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Blaxploitation Film 1970s 1960s origins In 1965 the young black actor Sidney Poitier starred alongside Anne Bancroft in a thriller called 'The Slender Thread'. Poitier went on to star in the racially-charged 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?' in which he played white middle-class Katherine Houghton's boyfriend to the mixed reactions of her friends and relatives. 'In the heat of the night' saw Poitier playing a cop coping with Rod Steiger's racist redneck sheriff. These films showed Poitier in a presentable, middle-class light, tolerated rather than accepted by the white society in which he found himself. Although Poitier's films, mainstream Hollywood creations at best, suggested that it was possible for blacks to be accepted into white American society, the reality for many was harshly different. Race riots had broken out in cities across the US. The Black Panthers, with a large following in deprived areas of the big cities, were advocating militant action. Regardless of Poitier's positive influence on society through his films, they simply did not reflect life for the black majority at that time. BLACK PANTHER PARTY FOR SELF-DEFENSE, American black revolutionary party founded in 1966, California. The party's original purpose was to patrol black ghettoes to protect residents from acts of police As the brutality. 1970's began, followingeventually Poitier's lead, Bill Cosby, The Panthers developed into a Flip Wilson and later Richard Pryor started their careers mixarming of comedy Marxist revolutionary group that called in forathe of and seriousalldrama which happened to include black lead roles. The blacks, the exemption of blacks from the draft and subjectfrom matter reflected of theso-called big studios' all sanctions white unease America,with the handling the pressing social of issues of thefrom time, butand there a change release all blacks jail, thewas payment of around the corner.compensation to blacks for centuries of exploitation by white Americans. At its peak in the late 1960s, Panther membership exceeded 2,000 and the organization operated chapters in several major cities.

Melvin Van Peebles began to produce a film written for the black audience and quickly discovered that the major studios wouldn't touch it. Called 'Sweet Sweetback's Badaaass Song', it was vicious and uncompromising and deemed inaccessible to whites. Peebles went ahead and produced it anyway, financing it largely himself. Unable to show the film in many cinemas, he persuaded a few black cinemas in Detroit, San Francisco and New York to show it. The response was incredible. People

queued in their hundreds to see what was essentially the tale of a promiscuous black antihero as he makes his way towards Mexico to evade the white police. Peebles wrote his own score and enlisted the assistance of a newly-formed group called Earth, Wind and Fire who happened to be friends with one of his production crew. This was the start of a new genre. Now known as 'blaxploitation' films, these films satisfied the demand from inner-city audiences for movies made by, and for, blacks. It should be noted that the term 'blaxploitation' refers to the films' continuation of the trashy 'exploitation' films of the 1960's rather than the film studios 'using' black actors. Almost simultaneously, MGM Studios were shooting the first big-budget Hollywood blaxploitation film, 'Shaft'. The studio had been struggling and badly needed a hit movie to revive its flagging fortunes. In the film, according to MGM's synopsis, a 'black, muscular, fine-looking' private detective called John Shaft (played by Richard Roundtree) comes up against a variety of mobsters, hustlers and kidnappers, proving himself handy both in bed and with a gun. White critics proclaimed that it was a true reflection of life on the streets when it was really nothing more than a slick thriller that just happened to feature black actors.

MGM were delighted when 'Shaft' (director, Gordon Parks) went on to win an Oscar. The statuette was awarded to long-time Stax records artist and arranger Isaac Hayes for his 'Theme from Shaft'. 'Superfly' was as violent a movie as you could find. It romanticised the antics of a drug dealer antihero, Priest, played by Ron O'Neal. The films that followed became more formulaic as the seventies progressed. Plot-wise, most of them were either 'private detective takes on the mob' or 'dealer becomes king of the pimps'.

1973 Coffy Jack Hill A blaxploitation film which had a female protagonist which was rare in this genre but none the less, as Medovi points out it did,

‘activate feminine narratives concerning racial loyalties and black pride’. Medovi notes in particular that Pam Grier’s role in Coffy revealed her as facing anxieties actually felt by Black women viewers between their loyalty to the new Africa-American way (as exemplified by the Black Power Movement and the new heroic images of Black manhood in Blaxploitation movies) and their longing for an Afrocentric, (a passion for a retrieval of African roots.) The genre’s dress codes, language and music were firmly Black-encoded. On the other hand, the down side was the stress placed on sex and violence at the expense of the more complex intertwining of identity factors. Feminists would argue that Coffy could only use her sexual wiles in order to exact revenge and her status in society was at a low class. However she became a powerful role model and was one of the first female protagonists to have such a powerful role.

