more, giving the content much real estate and discoverability.”

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“Having our programs on the FilmRise Streaming Network in the U.S. and Canada allows us to offer our titles for free to a wide and diverse audience,” Barrett Dungey, CEO of Urban Home Entertainment, said in a statement.  “We are impressed with the vast reach FilmRise has maintained and continues to expand.”

Other titles featured in the deal include “Streets,” starring rapper Meek Mill; the 2010 Harlem International Film Festival Best Film winner Anchor Baby; “Fatima’s Revenge,” produced by Gerald Barclay (“Wu: The Story of the Wu Tang Clan”); “Big Black Comedy,” volumes one through five; “A Beautiful Soul”; “Breathe”; and “The Urbans”; among other titles.

Black Audiences Increasingly Cutting the Cord

Black audiences are increasingly opting to cut the cord, a new Horowitz study finds.

Though black households were shedding cable at a slower rate as compared to the overall market, Horowitz data shows that over the past four years, MVPD penetration among black households has declined from 88% in 2017 to 61% in 2021 — a 25% decrease. Among black consumers who are cord-cutters, half have cut the cord within the past three years.

In 2018, 69% of black households were “content omnivores,” a term Horowitz coined in 2017 to describe households who are the hungriest for content and therefore pay for traditional MVPD services as well as a variety of streaming services to access all the content they want.

In this year’s study, only one in three (33%) black households are content omnivores; almost four in 10 rely on combinations of streaming services, digital antennas, and/or vMVPD services to access TV content (one in four rely only on traditional MVPD services and do not stream at all).

Income and age play important roles in platform choices, according to Horowitz. Black households with lower incomes are less likely to subscribe to traditional MVPDs, and 80% of black cord-cutters believe that they are saving at least a decent amount after having done so. Older black TV content viewers are more likely to subscribe to MVPD services (65% among those 50-plus) and to use antennas (28% among those 50-plus) than younger black TV content viewers (57% and 12% each, respectively).

Despite shedding the MVPD cord, there is still interest in many of the features of the multichannel experience. For example, 64% of black TV content viewers say that they enjoy flipping through channels, and the study finds that black TV content viewers still highly value live television, local broadcast news, national news and sports content — the mainstays of traditional providers.

Culturally relevant content is also in high demand among black audiences, with 60% of black consumers watching content geared to black audiences at least weekly.

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“Horowitz has long asserted that black consumers are some of the best customers for entertainment content and services,” Adriana Waterston, Horowitz’s chief revenue officer and insights and strategy lead, said in a statement. “These audiences should not be taken for granted. Many companies are late to the game, only now focusing on the black audience in the context of BLM and new diversity mandates. To not be viewed as simply pandering, companies who hope to serve the black audience must make meaningful and sustained investments, not just in programming and marketing, but in community outreach and support, in order to earn this valuable audience’s trust.”

Redbox Entertainment Partners With Command Films on Multi-Picture Slate

Redbox Entertainment, the retailer’s original entertainment division, is partnering with Command Films, the new production company founded by writer and executive producer Charles Murray and veteran film executive Marc Danon, on a multi-picture slate of programming.

Redbox will distribute six films over the next three years that support Command’s mandate to create content amplifying Black voices and experiences within commercial genres through the partnership.

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“Redbox reaches diverse and vibrant communities across America, and our commitment to improving systemic inequalities through representation provides the ideal platform to elevate underrepresented voices and the art they create,” Galen Smith, CEO of Redbox, said in a statement. “When Marc introduced the plan he and Charles put forth with Command, I knew the partnership would provide an opportunity to develop films that entertain and inspire audiences while giving them ways to connect through stories that move them.”

Charles Murray

Murray has been a writer, producer and director for more than 20 years. He has worked with such companies as Lucasfilm and Marvel and has written and executive produced major television series, including “Sons of Anarchy,” “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Luke Cage.” Most recently, Murray served as showrunner for the Netflix limited series “True Story,” starring Kevin Hart and Wesley Snipes, and set up “Blood Brothers,” an eight-episode limited series with A&E Studios that chronicles the friendship between Muhammed Ali and Malcolm X.

