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African American cinema

Related: African American - film - American cinema - 'race' movies - Spike Lee

Films: Bamboozled (2000)


African American cinema is the corpus of films created by, about, or specifically for African Americans. Along with African American literature, it is one of the primary artistic outlets of African American culture, and has historically concerned itself with themes of racism, equality, poverty, and the struggle for cultural identity.

As a distinct cinematic genre, it dates to the early silent era, when so-called race films were produced to meet the demands of black theatergoers. Although most of these early films were produced by white studios, pioneering black filmmakers like Oscar Micheaux were able to achieve success outside the studio system, producing some of the first financially viable independent films.

After the Second World War and the onset of the American Civil Rights Movement, mainstream American cinema became more widely disseminated among African Americans, who in turn found greater acceptance in Hollywood. This would lead to the demise of the race film and the eventual rise of new genres, such as Blaxploitation. This introduced black actors and filmmakers to a wider audience, but remained formulaic and stereotype-driven.

It was not until the late 1980s that the "New Black Wave" of young directors like John Singleton and Spike Lee began using film to address serious social and racial issues. These films recognized a changing cultural landscape, crossed racial divides, questioned long-standing stereotypes, and in the process, achieved mainstream success. By the 1990s, black actors had done the same, culminating with the 74th Academy Awards, where both the Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars were awarded to African-American actors for the first time in Academy Award history. This, in addition to Sidney Poitier winning the Lifetime Achievement award, led some to dub the evening "The Bloscars" and "The Blackademy Awards".

Today, African American cinema retains a distinct position within the American film industry. Nevertheless, creative cross-pollination has brought it into closer contact with the mainstream, and "black films" regularly attract moviegoers of all races. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Bhumiya/African_American_cinema [Sept 2006]

Melvin Van Peebles

  • Melvin Van Peebles': Classified X (1998) - Mark Daniels (III) [Amazon.com]
    Despite the incessant whingeing of Melvin Van Peebles, who is almost totally obscured by the chip on his shoulder and completely devoid of a sense of humor, this enjoyable doco on how blacks were depicted in old Hollywood movies will turn you onto some fantastic films of a bygone era that you may have forgotten about....or never heard of in the first place. If Mr. Van Peebles had his way, we would be denied the genius of Willie Best, Mantan Moreland and Steppin Fetchit. The latter made millions by portraying a slow-moving, backwoods negro. I'm sure he, like Liberace, cried all the way to the bank. It's called comedy and it's supposed to be funny, silly, klutzy!! As for the blatant racist stereotypes...it's history and should be viewed as such. If Mr. Van Peebles is so concerned about African-Americans looking stupid and undignified, he should check out some of the haircuts on the Jerry Springer Show and take up his cause with present-day offenders. History is just that, and if the circumstances, unpleasant as they are, make for a good story....remember folks, it's only a movie.

    I found "Classified X" extremely entertaining and recommend it highly. I have removed one star because I wish I could remove Melvin Van Peebles' monotonous whining from the proceedings. Also highly recommended is "Small Steps, Big Strides - The Black Experience In Hollywood". seawasp for amazon.com

    Melvin Van Peebles (born August 21, 1932 in Chicago, Illinois) is an American actor, director, screenwriter and composer, and the father of actor and director Mario Van Peebles. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melvin_Van_Peebles [Feb 2006]

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