Blaxploitation From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Shaft (1971) Blaxploitation is a film genre that emerged in the United States in the early 1970s when many exploitation films were made that targeted the urban black audience; the word itself is a portmanteau of the words "black" and "exploitation." Blaxploitation films starred primarily black actors, and were the first to feature soundtracks of funk and soul music. Variety magazine credited Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song with the invention of the blaxploitation genre.[1] Others argue that the Hollywoodfinanced film Shaft is closer to being blaxploitation, and thus, is more likely to have begun the genre. [2]

"Portmanteau word" is used to describe a linguistic blend, namely "a word formed by blending sounds from two or more distinct words and combining their meanings."[1]

Common qualities When set in the Northeast or West Coast of the U.S., Blaxploitation films tend to take place in the ghetto, dealing with pimps, drug dealers, and hit men. The genre frequently takes place in an atmosphere of crime and drug-dealing. Ethnic slurs against whites (e.g. "honky"), and negative white characters like corrupt cops, politicians, women of ill repute and easily fooled organized crime members were common. Blaxploitation films set in the South often take place on a plantation, dealing with slavery and miscegenation.[3][4] Miscegenation (Latin miscere "to mix" + genus "kind") is the mixing of different racial groups, that is, marrying, cohabiting, having sexual relations and having children with a partner from outside one's racially or ethnically defined group.

Blaxploitation includes several types of films, including crime (Foxy Brown), action (Three the Hard Way), horror (Abby), comedy (Uptown Saturday Night), nostalgia (Five on the Black Hand Side), coming-of-age/courtroom drama (Cornbread, Earl and Me), and musical (Sparkle). The primary quality of the Blaxploitation film is the targeted marketing to black audiences with the use of exploitable elements such as a black cast and subject matter of interest to African-Americans.

Following the lead of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, many of these films featured funk and soul jazz soundtracks with heavy bass, funky beats and wah-wah guitars. These soundtracks are notable for a degree of complexity that was not common for radio-friendly funk tracks and rich orchestration that included uncommon instruments such as flutes and violins. This style of music actually evolved into a bona-fide musical genre, also called blaxploitation. Prominent examples of this style include Curtis Mayfield's Super Fly and Isaac Hayes's Shaft.[5]

Stereotypes At the same time, the films also stereotyped blacks, the audience they aimed to appeal to, as pimps and drug dealers. This dovetailed with common white stereotypes about black people, and as a result, many called for the end of the blaxploitation genre. The NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Urban League joined together to form the Coalition Against Blaxploitation. Backed by many black film professionals, this group received much media exposure and hastened the death of the genre by the late 1970s. Blaxploitation films, such as Mandingo, laid the foundation for future filmmakers to address racial controversies regarding inner city poverty, and in the early 1990s, a new wave of acclaimed black filmmakers focused on black urban life in their films, particularly Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and John Singleton's Boyz N the Hood, among others.

Later influence and media references An early blaxploitation tribute can be seen in the character of "Lite" played by Sy Richardson in Repo Man (1984). Richardson would later go on to write Posse (1993), which could be described as a kind of blaxploitation Western. Later movies such as Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), Superbad (2007), and Undercover Brother (2002), as well as Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown (1997), Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003), and Death Proof (2007) feature pop culture nods to the blaxploitation genre. The parody Undercover Brother, for instance, starred Eddie Griffin as an Afro-topped agent for a clandestine organization satirically known as the "B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D." Likewise, Austin Powers in Goldmember costars BeyoncÊ Knowles as the Tamara Dobson/Pam Grier-inspired heroine, Foxxy Cleopatra. In the 1977 parody film The Kentucky Fried Movie, a mock trailer for Cleopatra Schwartz depicts another Pam Grier-like action star married to a Rabbi. Furthermore, the acclaimed film auteur and noted fan of exploitation films, Quentin Tarantino, has made countless references to the blaxploitation genre in his films, in addition to Jackie Brown. In a famous scene in Reservoir Dogs, for instance, the main characters engage in a brief discussion regarding Get Christie Love!, a mid-1970s blaxploitation television series. Similarly, in the catalytic scene of True Romance, the characters are seen viewing the movie The Mack. Later spoofs parodying the blaxploitation genre include I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Pootie Tang, Undercover Brother and The Hebrew Hammer, which featured a Jewish protagonist, and was jokingly referred to by its director as a "Jewsploitation" film.

