Heroic. Inspiring. Masterfully written.
Writer, director and native Detroiter Mike Binder brings a brilliant and riveting screen performance to life in the film Black or White. Starring Academy award-winning actors Kevin Costner (Elliott Anderson), an affluent attorney and Octavia Spencer (Rowena Jeffers), a self-made business woman, and actors Anthony Mackie (Jeremiah Jeffers) and Jillian Estell (Eloise Anderson), real life events unfold as Elliot is suddenly struck by the tragic loss of his wife. Overcome with grief and still mourning the death of his daughter, Eloise’s mother, he’s now left to deal with his own issues of anger and a growing drinking habit all while being left to care for her. Affectionately known as Puppy, curly-haired Eloise finds herself in the middle of a heated battle while learning the true reasons her father hasn’t come to visit her.
Family tensions ensue when Eloise’s paternal grandmother Rowena seeks full custody of her. Having the support of her brother Jeremiah, a powerful bull-dog attorney, she stops at nothing to prove Elliot has severe disdain for blacks and only seeks to keep Eloise away from her family. Elliot spares no expense in going after Eliose’s father, Andre Holland (Reggie Jeffers) who hasn’t seen his daughter in years to prove his longtime substance disorder and inability to parent. At the pressure of her brother, Rowena agrees to pursue Elliott to the fullest extent of the law. Replete with issues of race, alternative lifestyles, death, surrender, greed and love, both families come to grips with issues plaguing them both—acceptance and unforgiveness.
When asked if there was hesitation and differences in sharing his real life experiences, Binder replies, “There were some differences.” “I made my nephew a little girl and I created a custody battle that never existed because both sides of the family got along. But at the same token, there was some trepidation as to do I really want to do a move about race. Do I really want to fight an uphill battle with the studios? Will they finance it and will the people want to see it? Then I decided, I’m not bent that way and once you get in the water you may as well swim.”
“It’s interesting”, says Mackie. “When I read this script, the biggest lesson I learned was just watching little Jillian. I have two sons and it’s very important for them to grow up in a way that they understand the importance of being a black man, but to also understand the importance of how to judge people for who they are and not how they look. I want people to look at my sons and see black men, but I also want people to talk to my sons and see who they are before they cast judgment. So I tell my sons every day when they go to school, you play with the kids who share the legos. Those are the good people. If they don’t share the legos, those are the bad people—black or white. If the black dude doesn’t share the legos, he’s a bad person. Stay away from him. But if that white dude shares the legos then you hang out with him. But that is the reality of how I want to raise them until they get to the next phase of their life and I have to teach them accordingly. But right now it’s about the legos.”
“Listening to people dissect the film really does change you”, says Binder. “It makes you want to be better. You really want to be the kind of person that judges people based on who they are and not what they are. I think a lot of that is part of one’s environment and what you are taught, but it’s also what you put into your own head. This movie has definitely made me want to be better.”
As unexpected events unravel, movie goers will wade deep with anticipation and be compelled to feel a variety of emotions—anger, patience, shame and a dose of healthy laughter. No emotion is spared and all eyes are fixed on the outcome of Eloise and both sides of the family. Will they be able to repair their connection? Who gets full custody? You’ll have to see the film to find out.
Black or White opens in theaters worldwide on January 30, 2015. Stay connected to all of the events and join the conversation on Twitter @BlackorWhite.
About the Author
Leslie J. Griffin is a Celebrity Journalist, Certified Life Coach, Healthy Life Advocate. Follow her on Twitter @OneStopCoach or connect with her of Facebook.