On a drowsy November evening, I decided to watch a film to cure my boredom. The setback was the fact that movies rarely satisfied me. The quality of cinema has been diminishing in the past decade as millions of dollars are dumped on dry scripting and badly illustrated clichés. If I was going to sit for 90 minutes, the show should stimulate my mind and senses for a purpose, not just pleasure. In a state of hopelessness, I stumbled across an adaptation of Cinderella on Youtube. Cinderella was nowhere near my folktale or Disney princess, so who knows what force beseeched me to watch the live action from 1997. The pessimist in me was prepared to jeer at its tackiness; there was no way this movie was going to inspire me any more than what came out in 2018.
Spellbound was the last thing I expected to feel by the 10 minute mark. My mouth fell slightly agape as the camera zoomed in on the talented Brandy, the black heroine of this tale. I was delighted to find that the prince was Filipino and that race was just one great trait of this production. I was even more delighted that there were no talking animals to distract from the characterization! Cinderella became so much more entrancing when I was privy to her imagination, her fear, and her joy when no other character could see it. A part of it was almost a testimony to all girls of color who also have their own fantasies outside the life they know, and a thing like that is important to me.
Another wonderful element by itself was the production scale. Taken aback by the multi-ethnic cast, the memorable tunes, and the elegant cinematography, I just knew this movie had something to say to me. The colors spoke to the fashion and location sets splashed with gold, fuschia, blue, and green. From the first number “Sweetest Sounds” to “The Music is in You”, I felt the euphoria of childhood embedded with every moment. I was glued to my computer screen hanging on to every song and scene.
Also, unlike the green-eyed Lady Tremaine from the animation, this stepmother was understandable for her cruelness. She had “fallen in love with love”, and she insisted that marriage should be for stature so that neither her daughters nor Cinderella could be heartbroken like she was. The two sisters are as quirky and dramatic as ever, but there are plenty of moments where they reveal their natural state as hopeful, naive girls.
It had been so long since I fantasized about young love untainted by the pressures of lust or perfection. Prince Christopher and Cinderella were just who they were before, during, and after the ball. This movie had the cast, the image, the songs, and the magic to make Cinderella likeable. It made me think about how lucky all the young girls and boys of color were during the time of the film’s release, a gorgeous depiction of a girl struggling with societal retaliation but doing the impossible. My friends who had grown up with the film laugh at how I gloat about it, but I am not ashamed. I’m content enough to find a movie that has moved me to seek more of the magic I was missing from life.
My name is Zoé Nellum and I am a prose editor in Levitate. In my freetime I like to journal and world build for fiction.