I can’t remember the day or the time when I first heard about the film Black Dynamite, but I definitely remember seeing a really weird trailer for it on youtube. Everytime I saw it I kept thinking, “this couldn’t be a real movie.” I kept saying it until I saw an actual trailer for it. At the end of the trailer was an ad that said it would be at Sundance Film Festival, so from there I followed its progress. When I found out that a film studio bought it for distribution, I couldn’t wait to see it.
The wait was over once I made it to the Gene Siskel Film Center for the Black Harvest Film Festival. People raved about and called it “one of the funniest films.”
What is Black Dynamite? It is a movie that stars Micheal Jai White, who also created the character and co wrote the script. It was directed by Scott Sanders, and the film is a spoof/ homage to the genre known as “Blaxploitation.” These were films that came out in the ’70s when black cinema wasn’t a big draw at the box office. Maybe some films, but a lot wasn’t speaking on things that were really going on. A filmmaker named Melvin van Peebles stepped up and made Sweet Sweetback’s Baddasssssss Song, a film he wrote, produced, directed , and starred in. This film not only ushered in Black Cinema but also is the driving force for the Independent Film Scene. After this film, Hollywood studios who were going broke at the time, selling stuff from there back lot, saw that there was money to be made from black Films. After Sweetback more films started to come out.
The second film after Sweetback, was Shaft, directed by Gordon Parks Sr. The film starred Richard Rountree as John Shaft, a super bad ass private detective. It may be better known for its score and soundtrack composed by Issac Hayes. This film became a huge success, and the next film was Super Fly, which was directed by Gordon Parks son Gordon Parks Jr. The film was about a cocaine dealer who wanted out of the life. The film was huge at the box office as well as huge on the music charts, with a soundtrack that was done by Curtis Mayfield.
My love for this movie genre started in high school. I had to write a paper about Blacks in Films, and I came across this genre. After I was finished I ended up talking to my dad, and he told me more about it and I got into it more. The first film I saw was Shaft. Then I saw a film that to this day I’m still in love with, and in love with her. That film was Foxy Brown, and it was my first intoduction to Pam Grier. In this genre, and many other genres, you have great films, okay films, and really bad films. I think this genre took heat because it was a genre built around Blacks for Blacks. Some of the images were maybe a little bit raw for most people to watch. I think you need to show everything as an artist. How can you just show the beauty and not the ugly?
The genre ended because of protests from groups like NAACP and other organizations who were against the genre, so Hollywood took notice and stopped producing the movies that pretty muched saved their studios. I remember talking to my friend Drei, who is also a fan of the genre, and he told me that he has a love/ hate relationship with the genre. I got what he was saying, and I feel like that as well. I love what it did for blacks in putting them in films. I hate it mainly because of the images. I feel now that it’s been some years, that when a movie like Black Dynamite comes out and we all can sit and laugh at everything in the movie, we have come along way from thinking this genre was bad because it showed us in a negative light We can laugh now.
And now a list of other “Blaxploitation” films you should watch:
- Foxy Brown
- The Mack
- Cleopatra Jones
- Slaughter & Slaughter’s Big Rip Off
- Truck Turner
- Three the Hard Way
- Across 110th Street
- I’m Gonna Git You Sucka
More to come once you get through those. Until next time…