Recently I saw the feature film, “Colombiana,” starring mini-mega Dominican/Puerto Rican actress, Zoe Saldana. The film surrounds the life of Cataleya Restropo, a small girl with a huge determination to avenge the lives of her parents, who were gunned down in her presence. There are knives, Uzis, quick-paced car/foot chases and underground escapes.
And that’s just the first five minutes.
When I first saw the trailer for “Colombiana,” I was awestruck. It was the first time I had witnessed a black woman featured as the star of an action film who wasn’t surrounded by long Cadillacs, fur coats and streetwalkers. Somehow, director Oliver Megaton convinced Hollywood that it was time for women of color to prevail on screen. I’m sure that $29.7 million dollars later, he doesn’t regret his decision.
Many people chose to criticize Saldana for her physique, which was definitely smaller than many of the existing African-American on-screen divas. In a recent interview with Ebony magazine, Saldana said that she’s always been naturally thin, but you have to take months of training into account for her role as Cataleya. When you witness her toned body climbing through air vents, slinging four-foot machine guns and beating the sense out of the bad guy, you’ll understand how she may have dropped a few pounds during filming. Hey, someone had to do the stunts, and everyone knows that if you want things done right, just do it yourself.
Many nods and kudos have been given to Saldana, whose character made it her full-time career to be a vigilante assassin, but I have to recognize child actress, Amandla Stenberg. Stenberg played the role of 10 year-old Cataleya, who instantaneously hardened her mentality and initiated the first action sequence in the film. The beautiful young girl showed a dark side of herself that set the stage for Saldana’s older character to engage the audience. Her bravery, endurance and emotion was perfect for a young girl who had just suffered an unthinkable loss. I wouldn’t advise any child to take on the task of sliding into a street sewer, but since it was part of her job description, Stenberg handled the task seamlessly.
“Colombiana” is a far cry from Saldana’s last hit film, “Avatar,” where we only identified with her animated persona. This film, which showcases a woman who thinks critically about her prey and always makes her target, is ground-breaking. As the film ended, I was glued to my seat and watched the credits just so I could know the cast and crew that helped to inspire this overwhelming sense of pride in me. It was so exciting to see a woman of color with such respected strength on screen for everyone to admire. And it wasn’t until the end that I realized (and someone pointed out) that she remained clothed throughout the film, with very little intimacy. It just wasn’t necessary to tell the story.
Thank you, Oliver Megaton, and casting director John Pasidera for making this story a Hollywood reality for young people of color.
If you haven’t had a chance to see Saldana and Stenberg in action – real action – buy your ticket – not your bootleg – and see “Colombiana,” in theaters, right now.
Erica Taylor is a veteran producer and assistant writer for “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” Check out the “Little Known Black History Fact,” heard everyday on the TJMS, and stay tuned for more “Beyond the Studio” interviews seen on BlackAmericaWeb.com and YouTube. Check out her Twitter page by clicking here.