Muse by Clio: Mahershala Ali, Kevin Wilson Jr. Fight Stereotypes in Film and TV

MUSE BY CLIO: Black people in movies and TV series are often viewed through a ridiculously narrow lens, portrayed as thugs, victims or other stereotypes whose fate seems predetermined regardless of the storyline.

Procter & Gamble's "Widen the Screen" initiative strives to change that dynamic, empowering Black creators to tell their truths and display the depth, breadth and vibrancy of their communities.

The thought-provoking short film below seeks to subvert audience expectations.

We watch two Black youngsters enter a convenience store, eyed with trepidation by the owner. Will the kids shoplift? A violent episode appears primed to explode before our eyes.

In separate threads, a pregnant African-American woman walks her kids to the bus stop, while a young Black dude wearing gold bling bangs loudly on a door.

How might white or Black viewers, inundated by untold hours of Hollywood fare, produced for the most part by the white entertainment establishment, expect such scenarios to resolve?

"If you think you know what happens next, ask yourself why," begins Academy Award-winning narrator Mahershala Ali, over moody scenes sculpted by Oscar-nominated director Kevin Wilson Jr. "These are the Black stories we've been shown. A narrow view that limits our understanding. But there's so much more to see—the full picture of Black life."

Over the course of the spot's two minutes, each narrative strand ends happily. These logical, life-affirming wraps almost feel like surprise endings, given some viewers' assumptions.

"Let's widen the screen so we can widen our view," Ali concludes.

P&G developed the project with Grey New York. It also includes the brief interview/behind-the-scenes clips below. Talent from both sides of the camera discuss Black imagery in mass media, and what can be done to foster inclusivity.

"For me, widening the screen is basically taking a look at life in the middle for Black people, a normalization of Black life to allow people to see themselves," says actor Njema Williams.

"We need more Black storytellers that come from an authentic place, and not just one person, because we're not a monolithic people," adds sound mixer Chykeria Thompson.

As part of the push, P&G fashioned this website, which outlines its efforts to fund and encourage Black creators at all levels. Such efforts include a new content deal with LeBron James and Maverick Carter's Spring Hill Entertainment, and supporting Queen Latifah's Queen Collective, which backs Black women writers and directors. P&G will also work with collective Saturday Morning to craft scripted stories told in 8 minutes and 46 seconds (a reference to the killing of George Floyd and a symbol of police brutality).

"Widen the Screen" shares themes with Ghetto Film School's recent campaign supporting multicultural creativity, and Apple's ads from 33 Black artists, commissioned to capture the soul of their hometowns using iPhones. Vimeo and Mailchimp explored the vitality of minority-owned businesses in a video series from filmmakers of color.

Read the original article and full interview here.