Shining a Light on Black and Brown Representation in Film

The film, which took about two weeks to shoot, is one of several examples in recent years of television productions and films working to ensure that actors of all shades are well-lit with greater accuracy. The standouts include the best picture Oscar winner “Moonlight” and the HBO series “Insecure.”

“The good thing now, in general, we are seeing a lot more diversity in color on screen,” Ms. Odufu said. “So before it was easy for directors or filmmakers to get away with overexposed lighting or lighting that really didn’t show the dynamic or diversity in color palettes because the industry was casting for the same color, and same kind of look, and the same girl or the same guy.”

Ava Berkofsky, one of the cinematographers for “Insecure,” said, “Treating darker skin tones as secondary is not acceptable anymore because there are people of color in the driver’s seat.”

“Cinematography is like a painting,” she explained, and added, referring to “Ori Inu”: “You can use subjective colors and create a world that emotionally ties colors to different ideas, and in that case different deities, and have an emotional impact.”

Ms. Odufu said they turned to color to embody the gods’ essence. Her brother said his favorite scene, from a cinematography point of view, used reds to invoke the world of a hybrid they created between the Yoruba god Eshu and the Haitian voodoo god Papa Legba. He also singled out their vision of the maternal goddess, Yemaya, whom they represented with blue undertones to depict her special connection to the water.

The director of photography, Frances Chen, said that using colored lighting was a good choice for the darker complexions in the film. It shows the natural richness in human skin. The reflective quality of this colored light still reads on that person, but that person doesn’t all of a sudden become like the girl who turns into a blueberry on ‘Willy Wonka.’”

As for the Odufus, they have finished the pilot of a proposed digital series called “Black Lady Goddess,” which borrows from science fiction and pop culture to make racial and social commentary. In their working relationship, Emann is the envelope-pushing visionary, while Chelsea takes on a more hands-on role. But they both share a desire to explore the “full spectrum of blackness,” he said, adding that they wanted “to create a platform where the black skin was shown in its full exuberance.”

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