BLACK GOLD returns Thursday, January 10th with the Toronto premiere of ReMell Ross' poignant and much-lauded poetic doc, HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING!
Black Gold and Images Festival present Leilah Weinraub's sumptuous and radical experimental doc, SHAKEDOWN!
Well, it's a crazy f*cked up world and we're all just floating along waiting for someone who can walk on water, man. So why not join your pals at the The Royal in celebrating the 20th anniversary of James Merendino's cult fave SLC PUNK! Come out Sunday, October 14th for this very special one-night-only screening PLUS live set from Toronto noise punk unit WLMRT!
Celebrating the best of black cinema and its icons from then 'til now, BLACK GOLD invites you to join us on Thursday, October 11th for a special screening of the newly remastered director's cut of Bill Gunn's radical and sensuous GANJA AND HESS!
"Cut by timid distributors and inappropriately marketed as grindhouse blaxploitation, this eerie, sui generis work by utterly iconoclastic director Bill Gunn (Personal Problems) is, in its original form, nothing short of a masterpiece of ‘70s American cinema. Night of the Living Dead’s Duane Jones is an anthropologist living in aristocratic splendor in the Hudson Valley who finds himself lusting for blood after being stabbed by his unstable assistant (Gunn). What proceeds from this is a baroque, atmospheric rumination on the clash between African-American and Euro-American culture, animist and Christian influences, and homo–and hetero–desire. With Marlene Clark and Sam L. Waymon, who also composed the film’s haunting score.
This version of Ganja & Hess, saved by scholar Pearl Bowser, represents the director’s cut of the film, restored by the Museum of Modern Art from a 35mm negative, with support from the Film Foundation."
Saturday, October 6th join The Royal in re-examining Vincent Gallo's first feature film, BUFFALO '66! This one-night-only affair will feature a special 35mm screening in celebration of the film's 20th anniversary and, most likely, a sobering communal look at Gallo's present day politics ;)
Friday, August 31st - Saturday, September 1st The Royal Cinema is teaming up with Inside Out LGBT Film Festival to present Gregg Araki's beloved 90s cult flick trio, THE TEENAGE APOCALYPSE TRILOGY!
Beginning with THE DOOM GENERATION through to TOTALLY F***ED UP and NOWHERE, join us in celebrating Araki's radical contributions to the queer cinema canon. Plus, we have prizes from our lovely sponsors, The Beguiling Books & Art & Eyesore Cinema!
Individual tickets are $12 online, $14 door or $30 to see all three films! Please note triple bill pricing is only available online.
Celebrating the best of black cinema and its icons from then 'til now, BLACK GOLD invites you to join us Tuesday, August 21st for a special 40th anniversary, dazzlingly restored 35mm screening of master filmmaker Charles Burnett's KILLER OF SHEEP!
"If KILLER OF SHEEP were an Italian film from 1953, we would have every scene memorized."
"There are first films like CITIZEN KANE or BREATHLESS, which, as radically new and fully achieved as they are, unfairly overshadow an entire oeuvre. And then there are first films, perhaps even more radical, which haunt an artist's career not through precocious virtuosity but because they have an innocence that can never be repeated. Charles Burnett's legendary KILLER OF SHEEP, which was finished in 1978 and, despite its enormous critical reputation, [only in 2007 received] a theatrical release, belongs with these.
Made while Burnett was a 33-year-old grad student at UCLA, KILLER OF SHEEP is a study of social paralysis in South Central Los Angeles a dozen years after the Watts insurrection. The subject matter harks back to the heyday of Italian neorealism but Burnett uses the film language of experimental documentaries like In the Street, Blood of the Beasts, and Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising. (Like Anger, Burnett never cleared the rights to his extensive pop-music score—one reason why his film could not be commercially shown [before its re-release in 2007].) Sui generis, Burnett's film is an urban pastoral—an episodic series of scenes that are sweet, sardonic, deeply sad, and very funny.
... As fresh and observational as it was  years ago, Killer of Sheep seems even more universal now. Today, I'd change my blurb to note that the KILLER OF SHEEP isn't only America, but life."