Danon, who also serves as head of original content for Redbox Entertainment, is a programming veteran who has acquired critical and commercial hits, including John Wick, Dear White People and Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain.

“Independent filmmaking has been my North Star all my life,” Murray said in a statement. “At the heart of this partnership lies a mutual passion and deep respect for Black creatives and the desire to ensure their exceptional talent is felt within the industry.”

“Galen has made it clear that Redbox is committed to championing content that brings diverse perspectives to the world,” Danon said in a statement. “His call to action aligned perfectly with what Charles and I have been developing over the past few years — stories that entertain, educate, and inspire, one film at a time.”

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The strategic partnership is the newest development in Redbox’s expansion into original content and distribution in theaters, On Demand, and through Redbox kiosks. Since its inception in 2019, Redbox Entertainment has released more than 21 films, including Capone (Tom Hardy), Shadow in the Cloud (Chloë Grace Moretz and Nick Robinson), SAS: Red Notice (Sam Heughan and Ruby Rose) and American Traitor: The True Story of Axis Sally (Al Pacino and Meadow Williams). Last year, Redbox announced a partnership with Basil Iwanyk to form Asbury Park Pictures, launching a slate of 12 action features. The venture’s first production Black Site recently wrapped production.

Study: Movie Viewers Want to See Themselves Reflected Onscreen

Movie viewers want to see themselves reflected on the screen, according to a new study from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and data analytics firm Movio.

Moviegoers being able to identify with the characters in a movie drives their attendance behavior, the study found. When there are characters of a certain cohort (group), this is likely to drive more moviegoers of the same cohort. The analysis shows across all films that the leading characters and audience are generally 50-50 female/male. In 2007, only 23% of leads were female, and in 2017 30% were female. The more female characters, the more female the audience, and the more male characters, the more male the audience. The effect of genre on the percentage of leading characters male versus female was clear, according to the study authors, as well as the corresponding gender split in the attending audience. Action movies, most notably, regularly have well over 50% male characters and well over 50% (and frequently over 60%) male audience.

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The opportunity for Black, Asian and Latinx moviegoers to see themselves represented on screen is significantly lower than for white moviegoers. Several movies tally 100% of their characters as White with the majority having over 50% white characters. For the remaining four race/ethnicity groups, the majority of films are clustered at below 25% (if not 0%) representation on screen. This is significant considering people of color (Black, Asian and Latinx) comprise 37.8% of the U.S. population, the study noted. Across the board in terms of ethnicity, gender, and age, the negative portrayal of characters from a certain group has little bearing on whether or not that group attends a movie. However, particularly with regard to race and ethnicity, the analysis again shows how minority audiences are given substantially fewer opportunities to even see characters from their racial or ethnic group on the screen, no less characters from their racial or ethnic group who are also not depicted negatively.

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The research was also able to determine what demographic cohorts are being represented in films geared primarily towards children. Both male and female leads are roughly evenly split in terms of on-screen representation for films with more child visits, suggesting that young moviegoers are getting a fairly balanced representation of genders in their on-screen media consumption. However, when looking at race/ethnicity there is less of a balanced representation. White characters are very well represented in children’s films, with the majority of films having 50% or more White characters represented on screen. There is not the same level of representation for Asian or Latinx characters in children’s media as the vast majority of films moviegoers are bringing their children to see have no representation of these cohorts. For example, of all the titles analyzed, only six titles had over 18% Latinx characters, despite Latinx comprising 18.4% of the U.S. population.

Data scientists at both organizations examined the following questions for the “I Want to See Me: Why Diverse On-Screen Representation Drives Cinema Audiences” white paper:

  • Does the presence of certain groups (Race/Ethnicity, Gender, Age) on-screen draw larger numbers of the corresponding audience?
  • What negative or positive portrayals of certain groups are different viewers seeing in the most popular films?
  • What portrayals of certain groups are child viewers seeing in the most popular films?

 

On-screen data (the Institute) and audience demographic data (Movio) for the top 100 films (by box office) in the United States were examined for 2018 and 2019.

