Lifetime's latest movie, "Black Girl Missing," aims to not only shed light on the lack of media coverage and law enforcement resources for when Black women and girls go missing, but to also mobilize communities to action.
The story in "Black Girl Missing," which stars Garcelle Beauvais as the mother in the film, was inspired by real life stories of missing people of color, and the struggles these families endure due to racial discrimination inherent in many parts of society.
In a Lifetime press panel, Beauvais spelled out what she hopes the potential impact of the movie turns out to be: "For me ... it's bringing awareness and making people see what goes on between the disparity of if someone was Black or brown and goes missing, versus if someone is blond and blue-eyed and becomes America's sweetheart. We just want equality and being seen."
The Mission Behind the Film
Beauvais, who also served as the executive producer of the film, helped pitch the film to Lifetime along with the Black and Missing Foundation—a non-profit organization that provides vital resources and tools to the families and friends of missing persons, and educates the minority community on personal safety—and the network went all in to champion the issue under their "Stop Violence Against Women" campaign.
"This movie is a call to action, that people will want to do something to even the playing field. Missing persons is not a Black issue or a white issue. It's an American issue. It's a human issue," said Derrica Wilson, a co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation.
The film is unique because the production team worked with Wilson and other consultants from the foundation to share the factual narrative of the issue. The foundation is featured throughout the film as Beauvais's character, in searching for her daughter, learns from them about the disparity in how missing persons of color receive significantly less media attention and law enforcement resources, if at all, than missing white persons do.
Fighting to Be Seen and Heard
Wilson explained that when Black girls go missing, their cases are not taken seriously. A Black girl is often classified as a runaway, or missing by choice, and there is no urgency behind how her case is handled. And with media coverage, Wilson added, there isn't even a policy behind how those cases should be treated.
"It is our hope that the impact of this movie will show that everyone has a responsibility to do a part when someone goes missing. That's law enforcement, that's the media, and that's the community," said Wilson.
Powerful Storytelling Effects Change
Linda Park, who co-stars in the film, shared why movies like this are so important in getting people to empathize with these families and to ignite change:
"When you are able to relate one on one... then you see the person, you see the situation. You're able to have awareness through a heart space, to understand as a mother from a universal perspective, why this is wrong and why we need to effect change, to be mobilized by emotions. This is what drives people to action, through that heart space."
Taylor Mosby, who plays the sister of the girl missing in the film, explained that the movie depicts what it looks like for someone who doesn't have the same resources as everybody else does when their loved one goes missing. "Imagine having to do that alone. You have to build your own resources for this impossible situation," said Mosby.
Wilson added that she hopes the film encourages audiences to perform even the smallest of actions when they learn of someone who has gone missing: "When you see a flyer of a missing individual, help that flyer go viral. Become that digital milk carton. And recognize your own biases ... "
Beauvais remarked, "If nothing else, I hope [this movie will] save someone, or more than one person which would be ideal."
"Black Girl Missing" premieres March 4 on Lifetime.