BLACK GOLD is back at it again! Celebrating the best of black cinema and its icons from then 'til now, Black Gold invites you to join us Friday, August 3rd in celebration of the life and music of Ms. Grace Jones with a screening of Sophie Fiennes' stunning documentary, BLOODLIGHT AND BAMI! Yes, we celebrated her in October, but there is no limit to our love!
"In a movie about someone who has shown you everything, what you’re looking for is something you never expected to see. “Bloodlight and Bami” delivers. Ms. Jones shucks her own oysters — stressfully. She does her own make up and performs her own vexed yet amusing contract negotiations. She counsels, watches, listens and sort of kids around (“Heads are gonna roll,” she sings after one sour phone call)...
This isn’t a career retrospective or a treatise on the importance and wide influence of Grace Jones. (Someone should feel free to make either or both of those.) “Bloodlight and Bami” is all vérité. The director Sophie Fiennes began filming Ms. Jones in the mid-2000s and simply observes her on stage and off. She follows her home to Jamaica, where the diva mellows, almost unconsciously, into a daughter, sister and parishioner. She watches her record her 2008 album “Hurricane” and become a grandmother...
The documentary is a feat of portraiture and a restoration of humanity. It’s got the uncanny, the sublime, and, in many spots, a combination of both."
- New York Times
BLACK GOLD's 90s summer continues! Celebrating the best of black cinema and its icons from then 'til now, Black Gold invites you to join us Monday, July 30th to rejoice in the life and work of one of America's most underrated and highly gifted actors, the one and only Laurence Fishburne, with a screening of DEEP COVER!
Fishbourne, fresh off the heels of his iconic performance as patriarch Furious Styles in John Singleton's BOYZ N THE HOOD, is both phenomenal and determined here in his first starring role. He plays John, a police officer traumatized by having witnessed the death of his addict father as a child. A solitary man who lives a stringently clean, if not tortured life, John hopes to dedicate his professional life to a deeply moralist and above-the-board method of law enforcement. However, it is not long before his past leads him to be scouted for undercover work and what follows is a deeply conflicted infiltration of Hollywood's cocaine trade, its ties to international politics, and the continued troubled legacy of America's War on Drugs in the Bush era.
Amply fulfilling the promise shown in A RAGE IN HARLEM, director Bill Duke - an acting heavyweight himself (PREDATOR, MENACE II SOCIETY, ACTION JACKSON, AMERICAN GIGOLO, an early role in CAR WASH for gosh sake) - does a terrific job in spelling out the grim social implications of this exceptionally violent 1992 picture. What emerges is a powerhouse neo-noir thriller full of surprises, original touches, and rare political lucidity, all under the helm of a black director and black star. This is a movie that calls for actors with the gravitas to sell an inhumane amoralism alongside the ability to sincerely send up the film's camp elements - which, to that end, includes an impressive performance by Jeff Goldblum, just a year off from stealing the show in JURASSIC PARK, as Fishburne's criminal counterpart.
P.S. It's Larry's birthday. Dress accordingly ;)
"Crooklyn (1994) is a jumble of dissonant moods. On one hand, Spike Lee’s eighth feature is a noisy, messy, and infectious Brooklyn street film; on the other, it is a dreamy and wistful memoir—but one that’s never overtly sentimental.
It is filtered primarily through the reminiscences of Joie Lee, who scripted the story—with older brother Spike and younger brother Cinqué—about growing up in pre-gentrification 1970s Bedford-Stuyvesant. Zelda Harris plays Troy, a quiet but self-possessed little girl saddled with four brothers and a struggling musician father, Woody (Delroy Lindo), who leaves the breadwinning to his tough-loving schoolteacher wife, Carolyn (Alfre Woodard).
Revelatory in its warmth and exuberance, Crooklyn altered perceptions about Lee as a filmmaker whose default mode had been anger, and who had been criticized for depicting women primarily in terms of their sexuality. His harnessing of visual stratagems to evoke the sensory experience of his little-girl heroine revealed a tender empathy.
Crooklyn evokes nostalgia for the Bed-Stuy of crowded brownstone stoops, for water hydrants broken open to beat the heat, and for street games like hopscotch and jump-rope. Those were the days, Crooklyn proclaims. They were the Lee family’s equivalent of what the poet A.E. Housman, thinking of pastoral England, called “the land of lost content…the happy highways where I went/And cannot come again.” It was obviously possible, in the 1970s, to walk such highways in inner-city Brooklyn."