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song – Dir. Melvin Van Peebles, 1971 According to Variety, it demonstrated to Hollywood that films which portrayed "militant" blacks could be highly profitable, leading to the creation of the blaxploitation genre, although the film itself is not commonly considered to be an exploitation film. Shaft - Gordon Parks, 1971 Come Back Charleston Blue - Mark Warren1972 Cool Breeze - 1972 The Harder They Come Perry Henzell - 1972 Superfly Gordon Parks Jr. - 1972 Blacula 1972 Slaughter Jack Starrett, 1972 The Legend of Nigger Charley, Martin Goldman,1972 Hell Up In Harlem Larry Cohen, 1973 Hammer 1973 The Mack 1973 Black Caesar 1973 Larry Cohen

Hell Up In Harlem 1973 Larry Cohen Cleopatra Jones, Jack Starrett 1973 Superfly T.N.T. 1973. Coffy 1973. Samson, 1974 Slaughter's Big Rip-Off 1974. a sequel, Gordon Douglas Cornbread, Earl and Me 1974 Three The Hard Way 1974 Together Brothers 1974 Lialeh - 1974 Foxy Brown 1974. Truck Turner 1974 Willie Dynamite 1974 Gilbert Moses Sheba Baby 1975 Three Tough Guys. 1975 Black Fist 1977

The cinema genre had effectively ended as a creative force in 1978 but 'Short Eyes', 'Let's Do It Again' and 'Sparkle' and 'Youngblood' are still good examples of the genre made in that year.

Did You Know...

... From around 1982 until 2007, African-American actors, directors, producers and executives held a secret ceremony on the night before Oscar night, to celebrate black performers, calling the event, the Black Oscars. Every talent, from the likes of Samuel L. Jackson to Will Smith, participated in this event, which was considered a moment for black Hollywood to honour its own. In 2007, the "Friends of the Black Oscars," the secretive group that sponsored the event, decided that the Black Oscars had finally become obsolete, thanks in large part to the recent increases in the presence of black performers in the race for Oscar - Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Will Smith and Djimon Hounsou, notably.

After reading the Concept of Whiteness and American Film, Early Black Film Cinema History and Blaxploitation Film handouts can you offer an opinion on the following topics?

Lisa (Rosalind Cash) in The Omega Man and I Am Legend’s Alice Braga as Anna In 1971 when The Omega Man was released the screenwriters thought including Rosalind Cash as the last woman on earth would ‘add a bit of racial pizzazz’. Blaxploitation was popular at the time and the film gained from a wider audience. Lisa is a blaxploitation character crossing genres into the American sci-fi, action-adventure movie. Consider what stereotypical traits and values, if any, did Lisa bring with her from any period in black film history? __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ Just think Will Smith got paid $20M for Hancock and with the deal he has of getting 20% of the gross he would have made $144M from that movie. Will Smith, is the first to have eight straight movies earn more than $100 million at the box office. What does this suggest about producers and audiences in 2007? __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ Alice Braga is Hispanic, what does this suggest about producers and audiences in Hollywood today? __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________



concept of whiteness (the characteristics that identify an individual or a group as belong to the Caucasian race)


the term WASP stands for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant


Classical Hollywood narrative - term used in film history which designates both a visual and sound style for making motion pictures and a mode of production used in the American film industry between roughly the 1910s and the 1960s. Classical style is fundamentally built on the principle of continuity editing or "invisible" style. That is, the camera and the sound recording should never call attention to themselves (as they might in a modernist or postmodernist work).


Classical Hollywood narrative Encourages all spectators, regardless of their actual colour, to identify with white protagonists.


Stereotypes – simplified set of traits ascribed to a group of people, often demeaning but sometimes based in truth


Tokenism – the inclusion of a person of ethnic origin to deflect criticisms of institutional racism


Antebellum - before or existing before the war, esp. the American Civil War


The American Civil War (1861–1865) was a civil war in the United States of America. Eleven Southern slave states declared their secession from the U.S. and formed the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy). Led by Jefferson Davis, they fought against the U.S. federal government (the Union), which was supported by all the free states and the five border slave states in the north.


Slavery in the United States began soon after English colonists first settled in Virginia in 1607 and lasted as a legal institution until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865.


Othering refers to the way a dominant culture ascribes an undesirable trait (one shared by all humans) onto one specific group of people.


displacement, in which a person or group sees something about itself that it doesn’t like, and instead of accepting that fault or shortcoming, projects it onto another person or group.


Blaxploitation - these films satisfied the demand from inner-city audiences for movies made by, and for, black people. Rather than the film studios 'using' black actors, the studios exploited an audience, stereotyped black men as pimps and Johns, women as Hookers.

"I don't stand for the black man's side, I don't stand for the white man's

side. I stand for God's side."

-- Bob Marley

Blaxploitation Film 1970s  
Blaxploitation Film 1970s  

As the 1970's began, following Poitier's lead, Bill Cosby, Flip Wilson and later Richard Pryor started their careers in a mix of comedy and...