One place where you would expect to find diversity is in indie films, and particularly sci fi, a genre which deals with the human condition, aliens, alternate realities and worlds. In the world of sci fi, the expectation is that the perspectives of a woman, black, latino, asian or gay character would be championed or at least explored. When one considers that our planet is made up of mostly non-white people, it would seem logical to include non-whites in the vision of the future, especially in an indie film that does not have the constraints of a big budget film.
Unfortunately, the status quo that we see in mainstream films (and certainly even mainstream sci fi films) tends to carry over into the indie world. Ethnic diversity is hard to find, and is often of the token or Gunga Din Syndrome variety (the latter being that syndrome which results in the ethnic character dying nobly and thus being literally eliminated from the picture).
There are exceptions however, notably “Brother From Another Planet” the John Sayles film that explores prejudice via an alien who happens to look like a black man. But that film is 29 years old. The character Ben Hanser in the “Night of the Living Dead” which is ostensibly a Sci Fi Horror film, is an even earlier example. He is a hero, albeit Gunga Dinned in the end. Although science fiction books by black writers like Octavia Butler and Tananarive Due have yet to reach the big screen, one hopes that will change and the rich, speculative stories written by such authors will one day have a life.
More recently, the film “Chronicle” includes a young black main character, who acquires alien powers (and sends up the usual stereotype of young black men in one particularly funny scene).
The British film “Attack the Block” takes a brilliant mix of poor white, black, male and female kids and dares to explore how clever and ingenious they are when faced with an alien invasion.
For Latinos, the indie film scene is broader, since foreign countries like Spain and Mexico have delivered such sci fi titles as “Time Crimes” and “Monsters” and the recent “Extraterrestrial”. With strong, established directors like Guillermo Del Toro and Alphonso Cuaron leading the way, there is opportunity for new Latino directors in this genre as well.
Indie Asian sci fi has had a life beyond “Godzilla” in animation (“Akira”) and high tech focused stories (“Avalon” “The Returner”). The sci fi horror Korean film “The Host” was a big critical success (not to be confused with the soon to be released film of the same title that’s based on the young adult books).
One bright spot is the development of sci fi web series. “The Abandon” written and directed by the black director Keith Josef Adkins has just debuted the first installment of it’s story about a group of friends who must navigate and survive a global alien invasion that has changed the world forever. They have two choices: focus on their individual survival or secure the longevity of the human race. All the main characters are black. http://www.blackfilm.com/read/2012/12/watch-first-episode-of-keith-josef…
The brightest light at the end of the tunnel may very well be self-produced and directed work by ethnic minorities who seek to bring a different perspective to a genre that has always allowed us to entertain our infinite imagination and explore the human condition in a variety of ways. Like the best heroes in a science fiction story, ethnic minorities must be resourceful, clever, innovative, enterprising and somewhat fierce to survive and thrive in this genre.