US actor Danny Glover, who plans an epic next year on Haitian independence hero Toussaint-Louverture, said he slaved to raise funds for the movie because financiers complained there were no white heroes.
“Producers said ‘It’s a nice project, a great project . . . where are the white heroes?’” he told AFP during a stay in Paris this month for a seminar on film.
“I couldn’t get the money here, I couldn’t get the money in Britain. I went to everybody. You wouldn’t believe the number of producers based in Europe, and in the States, that I went to,” he said.
“The first question you get, is ‘Is it a black film?’ All of them agree, it’s not going to do good in Europe, it’s not going to do good in Japan.
“Somebody has to prove that to be a lie!” he said. “Maybe I’ll have the chance to prove it.”
“Toussaint,” Glover’s first project as film director, is about Francois Dominique Toussaint Louverture (1743-1803), a former slave and one of the fathers of Haiti’s independence from France in 1804, making it the first black nation to throw off imperial rule and become a republic.
The uprising he led was bloodily put down in 1802 by 20,000 soldiers dispatched to the Caribbean by Napoleon Bonaparte, who then re-established slavery after its ban by the leaders of the French Revolution.
Due to be shot in Venezuela early next year, the film will star Don Cheadle, Mos Def, Wesley Snipes and Angela Bassett.
“I wasn’t the first one who had this idea,” he said. “Sergey Eisenstein had the same idea, Anthony Quinn had this idea, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, and this goes on.”
The “Lethal Weapon” co-star, just turned 62, finally raised 18 of the 30 million dollars needed from a Venezuelan cultural body set up in 2006 by his friend President Hugo Chavez to counter what he termed “the Hollywood film dictatorship”.
Venezuelan filmmakers last year slammed the investment.
“It is Mr Glover who should be bringing dollars to Venezuela,” the National Association of Film Makers and the Venezuelan Chamber of Film Producers said in an open letter.
Glover, a longtime activist, has supported Chavez’s political revolution since he was first elected in 1998.
After making his debut with a bit role in 1979 movie starring Clint Eastwood, “Escape From Alcatraz”, Glover played in films such as “Silverado” and “Witness” but grabbed wide attention after Steven Spielberg’s 1985 movie “The Color Purple”.
He is probably most widely known as “Lethal Weapon” co-star with Mel Gibson.
Born in San Francisco, he enrolled at the Black Actors Workshop there and is known for his stand against discrimination as well as for his activism against the Iraqi war and anti-personnel mines.
An admirer of the Senegalese writer-filmmaker known as the father of African cinema, Ousmane Sembene, Glover has helped produce African films, including the recently-acclaimed arthouse movie “Bamako” by Abderrahmane Sissako.
“The first African films that I saw were films that portrayed Africans as savages, ignorant and uncivilized, and I wanted to know something else,” he said. “I was very fortunate, I had the chance to read writers like Mariama Ba, Aime Cesaire . . . and Leopold Sedar Senghor. I read him when I was 20.”
“When I saw Sidney Poitier on screen, I was probably 10 or 11,” he added. “That was a different image, an image I had never seen before, on screen.
“The African-Americans I saw, they danced, they were buffoons, that was the image. So Sidney brought another image.”
History, Glover said, had enabled him to play a wide range of roles because of the changes taking place in society.
“I think cinema has played a great role in our re-imagining ourselves,” he said.