Art Seen

Why Film Posters Recreated With Black Actors Have Appeared In London

"We really hope that it creates conversation and dialogue and that people don’t stop talking about it."

Last week, people in Brixton, South London, spotted unusual film and television posted up at bus stops. The posters were advertising beloved TV shows such as Doctor Who and Skins, as well as movies such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Titantic. But the posters that had been recreated to feature Black leads.

The posters are part of a campaign started by Legally Black, a group of four young activists who hope "to combat the way Black people are portrayed in the media." The four members — Liv Francis-Cornibert, Shiden Tekle, Bel Matos da Costa, and Kofi Asante — met at Advocacy Academy, an organization that aims to help young leaders from marginalized communities to become activists. 

"We all felt strongly about how Black people were presented in the media, whether it be in films, newspapers, magazines," Francis-Cornibert told A Plus. "We all felt that there was a link between personal sense of self-worth and aspiration, and seeing positive role models in the media. Seeing yourself in underdeveloped stock roles such as the slave, the criminal, the angry Black woman, the nanny, and the help is just as structurally violent as seeing no Black faces at all."

Courtesy of Legally Black
Courtesy of Legally Black

So, with the help of the Advocacy Academy, the Legally Black group decided to grab the public's attention surrounding this issue by recreating popular film and TV show posters with Black actors.

"We originally brainstormed to decide which films would be most effective and most recognizable to the British public. It took a lot of grafting and pleading and explaining our vision to people," Francis-Cornibert said. "We're lucky that lots of them believed in us and were able to help." 

To create the posters, the group asked friends and family to pose while a professional photographer took their picture. They worked with a graphic designer to perfect the images. The posters were shared online and caught the attention of Special Patrol Group, a subversive advertising organization. Members of Special Patrol Group wanted to help Legally Black reach a wider audience with the posters, so they printed out six-foot versions and placed them in bus stop billboards. 

Several of the posters have the tagline, "If you're surprised, it means you don't see enough Black people in major roles." The group hopes people who see the posters will start to question what they see in media. 

"We want people to challenge the idea of whiteness as the default and the inclusion of Black people, or other people of color, or LGBTQ+ persons, or disabled persons, [are just] an addition," Francis-Cornibert said. "It should be normal for the people in the world to also see themselves in fiction and film." 

Courtesy of Legally Black

"We are not advocating for the replacement of White actors, nor are we advocating for the insertion of Black actors into 'White' films such as Harry Potter," Francis-Cornibert explained. "The posters are satirical." 

Instead, they hope to raise awareness about the importance of creating lead roles specifically made for people of color. According to research from the British Film Institute, only 218 lead roles were played by Black actors in the 1,172 British films released between 2006 and 2016.

"We believe that the space should be facilitated for Black creatives — writers, actors, directors, and producers — to have agency over their own stories and narratives. There should be Black British films that are authentic to us," Francis-Cornibert said. "Furthermore, we believe there should be greater representation and inclusivity across the board for Black LGBTQ+ persons, Black disabled persons, and naturally, other people of color, too." 

Courtesy of Legally Black
Courtesy of Legally Black

While most of the posters have already been taken down and replaced with product advertisements, Legally Black hopes the posters will have a lasting impact. 

"We really hope that it creates conversation and dialogue and that people don't stop talking about it," Francis-Cornibert said. "We must speak about things in order to change them."

You can check out more posters from the project below:

Courtesy of Legally Black
Courtesy of Legally Black
Courtesy of Legally Black
Courtesy of Legally Black
Courtesy of Legally Black
Courtesy of Legally Black
Courtesy of Legally Black
Courtesy of Legally Black

Cover image: Legally Black

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