There’s something rare about The Photograph. And it’s not because it’s been decades since we saw two Black people onscreen falling in love like this. (We speak your name, Love Jones!)
Although Stella Meghie’s forthcoming film centers on Issa Rae’s Mae, a curator who falls in love with a journalist (Lakeith Stanfield) penning a story about her estranged mother, what’s truly stunning about The Photograph is the care it takes to portray Black men onscreen.
While it seems we keep hearing a chorus of “Black men ain’t shit,” and reality TV seems to feed off of Black men cheating on their supposed loved ones, The Photograph changes the script. Instead, we see Rae’s onscreen father, Courtney B. Vance, and her onscreen lover, Stanfield, treat her like the woman she is. They’re thoughtful, caring, open and push her to be honest with her feelings—even when it disappoints them.
McGhie tells ESSENCE that she portrays Black men like this in her film because to her, Black men are “loved.” She added, “You are human. You are not scary. You are a protector.”
Penning her own love letter to Black men, Rae says, “Dear Black men, I love you. You deserve love. You deserve the space to be who you are.”
Chanté Adams, who portrays Rae’s young mother Christina, adds: “We see you and we love you.”
The Photograph, also starring Teyonah Parris and Lil Rel Howery, is in theaters Friday.