— The Culture Trip
Black Gold invites you to join us Thursday, June 21st for a screening of Isaac Julien's debut feature film, YOUNG SOUL REBELS!
1977: Queen's Silver Jubilee year. Two London soul-boys want their pirate radio station to reach a wider public. Chris (Valentine Nonyela) is distracted both by the big-time lure of the mainstream 'Metro' station and by Tracy (Sophie Okonedo, in her first role!), while Caz (Mo Sesay) reacts to what he sees as his old friend's betrayal by taking up with gay socialist-worker punk Billibud (Jason Durr). Worse, the cops suspect Chris of murdering one of Caz's friends at a local cruising spot.
The recipient of the critics prize at the 1991 Cannes Films Festival, Isaac Julien's Young Soul Rebels is an ambitious first feature: equal parts crime caper, coming of age tale, and queered counterculture document, this uniquely spirited film offers a thumb toward Britain's official history by presenting a vibrant microcosm of the racial, sexual, and cultural tensions which underscored the 1970s. And THAT soundtrack!
BLACK GOLD is back at it again! Celebrating the best of black cinema and black screen icons from then 'til now, Black Gold invites you to join us Friday, May 18th for a beautiful 4K restoration screening of master auteur Djibril Diop Mambéty's landmark 1973 film, TOUKI BOUKI!
"With a stunning mix of the surreal and the naturalistic, Djibril Diop Mambéty paints a vivid, fractured portrait of Senegal in the early 1970s. In this French New Wave–influenced fantasy-drama, two young lovers long to leave Dakar for the glamour and comforts of France, but their escape plan is beset by complications both concrete and mystical. Characterized by dazzling imagery and music, the alternately manic and meditative Touki Bouki is widely considered one of the most important African films ever made."
4K restoration made possible by Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project.
BLACK GOLD is back at it again! Celebrating the best of black screen icons from then 'til now, Black Gold invites you to join us in celebrating the life of the great purple one, his royal badness, the prince of funk himself, Prince Roger Nelson, with a double bill of PURPLE RAIN and a rare 35mm screening of his previously lost classic SIGN O' THE TIMES!
Get ready to smash some mirrors, Ladies of Burlesque at The Royal and BLACK GOLD are teaming up to bring you a glorious 4K restoration masterpiece from the Master of Melodrama himself, Douglas Sirk. The 1959 version of IMITATION OF LIFE is a lush, beautifully-designed Technicolor kaleidoscope that combines Sirk’s usual female-focused domestic melodrama with biting social critique around the mid-century realities of race and class. Featuring an astounding performance from pioneering black actress Juanita Moore, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role, Sirk’s IMITATION OF LIFE is considered the crown jewel of his American career. And with a performance from Genie Emerald, this guarantees to be the an immersive “Sirkian” experience!
Updating John M. Stahl’s 1934 film adaptation of Frannie Hurst’s sensational novel, Sirk’s IMITATION OF LIFE is more well-rounded in its depiction of racially other characters. When widowed white aspiring actress Lora Meredith (Lana Turner) meets Annie Johnston, a black single-mother in need of work, the two decide to pair up and live in a tiny New York apartment with their young daughters. Annie supports Lora’s career by taking care of the domestic labor and raising their respective daughters. As Lora’s career takes off, Annie must confront the reality that her light-skinned daughter Sarah-Jane (Sarah Kohner) lives a life of racial transgression by passing as white and performing in nightclubs.
The film’s performances, especially Moore and Kohner’s, are the film’s most impressive achievements. In the case of Turner, real-life melodrama was channeled into her performance—the iconic actress’s daughter had recently been acquitted in the death of Turner’s abusive gangster husband.
BLACK GOLD is back at it again! Celebrating the best of black cinema and its icons from then 'til now, Black Gold invites you to join us in celebrating our first birthday with a 35mm screening of Lizzie Borden's feminist masterpiece BORN IN FLAMES!
"Borden’s landmark, low-budget revolutionary treatise addresses a semi-documentary, semi-fictional parallel world to ours, where competing feminist groups wander the streets and control the radio waves, and where the “Social Democratic” administration in power is powerless to stop the tide of progress stemming from racial and gender injustice.
