The Film Adaptation of Fences by August Wilson—Research Paper Topics

Many a film adaptation comes from a book or play, but the recent movie Fences by August Wilson, is the first of the playwright’s work to come to the big screen. Movie stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, reprise their Tony-winning roles.

Learn more about the film adaptation of Fences. (Credit: FrozenGate)

Learn more about the film adaptation of Fences. (Credit: FrozenGate)

A research paper could look at the entirety of August Wilson’s Pittsburgh cycle for themes.

The film adaption

Fences by August Wilson had not previously been made into a movie in part because of Wilson’s insistence on having an African American director. Denzel Washington took on the project and the playwright was able to assist in drafting a screenplay prior to his 2005 death. However, according to at least one critic, the film adaptation may have still missed the mark.

Richard Brody wrote “What “Fences” Misses About Adapting Plays for the Screen” for The New Yorker January 5, 2017, asserting that Washington’s direction of the material did not live up to the imagination of what August Wilson wrote. Brody criticized how the film adaptation of Fences by August Wilson did not break out of the theatrical sensibilities to explore the surrounding city. He also said, “Movie acting is rooted in innate personal charisma, but the actors in “Fences” (who have plenty of it) assert their presence as if to fill out the space of the stage with the force not of their personal character but of the characters they play.” A research paper could compare and contrast another film adaption of a play discussing if the transition was made successfully.

Fences by August Wilson

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August Wilson used the city and his experiences in it as the starting point for his 10-play cycle that includes Fences. David Canfield posted, “Denzel Washington and Viola Davis Star in the Powerful Trailer for the Adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences for slate.com September 27, 2016. He summarized the plot of the play and the film adaptation as a “devastating portrait of a black family in 1950’s Pittsburgh. Patriarch Troy Maxson (Washington) is a former Negro League baseball player now working as a waste collector; his son, Cory (Jovan Adepo of The Leftovers), is a talented athlete on the cusp of professional success.” The family is held together by the character of the mother, Rose, depicted by Viola Davis.

All but one of the plays in the Pittsburgh cycle takes place in that city, and each play is set in a different decade of the 20th century. A research paper could examine how effective August Wilson was at portraying the experience of African-Americans throughout the years and if one play presents a more effective portrait than the others.

Research paper topics

The work of August Wilson, including the film adaptation of Fences starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis offers many areas to explore in a research paper. For instance, the Summer 2006 edition of the African American Review published Susan Korprince’s “Baseball as History and Myth in August Wilson’s: Fences,” which cited the play’s use of baseball as a metaphor for the American dream.

Korprince wrote, “In his Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Fences (1987), however, August Wilson uses both the history and mythology of baseball to challenge the authenticity of the American dream.” She also cited how August Wilson used the history of black baseball in the play. A research paper could study other metaphors in the Pittsburgh cycle to see if they were as successful as the utilization of the baseball metaphor in Fences by August Wilson.

Want to learn more about African-American drama? Check out Questia—particularly the section on August Wilson.

Do you think more August Wilson plays are suited for a film adaptation? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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