“As we’ve said before, our goal is very simple: that the characters on screen reflect the population, which is half Female and incredibly diverse,” Geena Davis, founder and chair of the institute, said in a statement. “We know that increasing the presence of underrepresented groups in media can have a very powerful impact on shifting cultural perceptions. Our industry has a tremendous opportunity to foster inclusion in society by taking action to diversify who shows up on screen. As this new research shows, we have made progress, but we need to do better.”

“As the movie industry begins to recover from the effects of the pandemic, this research carries even more weight,” William Palmer, chief executive and co-founder of Movio, said in a statement. “Diverse audiences can go elsewhere to find entertainment options that speak to them and their lives, so if cinema is to remain relevant and continue having a cultural impact, it must attract these audiences by delivering more representative content.”

“When we consider the impact that the media children are exposed to can have, including in the cinema, it is vital for them to see from the beginning that fictitious worlds reflect the real world, and that they see themselves reflected on screen,” Davis added. “When you see someone like yourself reflected, you take in the message: ‘There’s someone like me, I must belong.’ It’s encouraging to see the progress we’ve made with gender representation, but we must show more diversity on screen, if we don’t show more diversity, we are contributing to the serious problem of racial inequity in our society today.”

Nightmare Origins of Lionsgate’s ‘Antebellum’

The frightening thriller Antebellum from Lionsgate and QC Entertainment — the producer of Get Out and Us — was fittingly inspired by a bad dream.

Filmmakers Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz trace the origins of the film to a nightmare Bush had. “This nightmare was about a woman named Eden,” Bush recalls. “The experience was horrific and so real that I immediately wanted to talk about it with Chris. It felt like my ancestors had visited me to tell me the story. We thought it had the makings of an exciting short story and film.”

Through Eden (Janelle Monáe), Antebellum — which became available through premium VOD Sept. 18 — explores a nightmare from which America seems unable to awake: the country’s original sin of slavery.

The story centers on Veronica (also played by Monáe), a Ph.D. sociologist and best-selling author whose books explore the disenfranchisement of Black people in the United States. Veronica travels to New Orleans for a speaking engagement and uncovers a horrific secret that connects her to the enslaved Eden.

“I felt like I know, love and respect so many women who reminded me of Veronica — powerful, community-serving, strong-willed women who refuse to have their voices silenced as they represent those who are marginalized,” Monáe says. “I wanted to take on a character that could make us feel proud, especially in today’s climate.”

As a speaker and writer, Veronica’s voice takes on a symbolic power.

“The concept of silencing Black people is pure horror,” Monáe explains. “Chris and Gerard leaned into the framework of a psychological thriller to depict these horrors.”

As in any horror tale, there are villains on the plantation where Eden is enslaved — played by Jack Huston, Eric Lange and Jena Malone (“Hunger Games” franchise).

“The way that Chris and Gerard move between these two worlds is not only clever, but necessary to tell the story,” Malone says. “They pull the rug out from under you so you can view these really intense things in a new way.”

(L-R): Gabourey Sidibe, Janelle Monáe and Lily Cowles in Antebellum

A world away from Eden’s plantation life, and before embarking upon her own harrowing journey, Veronica meets up with two friends, Dawn (Gabourey Sidibe) and Sarah (Lily Cowles), for a night on the town in New Orleans. Sidibe (Academy Award nominee, Precious) describes Dawn as “affluent and filled with black girl magic.” Her character lends a levity to the proceedings, but the frivolity of the trio’s night out is interrupted by moments of tension that create an ominous mood.

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“There’s a repeated micro-aggression that’s aimed at Veronica and Dawn — the two women of color — that Sarah is aware of but perhaps doesn’t completely understand,” Cowles says.

Throughout the production is the ominous feeling that history is encroaching on the present — made all the more potent by the fact that scenes were filmed on a real plantation, the Evergreen Plantation, located on the Mississippi River, about 40 miles northwest of New Orleans.

“We actually wanted and had committed to finding and identifying a real plantation, and honoring the ancestors,” Renz points out. “As soon as we arrived at Evergreen for a location scout, we knew we had to film there. The ghosts of enslaved people are stained on the trees and on the blades of grass. It’s in the air and soaked into the wood of those cabins. You can feel that energy; it’s palpable.”

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” reads the William Faulkner quote that begins the film.