An instant hit upon its premiere at the 1983 Berlin Film Festival, Born in Flames has since influenced countless feminists. This “unruly, unclassifiable film—perhaps the sole entry in the hybrid genre of radical-lesbian-feminist sci-fi vérité—premiered two years into the Reagan regime, but its fury proves as bracing today as it was back when this country began its inexorable shift to the right.”"
— Melissa Anderson, The Village Voice
"Cut to the beat of the Red Krayola, Lizzie Borden’s no wave, lo-fi, sci-fi polemic announced a new type of queer cinema nearly a decade before the New Queer Cinema movement coalesced in the early 90s. Ten years after a socialist revolution, diverse feminist factions come together to fight for their rights in a society that calls itself a utopia while quietly maintaining the status quo. Shot in the rough and tumble New York of the 80s, Born in Flames captures an aesthetically and politically radical downtown scene."
“Anyone outside its target demographic of Trotskyite black lesbian separatists should avoid [Born in Flames] at all costs.”
— The Onion
35mm restoration print courtesy of Anthology Film Archives.
BLACK GOLD and Queer Fear are teaming up this February to show you what can happen when communities come together in the name of the macabre!
Black Gold & Queer Fear Present: QUEEN OF THE DAMNED
Saturday February 24th, 2018
Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles are famously full of queer, but things got kicked up a notch with the casting of Aaliyah as the mother of all vampires in 2002. No longer were the Vampire Chronicles only responsible for bringing queerness into the vampire film on a larger scale, but they were responsible for creating one of the most idolized, powerful and awe-inspiring black woman characters in film history.
In the midst of a melodramatic story of a downtrodden Lestat, jaded and defeated from years of lacklustre vampirism, Queen Akasha awakens to show the world what true power is, commanding the screen in Aaliyah’s career defining role. Though she doesn’t appear until well after the 30 minute mark, Aaliyah’s Akasha quickly became an iconic character due to her ethereal and powerful presence on screen, a feat virtually (and unfortunately) unheard of for a woman of colour. Further adding to Akasha’s legacy was Aaliyah’s tragic death in September 2001, with the film being released posthumously.
Though the queerness in the film is more subtext and background knowledge of the series and Akasha appears for only a fraction of the film, its importance lies in representation. For two communities that have struggled with visibility, Queen of the Damned offered an opportunity for both to be empowered, in an even more rare situation, wherein both the queer and black communities were simultaneously represented by strong characterization.
Join Black Gold & Queer Fear for a night of entertainment and discussion, featuring fierce drag performances and a panel discussion exploring the importance of the film and our representation in the media.
Performer and panelist announcements coming soon!
BLACK GOLD is back at it again! Celebrating the best of black cinema and its icons from then 'til now, Black Gold celebrates the February release of Black Panther with a 20th anniversary screening of the original OG Marvel badass: BLADE!
Widely considered to be one of the first modern superhero flicks, BLADE arrived in 1998 in a frenzied wave of radical black representation and '90s industrial goth aesthetics. Following the camp and sly postmodern winking of comic heroes adapted for the screen during the '80s and '90s (Batman, we see you), BLADE paid homage to its comic book source with a no-shits-given attitude and a killer post-John-Woo action style.
Wesley Snipes' BLADE (alongside supporting performances from underrated actors Sanaa Lathan and N'Bushe Wright) offered a template for black action stardom that was gritty, contradictory, and allowed black nerds everywhere to see themselves reflected onscreen. BLADE's commercial and cultural impact has undeniably laid the groundwork for the release of Black Panther twenty years later.
BLACK GOLD is back at it again! Celebrating the best of black cinema and its icons from then 'til now, Black Gold is excited to present our January screening, a sparkling restoration courtesy of Milestone films, of Shirley Clarke's PORTRAIT OF JASON!
"On the night of December 2, 1966, Clarke and a tiny crew convened in her apartment at the Hotel Chelsea to make a film. There, for twelve straight hours they filmed the one-and-only Jason Holliday as he spun tales, sang, donned costumes and reminisced about good times and bad behavior as a gay hustler, sometime houseboy and aspiring cabaret performer. The result is a mesmerizing portrait of a remarkable, charming and tortured man, who is by turns hilarious and heartbreaking. Ingmar Bergman called it “the most extraordinary film I’ve seen in my life.”
