The founders of the organization Black Artists in German Film (SFD) are determined to finally see the diversity of their lives portrayed realistically. They no longer want to be consigned to portraying just DJs, models or prostitutes, wrote The German Newspaper the African Times.
Afro-German Actress Araba Walton was most recently seen in the film “Berlin Calling,” set in the techno music milieu in Germany’s capital. She played a female bouncer but not some hideous dominatrix, rather a sort of “mother figure for night owls,” as she calls it.
For the last few years, she and some of her colleagues have been working together to do just that. Their association is called “Schwarze Filmschaffende in Deutschland” (Black Artists in German Film) or SFD. It is made up of actors, screenwriters, production personnel and directors. They want to see the multi-faceted reality that they live every day reflected in the media landscape.
“In comparison with, say, America, Germany has a long way to go in that respect. Everyone will go see a Will Smith film. But studios and producers here often don’t trust that black German actors will bring audiences into theaters,” said Walton, who is co-chairwoman of SFD, along with actress Carol Campbell.
Araba Walton hopes that one day soon, the reality of her own life will be seen on screen. “My family is represented in every profession from doctor to lawyer to military officer,” she said. “When will it become commonplace to see that kind of everyday diversity in German films and television as well?”
In Spiegel Online Carol Campbell, who is one of Germany's few successful African-German actors, explains: "Either filmmakers cast black people in roles that black people wouldn't want, or they don't cast black people at all."
Campbell says she has been lucky in that "only about half" of her roles have been stereotyped -- she says she typically gets cast as the "exotic" mistress. In her experience, German filmmakers only use black characters when the plot demands it. "There always needs to be a logical explanation of why the character is black," she says. "It's always used to represent difference and never overlap, always 'this is different' and never simply 'black life in Germany.'"
Scriptwriter Ebéné: "You always have to explain why the flight attendant or the doctor is black -- they can't just happen to be black," adds. "On the other hand, you never need to explain why the asylum-seeker or prostitute is black."