Kam Williams | 8/1/2012, 9 a.m.
Mario, was it hard keeping egos in check when you have stars like Snoop Dogg, Salli Richardson, Michael Jai White and Tony Lister in supporting roles?
Mario: One of the cool things about the adults in the movie is we’ve all been doing it for a minute. Salli, Tony and I have been working together since “Posse.” And Snoop’s been The Doggfather for awhile. So, we’re all pretty secure within ourselves.
On top of that, it wasn’t just my badass crew in the movie, it was Snoop’s son [Corde Broadus], P. Diddy’s son [Quincy Brown], a Wayan’s kid [Gregg], and a lot of talented youngsters from “That’s So Raven” and “Hannah Montana,” plus some professional music and dance crews.
So, the adults were happy to be a part of a cool movie being made that had some nutritional value. And, I think they also knew that when you make an independent movie like “We the Party,” you really have to put the money on the screen. That’s why I only paid myself 10 dollars to write it and one dollar to direct it. No one was there for the money in the first place. That was the wrong reason to be on the set.
Understand that Hollywood tends to be a little reductive in its portrayals of people of color. It might get behind a couple filmmakers who are doing goofy comedies, which is fine, but I also want kids of all colors to have an alternative. I want our kids to be able to go to the movies to see something that is relevant to them that also has something to say.
There’s no reason to be afraid to continue a conversation that society has already started with a young audience. So, if they’ve already been hit with hyper-sexuality and hyper materialism, it’s okay to let them know in the context of a movie that they might not be able to buy their sense of self at the mall.
Like I say in the classroom scene, the people we really respect aren’t the big shoppers like the Kardashians, but the people who stand for something. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X weren’t big consumers. You couldn’t sell Mother Teresa breast implants. You couldn’t sell Gandhi a new car.
That’s a long answer, but once my cast saw that level of consciousness in a script aimed at young adults, they jumped at the chance to be a part of delivering a positive message. They were attracted to the project for content reasons, not for ego reasons.
That reminds me of how your dad’s film, “Sweet Sweetback,” was taught in one of my black studies courses when I went to Cornell.
Mario: Kam, you’re hitting on a real important point that’s often lost in the conversation when we talk about Blaxploitation-era cinema. What Melvin Van Peebles really created was black power cinema. He made the first definitive film where a brother transforms from a hustler into a revolutionary and goes up against the system. Hollywood saw that movie make money, and made “Shaft,” a private eye who was working with “the man,” instead of against “the man.” And “Superfly” came later, which was about a guy who was dealing drugs to his own people for “the man.”