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‘Uncorked’ Creators Reveal How Authentic Storytelling Breaks Down Stereotypes — and Barriers

Writer-director Prentice Penny and producer Datari Turner discuss how their story pushes back against the subtle racism of screen cliches

'Uncorked' and Facebook
Courtesy of Facebook

A great story not only entertains — it also empowers.

A well-told tale helps us understand the experiences of people we might never meet in our own lives. Storytelling helps us see people for the unique individuals that they are, not merely stereotypes or members of a group we think we know.

This is the kind of story the creators of the film “Uncorked” are determined to tell as they look to break down stereotypes and show the nuanced and heartfelt humanity of underrepresented voices.

In a recent interview conducted by Jen Barrett — who is head of entertainment at Facebook Creative Shop — “Uncorked’s” writer-director Prentice Penny and producer Datari Turner shared how their life experiences and family relationships helped them create a film that challenged preconceptions about Black people. 

Barrett, founder of SEEN, a Facebook program that aims to help underrepresented storytellers find audiences for their work, also asked Penny and Turner about why elevating diverse voices in Hollywood is so critical to breaking down long-held stereotypes.

“My father’s ideology was, like, ‘Do everything Black,’” says Penny. “And my mom was, like, ‘If it’s white, it’s right. You’re going to do all these things these white kids do.’ And so that kind of carried over into school and to the types of projects I want to do where, you know, I wanted to always show that people of color do a wide variety of things.”   

Penny adds that he hopes this principle will one day come to fruition in Hollywood. “It’s amazing that (Ryan) Coogler gets to do ‘Black Panther,’ but it’d be even more amazing if Coogler got to do ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’”

As for Turner’s interest in producing “Uncorked,” he was excited to draw on his own enthusiasm for wine while telling a story that is normally untold. A wine enthusiast himself, Turner grew up in the Bay Area where Napa Valley was a quick weekend trip away. His parents love to drink wine and his brother is a master sommelier. 

In recent years, the movement to highlight multifaceted stories of diverse groups of people in media, entertainment and advertising has been gaining broad support. Both Penny and Turner are passionate about supporting more content that challenges stereotypes, which they say requires elevating content creators from a variety of backgrounds.

“The gatekeepers who decide whether or not content gets to an audience are mostly still white people,” says Penny. “Until we have more people of color and women and people of other orientations in those positions to say yes or no, it’s still stagnant in some ways.” 

One example of an inaccurate trope that Penny and Turner sought to challenge with “Uncorked” is the Hollywood cliche about Black father-son conflicts. In many films, this conflict arises primarily because of the father’s absence from the son’s life. But both Penny and Turner say their fathers were present and supportive. In “Uncorked,” the father is a near-constant presence in the family, even as he balances the pressures of running his own restaurant. 

Discovering and shepherding new diverse content creators is central to the mission of Turner’s production company. Of the over 35 films he has produced, Turner says that 98% of them have been led by first- or second-time filmmakers. 

“I’ve always just wanted to be on the front lines,” he says.

As this summer’s protests against racial injustice show, the country is facing profound social divisions. Ensuring that the true stories of historically unheard communities are told won’t just result in more engaging entertainment — by building understanding among groups and empathy between people, it could also help heal those divisions and inequalities. “Uncorked” contributes to this important effort by challenging viewers’ biases in an authentic and relatable way. Empowering more diverse voices to tell their own stories will be essential as we create connections that cross racial divides and work as a society toward justice and equality.