Centrefold: It's a rap ..: A major retrospective sets the record straight about black American cinema

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
A few years back, a surge in Black cinema was triggered by the clustered release dates of a handful of films, notably John Singleton's Boyz N The Hood, Mario Van Peebles' New Jack City, Spike Lee's Jungle Fever and Bill Duke's A Rage in Harlem. All we Brits could show for ourselves was Isaac Julien's abysmal Young Soul Rebels, which made Julien that year's recipient of the Hanif Kureishi Wasted Talent award.

Once summer '91 was over, the fad effectively faded, the media had found something else to cheer, and those same film-makers carried on, as ever, with the business of getting movies off the ground. This week's NFT season, 'Phat Beats on Film: A Hip-Hop Film Retrospective', showcases some of the fruit which that initial period of activity bore, and also manages to take in the movies which flanked it. The season starts appropriately with two of the front-runners of hip-hop cinema, Wild Style with premier rapper Grandmaster Flash (if you don't know him, you'll have heard his samples brightening up Ice Cube's 'Check Yourself'), and Michael Schultz's 1975 ghetto drama Cooley High, which Variety described as 'heartening. . .a black American Graffiti'.

It's a pity that there wasn't room for Forest Whitaker's Strapped, a perceptive portrait of urban Catch-22s which has yet to see a full UK release. But why complain when Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing (right), is included? With Public Enemy's throbbing mantra 'Fight the Power' laced through it like strychnine, it's Lee's most fully-realised work to date (his new movie Crooklyn is poised for release here). Also recommended are Bill Duke's Deep Cover and the Hughes Brothers' overrated but stylish Menace II Society. Avoid at all costs, though, a preview of the comedy Fear of a Black Hat. Released here on 7 Oct, it's a depressing spoof of the rap scene that will have you reaching for Leonard Cohen to chase the gloom away.

'Phat Beats on Film' runs from tomorrow until 11 Sept at the NFT, South Bank SE1 (071-928 3232)

(Photograph omitted)

Comments