In the 1970s the movement was born Blaxploitation. So named by Junius Griffin, president from NAACP (National Association of the Advancement of Coloured People), as a critique of the exploitation of black people on screen, the name ended up being used to designate productions made between the 1970s and 1978.
These films were starred by black actresses and actors, thus being aimed at an African-American audience. Griffin’s criticism came from the fact that most of the characters in this film reinforced the view of black people as rogues and outlaws. However, on the other hand, the visibility given to people who participated in the productions of this movement took the black artistic population out of ostracism.
Still, and despite being a movement that lasted less than a decade, these films were important. They projected the careers of black professionals as well as talked about African-American beauty and culture.
Directed by Ossie Davis, Rififi no Harlem (1970), considered the founding work of the Blaxploitation is based on the novel of Chester Himes. The production has as a background the political and cultural discussion of the movement back to Africa. The film’s protagonist, Reverend Dek O’Malley (Calvin Lockhart), uses his influence to deceive the community in which he was born and raised. He sells false promises, seduction and lavishes style.
The hallmark of Blaxploitation in Rififi no Harlem, is the three-dimensionality of its protagonist. Even though he is an anti-hero, his characterization is not only good and evil, as Dek is complex, autonomous and full of conflicts.
And not just gang movies or crime novels that period was made. There have been a fair amount of horror movies made by the movement. And all the classic monsters have been revisited: Frankenstein in Blackenstein (1973), zombies in Revenge of the Dead (1974) and , Werewolf in The Beast Must Die (1974), just to name a few.
One of our favorite monsters, the vampire has not been forgotten, appearing in more philosophical films like Ganja & Hess, but also in films with more suspense and blood like Blácula (1972). In this way, the African prince Manuwalde (William Marshall), bitten by Count Dracula and, after years asleep, spreads fear as he pursues the reincarnation of his beloved. The film is a free adaptation of the novel by Bram Stoker. Your sequel, Blacula’s Screams (1973) shows Manuwalde’s return after a voodoo practitioner resurrected him.
Cinema was not made just by men Blaxploitation, but also of the movement divas. Names like Marlene Clark, Vonetta McGee, Gloria Hendry e Tamara Dobson are recurrent when talking about movement. However the queen of this period is Pam Grier. No wonder Quentin Tarantino invited her to star Jackie Brown, in the late 1990s.
In Coffy – Seeking Revenge (1973), the nurse played by Grier, decides to eliminate the local drug dealers who led her younger sister to decadence. So she disguises herself as a prostitute and begins a journey of revenge.
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Blaxploitation: films to discover black protagonism in 1970s cinema – music non stop