PORTRAIT OF JASON is a film that plays with complexities. While it was shot in a cinema vérité style, the film’s subject is a man who readily admits to deceiving everyone — and may be lying to the camera. Was Clarke giving Holliday a stage on which to perform in what he calls his “moment,” or just using him? She worried about that herself. As Holliday notes about the ironies of life as a houseboy, “it gets to be joke sometime as to who’s using who.” Later, Clarke would say “The result, I’m convinced is a portrait of a guy who is both a genius and a bore. Although Jason says he really hasn’t had any fun as a ‘hustler’ conning people, he appears to have had the last laugh.” Any way you look at the film, it remains of the most fascinating documentaries in cinema.
Now, almost fifty years after it was filmed, PORTRAIT OF JASON is also a potent reminder of what the world was like for black gay men in the heat of the Civil Rights movement and before the Stonewall Uprising. Holliday talks about serving time at New York’s Riker’s Island jail after propositioning (or being propositioned by) an undercover cop. And his observations on the casual racism he experienced are funny, stinging, and painful.
People fell in love with Jason Holliday in 1967. In 1995, Marlon Riggs asked the question in his brilliant Black Is…Black Ain’t, “How long, Jason, how long have they sung about the freedom and the righteousness and the beauty of the black man and ignored you. How long?”"
— Milestone Films
BLACK GOLD is back at it again! Celebrating the best of black cinema and its icons from then 'til now, Black Gold is excited to present our December screening, John Coney & Sun Ra's kaleidoscopic afro-futurist gem SPACE IS THE PLACE!
"Sun Ra is not only one of the key musicians of the 20th century, with echoes of his work heard in Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Coltrane, Sly & The Family Stone, Funkadelic, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and in almost any kind of music that involves some form of paroxysmal sonic experimentation, but is also an Afrodelic thinker who elaborated the radical concept of space as an otherness opposed to time...
John Coney’s film is as ineffable and mysterious as Sun Ra’s music. Deliberately conceived as an homage to the cheesy aesthetic of 50s and 60s science fiction, its visuals collide with Ra’s cosmogony in an explosively transcendental filmic experience. The idea behind the film was to create a cinematic vehicle for Ra’s mythology, linking the extra-terrestrial theme with the erudite Egyptian alchemy that played such an important role in the musician’s philosophy...
The film delivers a polyrhythmic optic experience that may now be reduced to mere aestheticism but back then was the sign of a subterranean social and cultural current willing to transform potentiality into opportunity in spite of the marginal position of black people in Nixon’s America ... [This] mytho-poetic celluloid manifesto demands to be seen and heard for its depiction of a conceptualized outer space where black people would finally be able to tune in with the universe."
- Electric Sheep Magazine
Black Gold is excited to present our November screening, celebrating the 20th anniversary of JACKIE BROWN!
Quentin Tarantino is an appropriative sack, but Pam Grier is the greatest black actress to ever grace the screen and this night is about celebrating HER! Jackie Brown was released 20 years ago this year and, while many read Grier's casting as a landmark revival of her career, for those of us who have been in awe of her talents since day one, Grier's performance in Jackie Brown is really just a return to form. Grier was famously snubbed at the 1997 Oscars in favour of white mediocrity, so we're here to remind you of the black excellence that propels Tarantino's best film (and indeed, his entire "creative" process)!
Our qualms with Tarantino aside, Jackie Brown is a testament to his powers of writing and adaptation. The film stands in stark contrast to his earlier films, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, by allowing its characters to FEEL and be. There are no caricatures here, rather characters that have settled and been wholly lived in. Pam Grier and Robert Forster are given room to work with the full maturity and complexity of their ranges and provide one of our favourite (and underrated!) onscreen romances of all time. Also, Samuel L. Jackson's beard braid.
Written and directed by William Girdler (Sheba, Baby; The Manitou; Grizzly), ABBY was Girdler's breakthrough film, raking in $4 million dollars at the box office before being pulled from theatres by the film's distributor, American International Pictures, after accusations of copyright violation by Warner Bros. Long considered the black clone of The Exorcist, ABBY - alongsisde myriad other demonic posession exploitation flicks released at the time - undoubtedly capitalized on the coattails of the Exorcist's success, while at the same time upgrading its use of standard demonic plot fare through the import of Yoruba culture with a schlocky, campy, and veritably exploitative twist.
