SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — At the SCAD Film Festival, crowds caught an exclusive peek into the 2023 The Color Purple remake with notes from the director, Blitz Bazawule.
Nervous about making the film, he says he went back to Alice Walker’s words, an American Novelist who wrote the original book and found the drive to make the film.
“All right there’s still something left that we haven’t quite seen certainly cinematically yet,” said Bazawule.
Although a remake of an American classic, he wanted to make something new and see the story through a new lens and perspective.
“I knew that if we could bring and give Cellie that level of imagination that Alice Walker intended, then we’ll have a way into the story that would be ours,” said Bazawule.
“Whatever this woman imagines we could give her.”
The Color Purple follows the life of Celie, an African-American teenager growing up in rural Georgia in the early 1900s.
Celie struggles with an abusive father, teenage pregnancy, and abusive marriage. She narrates her life through letters to God and her imagination.
Bazawule wanted to visualize her headspace and understand the process of overcoming trauma.
“I think those were the things that once we sounded that, I was like, we got a movie, we got a movie,” said Bazawule. “Then you had to make it, which is the harder part.”
Since the film is based in South Georgia Bazawule wanted to make sure a lot of the film was filmed in the state.
American singer and winner of American Idol season three Fantasia Barrino played the role of Cellie on Broadway and will play Cellie in the film.
“Fantasia didn’t wanna do it,” said Bawazule. “She didn’t because the role is an incredibly heavy role and it’s very parallel to her life.”
Bazawule explained that Fantasia was adamant about not playing the role, so he flew down to her home in North Carolina and told her.
“Listen, we’re gonna do something different you know, we’re gonna be in Cellie’s head you.”
He hooked Fantasia by showing her a scene in his playbook, where the narrative switches from real life to a performance in the character’s head.
“I made it very clear that we’re gonna be living,” said Bazawule.
“It was about asking ourselves, how real can we make all of this, and those conversations became the rehearsal.”
As for the process of developing the film, Bazawule notes that all he had to do was provide an environment to make the story reliable for the actors who did the rest.
“If you cast right, you have no business walking up to any actor and tell them how to do anything,” said Bazawule.
“Sure, I can tell you what I think, but if I’ve chosen the right person then that right person should do the job.”
Bazawule had the support of what he calls the three goats who helped him develop this film.
“I had the goat of TV, Oprah Winfrey, I had the goat of filmmaking, Steven Spielberg and I had a goat of music, Quincy Jones I love It.”
Bazawule shared that in the scene for the song “Push Da Button” which is sung by the character Shug Avery, takes place at a juke joint on a swamp.
They used a real swamp to create the perfect scene and had to drain the water as to build a whole juke joint from scratch.
Further solidifying Bazawule’s vision of realism avoiding green screens and fake props.
“Once we started to kind of push into the world, everything became real,” said Bazawule.
The groundbreaking film will come out on Christmas day featuring actors and artists the likes of:
“The Color Purple is an indictment of our society, the fact that domestic violence, gender-based violence, racial violence and all these things are still relevant today,” said Bazawule.
“This tells us that whatever Alice Walker had conjured back in the eighties, as a society, we haven’t progressed as far as we would hope to.”