Blaxploitation is a subgenre of American films released in the early to mid 1970’s characterized by primarily African American casts, elements of exploitation (sex, drugs, violence, etc), depictions of empowered black characters, and the incredible use of original scores by some of most prominent funk and jazz musicians of the day. Many of these made-on-the-cheap films broke through to achieve huge box office success, bucking expectations that they would only appeal to viewers in the “urban” market. Their portrayal of black life, however, was not without its detractors. This unique genre was given its name by then NAACP head Junius Griffin, who used the designation to criticize these films’ use of what he considered negative stereotypes about the African American experience. In the years since, the critical consensus around these films has warmed substantially as they are some of the best early examples of principally black casts and crews getting their work seen by a mainstream audience. The lasting effects of the genre on pop culture cannot be overstated either, and these films deserve reconsideration through contemporary eyes and critique.
This July, we celebrate a unique group of films that represent a wide spectrum of approaches to entertainingly showing the socio-economic concerns of a generation of people of color that also happen to sport some of the greatest soundtracks of all time, featuring the talents of Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Roy Ayers, James Brown, and Earth, Wind & Fire.
Mon, Jul 16 at 8:55pm
A nurse takes to the streets to exact revenge on the inner-city dealers who got her younger sister hooked on drugs. Come for Pam Grier’s excellent performance as the righteous vigilante; stay for Roy Ayers’s exceptionally funky soundtrack.
Mon, Jul 23 at 9:00pm
This story of a Harlem youth's rise and fall in New York City's criminal underworld marks the first soundtrack work by the Godfather of Soul himself, Mr. James Brown.
Mon, Jul 30
Priest (Ron O’Neal), a coke dealer who wants to get out of the game, decides to make one last big score before calling it quits in Gordon Parks Jr.’s sensational depiction of the day-to-day life of a career criminal. Curtis Mayfield’s unparalleled score makes this an absolute must-see in the theater.
Mon, Jul 2 at 7:30pm, 9:40pm
When the New York Mafia wants to take over the Harlem drug trade, they kidnap the daughter of a local crime lord who hires the one man tough enough to get his daughter back: Shaft. Score by Isaac Hayes.
Mon, Jul 9 at 8:45pm
After saving a Black Panther from some racist cops, a male prostitute goes on the run from "the man" with the help of the black community and some disillusioned Hells Angels in this low-budget independent film written, directed, produced, edited, and starring Melvin Van Peebles (who also composed the score performed by Earth, Wind & Fire).
Thu, Jul 12 | 7-9pm
This seminar is presented in conjunction with Music City Mondays: Blaxploitation, Mondays in July. (Seminar ticket and movie tickets sold separately.) Presented by Frank Dobson, associate dean of students, Social Justice and Identity Center, at Vanderbilt University.