Just when you think you know everything about black cinema, photographer and artist Simon Frederick arrives with a multifaceted story told by the actors and directors who made cinematic history.
They’ve Gotta Have Us, a three-part docuseries presented by Netflix and Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY Releasing platform, takes viewers on a journey of black cinema as told by legendary actors like Harry Belafonte, Don Cheadle, Whoppi Goldberg and more. Fredrick develops a full circle journey into black filmmaking by highlighting the careers of Sidney Poiter, Hattie McDaniel and Dorothy Dandrige as they faced racism and brash stereotypes in the golden age of Hollywood.
Belafonte opens up about his career as he was the first black male actor to star in a lead role next to a white actress in the 1957 film, Island In The Sun. He also shared how he and Dangdrige weren’t given the same treatment as other big-name stars–specifically in the 1954 classic, Carmen Jones.
“Dorothy and I were constantly in search of ways to do things that people had never done before, like two very attractive people kissing who were people of color,” he said. “Because of the issue of race we were not given the time to do it that other films would have been given under the circumstances.”
“Otto Preminger shot that picture – a huge color CinemaScope, big screen – he did that in 10 days,” he added. “We could barely get the lines right before it was a take. We were lucky it came off as well as it did. The film was a huge success.”
In addition to the actors of the golden age, the series also takes us through iconic films starring Denzel Washington and the work of the late John Singleton and Diahann Carroll. According to Entertainment Weekly, Singleton frequently checked in with Frederick about updates with the project.
They’ve Gotta Have Us has been in the works for some time. Frederick previously shared the opening sequence of the project in March 2019 featuring commentary from Jussie Smollett and Cuba Gooding Jr. BBC 2 also aired the project in 2018.
Rising stars like John Boyega and Nathalie Emmanuel open up about their journeys in the Star Wars and Fast and Furious franchises.
The see the trailer for They’ve Gotta Have Us up top and be on the lookout when it hits Netflix on Feb. 4.