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That selection of music makes the film

‘The Color Purple’: Labor Songs, Blues and Gospel, Music Reflecting the Era and its Discrepancy

2024.2.5

#MOVIE

© 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
© 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Set against the backdrop of the American South in the early 20th century, ‘The Color Purple’ is a musical film depicting the challenging life of African American women. Regarding the film’s music, music director/critic Yuji Shibasaki notes that it serves as a representation of the era and its transitions, while also highlighting the richness of its appeal by not being overly fixated on historical accuracy. Delving into the musical aspects of this epic, often referred to as the African American ‘Les Misérables,’ this article is part of the series ‘The Song Selection that Shapes the Film,’ 11th installment.

Please note that this article contains descriptions related to the content of the film.

A Musical Film Based on a Masterpiece Novel that Spielberg also Adapted into a Film

Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, ‘The Color Purple,’ became a hit after Steven Spielberg adapted it into a film in 1985. Despite not winning major awards, the movie garnered significant audience support. In 2005, the Broadway musical adaptation succeeded, leading to nationwide tours, revivals, and international performances, solidifying its status as a beloved and popular production.

And in 2023, a new musical film adaptation of ‘The Color Purple’ has been completed. While it has already generated buzz in the United States and elsewhere, it is set to be released nationwide in Japan on February 9th (Friday).

The director of the film is Blitz Bazawule, a Ghanaian visual artist, writer, and musician who has garnered recognition for his collaboration with Beyoncé on the visual album ‘Black Is King,’ which earned a nomination at the 63rd Grammy Awards. The production also involves veterans such as Steven Spielberg, the director of the 1985 version, as well as Oprah Winfrey, who played the crucial role of Sofia in the same version, and Quincy Jones, who handled the music for the 1985 adaptation.

The cast is equally impressive. Fantasia Barrino, who previously played the lead role in the stage version, takes on the character of Celie, while Daniel Brooks, nominated for a Tony Award in the revival of the stage production, reprises the role of Sofia. Additionally, Taraji P. Henson is chosen for the role of blues singer Shug Avery, Harry Belafonte (Nettie), H.E.R. (Gabriella Wilson) as Squeak (Mary Agnes), and Corey Hawkins as Harpo, bringing together a diverse and talented ensemble of actors and musicians (*).

John Batiste also makes his acting debut in the role of Shug’s partner and pianist.

Celie (left), played by Fantasia Barrino, and Shug (right), played by Taraji P. Henson.
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