Baadasssss Cinema

Baadasssss Cinema

***1/2

Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

I approached Baadasssss Cinema with interest and trepidation, wondering what its its director Isaac Julien - British, gay and intellectual - would make of the Blaxploitation phenomenon of the early 1970s.

As it turns out, not much.

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I should explain that I mean this in a positive sense.

Straightforward and conventional in approach, the film uses archive footage, illustrative extracts from the films themselves and talking heads interviews with a well chosen selection of directors, performers and critics to tell the story of Blaxploitation from Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and Shaft (1971) to Jackie Brown (1997).

Not that Baadasssss cinema is blind to the contradictions inherent in a cinema for black urban audiences from a white Hollywood that has always thought green. No film with contributions from both bell hooks and Quentin Tarantino could be.

But Julien never lets the politics of representation become the tail wagging the dog, with the result that, subject matter aside, Baadassss Cinema should communicate with a wider audence than earlier documentaries like Looking for Langston and Frantz Fanon: Black Skin White Mask.

I only wish there was more of it. Running a scant hour, there is unsufficient time to really do justice to the topic. For every interesting digression - the recognition that Larry Cohen truly is one of the great unsung auteurs of American cinema - there are at least two avenues - like Bill Nunn's remarkable anti-Blaxploitation Ganga and Hess or "chitlin circuit" comedian Rudy Ray Moore's Dolemite films - that cannot be explored.

Recommended.

Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2002
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Baadasssss Cinema packshot
Documentary about the 1970s blaxploitation films.
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Director: Isaac Julien

Starring: Samuel L Jackson, Pam Grier, Melvin Van Peebles, Quentin Tarantino

Year: 2002

Runtime: 56 minutes

Country: UK/US

Festivals:

EIFF 2002

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If you like this, try:

Shaft