The latest hubbub coming out of the Toronto International Film Festival surrounds Chris Rock’s Top Five. The feature film, which Rock wrote, directed, and stars in, was the subject of a heated bidding war – is there any other kind? – and is now likely to sell to Paramount Pictures for close to $13 million. Some are citing the production’s preexisting connection to the major studio as facilitating the deal:
A deal with Paramount makes sense, considering the studio has longtime times to producer Scott Rudin, who made the film in concert with financier Barry Diller. Also, Rock has known Paramount chief Brad Grey for years. Grey used to co-run Brillstein-Grey, which represented numerous comedians. - The Hollywood Reporter
Even if this potential sale is mostly the result of Rock having friends in high places, the ramifications could be slightly more significant for African American filmmakers. The deal on the table includes worldwide distribution. It’s a commonly held perception that African American films are not often received well overseas, which, owing to the fact that so many movies are funded by pre-selling the overseas distribution rights, results in a widespread lack of funding for films featuring black faces in major roles.
Although $13 million is not a record-shattering sum for a project top-lined by such a successful comedian, an optimist might see this as a sign that at least one major Hollywood studio is willing to bank on a film heavily populated with black actors crossing the oceans with no problem. The easier and less heartening explanation is that, like Will Smith and Denzel Washington, Rock is one of the rare few African American actors who have transcended the stigma of the “black film” and are recognized around the world for their talents and nothing else.