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While Antebellum was meant to be a mind-bending mystery that unfolds as a metaphor for the current climate of racism, the filmmakers did not anticipate how the sins of the past would jump to the fore again in the current political climate.

“When we conceived Antebellum, we did not — could not — envision the way that systemic racism would break through to force the meaningful conversation we desperately need. But it has,” says Bush. “What we did intend was for the film to force the audience to look at the real-life horror of racism through the lens of film horror. We’re landing in the middle of the very conversations that we hoped Antebellum would spur. So to release the film in this environment is all we could ask for — as artists, we’re grateful to have the opportunity to add our voices in this cultural moment.”

Netflix Rolling Out Seven Classic Black Sitcoms From 1990s and Early 2000s

Netflix is rolling out seven Black sitcoms from the 1990s and early 2000s on its service in the coming months: “Sister Sister,” “Moesha,” “The Parkers,” “Girlfriends,” “The Game,” “One on One” and “Half & Half.”

“These shows made us laugh, and cry, and sing along with those catchy theme songs,” wrote Bradley Edwards, manager of content acquisition, and Jasmyn Lawson, manager of Strong Black Lead, in a company blog. “And mostly importantly, we felt like we saw ourselves on screen — in some cases for the very first time. Every week we were able to tune in to see people, families and friends that looked like us and characters whose everyday ups and downs reflected Black life in an authentic way.”

The shows have been on top of members’ wish lists, they wrote.

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“From the first days of Strong Black Lead in February 2018, our comment sections have been filled with members asking about this kind of classic Black content,” they wrote. “So we worked with our content team to make it happen — starting in 2019 with classic Black films like Love & Basketball, B*A*P*S, and Love Jones. The conversation on social media was larger than we could have ever anticipated. And once we had the wish list of series from our members, we were excited to discover they were available.

“We want to give each its due so we’re staggering the release of these beloved series to ensure our members have time to enjoy them.”

“Moesha” will bow Aug. 1, followed by the first three seasons of “The Game” on Aug. 15. “Sister Sister” arrives on Sept. 1, with “Girlfriends” launching on Sept. 11 to mark the 20th anniversary of its premiere. “The Parkers” debuts on Oct. 1, followed by “Half & Half “and “One on One” on Oct. 15.

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“The goal of Strong Black Lead is to celebrate and lift up Black Hollywood,” they wrote. “These trailblazing shows are a huge part of that story. From the classic clown funeral episode of ‘The Parkers’ to Moesha’s mind-tripping meet-up with Brandy, we’re thrilled that our members can now enjoy these amazing classics.”

Uplifting Films ‘Supa Modo’ and ‘Don’t Be Nice’ Available on DVD From MVD and Juno

Two uplifting films, the drama Supa Modo and the documentary Don’t Be Nice, are available on DVD from MVD Entertainment Group and Juno Films.

From first-time feature filmmaker Likarion Wainaina comes the Kenyan drama Supa Modo, about Jo, a witty 9-year old terminally ill girl who is taken back to her rural village to live out the rest of her short life after being diagnosed with cancer. Her only comfort during dull times are her dreams of being a superhero, which prove to be something her rebellious teenage sister Mwix, overprotective mother Kathryn and the entire village of Maweni think they can fulfill. With the entire village’s support, they decide to make dreams a reality and turn Jo into the superhero they know she is. Newcomer Stycie Waweru delivers a captivating and earnest performance, imbuing her character with a subtle strength that ignites the screen. The 2018 film was Kenya’s Oscar submission.

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In the documentary Don’t Be Nice, the upstart Bowery Slam Poetry Team, made up of five young African-American, Afro-Hispanic and queer poets, prepares for the national championships. Mentored by a demanding coach who pushes them past their personal boundaries to write from a painfully honest place, the poets break down, break through, and compose their best work ever. Will their soul-searching pieces about police violence and the whitewashing of black culture be able to compete against choreographed crowd-pleasers for the title? Lauren Whitehead coaches the Bowery Slam Team with the credo “Don’t Be Nice.” She explains that to “be nice” is to stay on the surface of things, is to perpetuate the status quo, and is, for black people, to be what white culture demands. Her team of poets brave their inner demons and buck societal expectations to write truthful poems, and to ultimately celebrate black joy.