John Singleton, the Oscar-nominated director of Boyz n the Hood, has warned of the "latent racism" in the Hollywood studio system, pointing to a "troubling trend" of hiring white directors to tell "black stories".
The 2 Fast 2 Furious filmmaker said the commercial success of white-directed "black films" such as The Help and baseball drama 42 was making it "harder rather than easier for African-American writers and directors to find work".
In an opinion piece for The Hollywood Reporter, Singleton wrote: "The Help's $170 million domestic box office set a new paradigm for how Hollywood wants its black pictures: uplifting, sentimental and inoffensive. It's no one individual filmmaker's fault. It reflects the latent racism that influences what gets made and what doesn't in the studio system."
He claimed a screenwriter friend told him: "Hollywood feels like it doesn't need us anymore to tell African-American stories." The friend believed the thinking behind it is: "We voted for and gave money to Obama, so [we don't need to] hire any black people."
This year - which has seen box office success for The Butler, critical acclaim for Fruitvale Station, and Oscar buzz for Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave – has been a banner year for black directors.
But Singleton claims that studios will have been puzzled by The Butler's success, saying the mindset remains: "We want it black, just not that black."
While Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino hired black producers on The Color Purple and Django Unchained respectively, Singleton said the practise was no longer as common.
He highlighted an upcoming biopic of James Brown by The Help director Tate Taylor, which is being penned by "two Brits", though he concedes: "The Brits tend to have a greater appreciation for African-American creative culture than most white Americans."