Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

Tichina Arnold Attempts Dramatic Turn In 'The Lena Baker Story'

Incase you were wondering what the former Martin and Everyone Hates Chris co-star has been up to recently... here ya go...

She stars as the titular character in the upcoming The Lena Baker Story, a film that was shopped around at this year's Cannes Film Market in May, but, to my knowledge is yet to find distributor, whether for television (network or cable), theatre, or home video.

From the film's website: It's based on a true story and takes place in the early 1900’s in Cuthbert, Georgia... The moment Lena Baker thinks she has overcome her inner demons, she is called to work for Elliot Arthur, a white man, father, a millworker and a drunk. As their relationship unfolds, it becomes strange, strained, and highly unacceptable for the time. Elliot needs Lena; Lena seems to need him. He abuses her and keeps her from her children by imprisoning her in his home. When she has finally had enough, Lena stands up and attempts to break free from the bondage of Elliot Arthur. A struggle ensues, and Elliot Arthur, a white man, is shot by Lena Baker, a blac woman, that night in Southwest Georgia in 1945. A jury of 12 white men found Lena guilty of murder and she received the death penalty, earning her a place in history as the first and only woman to be sentenced to death by electric chair in the state Georgia. She was pardoned posthumously in 2005.

My take? I've grown weary of historical black dramas! I don't have any concrete evidence at my immediate disposal, but it certainly feels like that category of film dominates black cinema. If it's a comedy, you can be sure it'll be something contemporary, filled with some form of hybrid minstrelsy. If it's a drama, it's more often than not historically based. Why? Again, I haven't done any hard research on this, so this is all basically conjecture on my part, although I feel quite certain that any research I do will prove this accurate. I'll take on that challenge and report my findings.

As for Tichina's performance? I haven't seen enough of her on screen, so I actually know very little about her range as an actress. But she certainly looks convincing in the trailer.

I'd guess that this will likely make its way to television, and home video.

Here's the trailer for The Lena Baker Story:


  1. Sergio said...

    I saw this trailer online months ago and felt the same way you do. Why does evey serious black film has to be about "po' ol' us downtroden and struggling under de whip of da white man"? I mean C'MON PEOPLE! There are 40 million black people in this country and we've been here for over 400 years which means we have a an endless supply of stories to tell and this is all we can do? Where are the black westerns? Sci-fi movies? How about a cop thriller with a black guy in the lead after and not playing either a druggie informant or the police chief? You know something DIFFERENT!

  2. Anonymous said...

    Oh don't talk about black history-based dramas b/c that's the "baby" I'm working on now and I don't anyone to turn an immediate blind eye. I think history is fascinating when told well. Unfortunately black historical pieces are formulaic. I've been doing major research on my subject. One thing I hate about cliched movies like Glory Road, The Great Debaters, and Terrence Howard's swim drama is the mythic way blacks are portrayed as only victims of the times. Also for your research: Barbershop spinoffs, bumbling robbery duo caper subplots, and elderly outdoor gossip circles (made pop by Spike's Do the Right Thing). Btw, doesn't the plot for Lena Baker sound like the inverse of Black Snake Moan.

  3. Anonymous said...

    Sergio, I'm sure you'd agree but we also need to get outside of black America. There are 1 billion people of African descent on earth on almost every continent. I'm so fascinated w/ the African diaspora. Being a Haitian-American I can't wait to see the bio of the leader of the Haitian revolution starring Don Cheadle and Angela Bassett. I want to see more films about black Europeans: black Germans persecuted by Hitler, black Francos, black Italians, and how bad-a** would it be to see black Russians onscreen. Why would a black person live in Alaska or Japan or Ireland? These are questions rich w/ storytelling possibilities. And those diasporic communities have their own history within these countries and states.

  4. albertine said...

    We need to get outside of America. But we're so far away from seeing that happen. We have to first get our shit together here, and let others get their shit together in whatever countries they're in.

    Our history as a Diaspora is rich and deep and there're still so many stories still to be told. Some are probably being told,but maybe we're not aware of them. They aren't reaching our shores. So there might films local to each individual country that only the people in those countries get to see.

    But I have to agree that, in this country anyway, America, the black historical drama, at least as they are presented to us, are just becoming stale. All the films you listed are perfect examples.

    But, as I think TOR and others have said previously, if we had some variety in black cinema, none of this would matter. But with such a dearth of work, and much of it so easily categorized, falling into maybe 2 or 3 groups, we can expect that there'll be lots of individual complaints calling for more of one kind or another kind of black film.

  5. Invisible Woman said...

    There are impotant stories still to be told inside of America as well as outside. That being said, it will be very interesting to see Arnold carry a drama.

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