Friday, March 16, 2007

Lighting black skin

I saw "Reign Over Me" with Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle this week and was disappointed that it makes one of the most frequent and most infuriating mistakes in films -- the lighting is designed for the white performers only. Cheadle has very dark skin, and when the camera is on his face and Sandler's together, we miss some of the subtlety of his performance because we literally cannot see his face. The movie that really sensitized me to this as an issue was the wonderful "Sounder," which I saw when I was in college. Director Martin Ritt and cinematographer John A. Alonzo did a beautiful job in showing the richness and variety of the skin tones of their brilliant cast, which included Paul Winfield, Cecily Tyson, and Taj Mahal. That film should be required viewing for every film-maker as a lesson on how to show audiences all that these performers have to offer.


Reel Fanatic said...

This isn't an issue I had thought much about before, Nell, but just from looking at the commercials I can already see what you men ... He has an odd, almost purple hue from what I've seen, and it really is rather offensive, deliberate or not

Middento said...

You are so very right -- and I thought something similar when I watched the film (although I'm afraid to admit that there was much of the film that I did like).

Possibly because she does a better job of lighting similarly dark people, you may be amused to know that my class this semester will be writing about Nair's The Namesake.