Originally called Daughter of God and directed by a black filmmaker who has since removed his name from the project, Exposed is Hollywood’s latest attempt to erase the work of people of color.
By Danielle C. Belton
In a world where people are taking to the streets, saying “Black lives matter”—where TV shows and films like Empire, Selma, Jane the Virgin, Straight Outta Compton, Fresh Off the Boat and Black-ish are getting high ratings and winning awards—one movie studio allegedly said no to all that diversity and instead chose to take us back to a “simpler” time when all your intimate black and brown dramas were instead predominantly white, bland vehicles for stars like Keanu Reeves.
That studio is Lionsgate. The film is Daughter of God. And the accusation is whitewashing.
An indie drama by a Jamaican-American first-time director, Gee Malik Linton, Daughter of God was supposed to be a quiet, surreal story about a Latina woman and the Dominican family she lives with, featuring subplots about violence against women and the twin effects of mass incarceration and police brutality on black and Latino communities. But now, because of drastic changes in the film’s edit, Daughter of God has become Exposed, a generic, middling thriller debuting this January and starring Reeves. Large subplots involving Latino and black characters have been cut, and the trailer features predominantly white faces.
“You need the white guy,” said Mark Downie, an original producer of the film, when describing what happened to Daughter of God. “So you remove so much of what’s special and unique of [the original] storyline and you take that square peg and you just try to drive that through that round hole for the sake of revenue.”
Linton, who also wrote Daughter of God, sued to have his name removed from the project—which now, according to IMDb, has been directed by a “Declan Dale.” While Linton did not comment on the apparent whitewashing of his film, a number of people directly involved did speak to The Root about what Lionsgate did.
“[We went] from a masterpiece to ‘here we go again,’ taking away the pure reality of the story, the core. Taking away everything because of Keanu Reeves, because he could sell more with his face,” said Gabriel Lopez, who acted in the film and is a native of New York City’s diverse Washington Heights neighborhood, where much of the movie was shot.
Lopez accused Lionsgate of being a “culture vulture,” of using the neighborhood and its people for the film, but not staying true to the film’s original vision, which he said was about highlighting Dominican-American culture.