original article-August 31, 2006
I feel bad for these cats, because they really try to do the right thing. First they had major drama from the late Civil Rights pioneer Rosa Parks. Next they had Native Americans upset with them for their stellar performance at the Grammys and now they got folks in the real Idlewild getting up in arms over what many are saying is an incredible flick. Would they rather see these guys do another gang bang, pimp, hustler movie with no redeeming value?
Outkast Catching Heat Over New Movie
Idlewild, Mich. For moviegoers, Idlewild is the title of a new film starring platinum-selling hip-hop duo OutKast. For many others, however, Idlewild is a historical landmark. Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton, known to rap fans as Andre 3000.. and Big Boi, respectively, star in the film, which is a musical drama set in the 1930s in Idlewild, Ga.
But theres one thing Idlewild doesnt exist. At least not in Georgia.
There is an Idlewild, Mich., and some who have frequented it arent happy because outside of the name, the movie has nothing to do with the small town in northwest Michigan.
Its an insult, said Coy Davis Jr., a Grandville filmmaker who directed the historical documentary Whatever Happened to Idlewild?
As a child, Davis spent many summers from the 1950s through the 70s in the Lake County town where his family owned a cottage.
They take something with such historical significance as Idlewild, take the peripheral aspects of it and turn it into a shoot- em-up, bang-bang minstrel show, he told the Grand Rapids Press for a story published last week. It demeans me as an African-American.
I understand its just entertainment. But call it Mishawaka, call it Schenectady. Dont call it Idlewild.
Idlewild, Mich., about 60 miles south of Traverse City, was a haven for black entertainment during the segregation era. Its rich, storied history is remembered mostly in glowing nostalgic terms. It was a place where black professionals from all over the Midwest vacationed and saw performances by legendary entertainers such as Louis Armstrong and B.B. King.
According to Ronald Stephens, a Detroit native and author of Idlewild: The Black Eden of Michigan, the movie draws a few parallels to the real Idlewild, but nothing more.
Its biggest asset is it puts the name in the publics imagination in ways the small town of Idlewild, Mich., couldnt do, Stephens said.
John Meeks, owner of the Morton Motel in Idlewild and the self-proclaimed unpaid, unofficial Idlewild ambassador, said prospective filmmakers have been sniffing around the town for years, but the makers of Idlewild never came by.
A lot of people are disappointed when they find out it isnt about Idlewild at all, he said. Its unfortunate that the name is being exploited, that it has no connection to the history of one of the most famous black resorts.
The film, which opened nationally Friday, co-stars Ben Vereen, Cicely Tyson, Ving Rhames and Oscar nominee Terrence Howard, along with musicians Macy Gray and Patti LaBelle.