An absolute cult classic starring Carol Speed and Blacula's William H. Marshall, ABBY follows the steady progression of a woman possessed by a West African sex spirit. Or, as the film's original theatrical poster proclaims, "Abby doesn’t need a man anymore. The Devil is her lover now!" As Abby falls deeper into the clutches of the demon spirit, her actions stand in stark contrast to her former role as a good, dutiful Christian housewife, leading us to ask: is ABBY "just" the black version of The Exorcist, or is the film a nuanced parable about a woman who comes to passionately embrace an explicitly secular black feminism? Think about it #WokeAbby
Celebrating the best of black cinema and its heroes from then 'til now, Black Gold is excited to be teaming up with the absolutely wonderful Ladies of Burlesque at The Royal for a very special October screening of Richard Wenk's 80s comedy-horror classic, VAMP!
Keith (Chris Makepiece) and AJ (Robert Rusler) are two frat pledges with a great idea: buy their way into a fraternity by hiring a stripper for a frat party! Because it's the 1980s! In search of a dancer, they find themselves in the seedier side of town at the After Dark Club and are immediately entranced by the club's lead dancer. It doesn't take long for them to find out, however, that the After Dark Club is entirely populated by ravenous vampires, led by their queen, Katrina (played by the king herself, Grace Jones). Joined by the nerdy, yet loveable, wannabe Duncan (Gedde Watanabe), and Amaretto (Dedee Pfieffer), a chipper and curiously living server from the club, the gang have no choice but to fight against the undead until the light of day!
VAMP is a cult favourite for a reason. Grace Jones in fantastic makeup (by Keith Haring!) and costumery preying on frat boys? A wildly pale Billy Drago embroiled in an, admittedly, pretty one-sided child vampire tussle? THAT ENDING? Saturated with neon, laughs, and fantastic set pieces, there is something for everyone in this 80s genre gem!
Directed by Edo Bertoglio, written and produced by TV Party's Glenn O'Brien (alongside later post-production by Maripol), and featuring music by Jean-Michel Basquiat, John Lurie, and Vincent Gallo, Downtown 81 stands as a testament to the intersection of art, music, and fashion in post-punk era Manhattan. Shot through '80-'81, Downtown 81 saw its proper release 20 years after the fact, becoming an instant classic after its premiere at Cannes in 2000, and is now finally available in a beautifully restored version.
Starring a young and not-yet-famous Jean-Michel Basquiat as a film-realized version of himself, Downtown 81 follows a day in the life of a struggling artist and musician trying to find the cash to appease his landlord's looming threats of eviction. Jean-Michel navigates the abandoned lots, graffiti and garbage strewn streets, and after-hours clubs of a pre-Giuliani Lower East Side in search of a buyer for his work, all the while encountering a series of events and figures - from the real world robbing of his jam space through to a fantastical meeting with a down-on-her-luck woman imbued with magical powers.
Much of the dialogue for the film was dubbed 20 years after the fact, giving it a disembodied, phantasmatic feel - particularly with the addition of artist and poet Saul Williams as the voice of Basquiat. While perhaps unfocused at first glance, Downtown 81 is less about linear narrative filmmaking and more about its robust DIY energy and unaffected look at the now-vanished landscapes of early 80s New York. With a cast chock full of artists and musicians working at the time, the film features Debbie Harry, Fab 5 Freddy, a scene-stealing Cookie Mueller, as well as performances by Kid Creole & the Coconuts, Coati Mundi, DNA, Walter Steding, The Plastics, and James White and the Blacks, just to start. Don't miss this one!
Hype William’s directorial debut and only feature film to date, Belly is the visual and creative apex of his work as one of the best (if not THE best) music video directors in hip-hop history. Written by Williams, Nas, and Anthony Bodden, Belly follows, with unparalleled visual flair, the lives of two young New York criminals, Tommy “Bundy” Bunds (played by DMX), and Sincere “Sin” (Nas), and features T-Boz, Method Man, and Taral Hicks in supporting roles. While this was an age wherein rappers steadily came to infiltrate the world of film and television to mixed results, the strength of Belly’s casting lies in the fact that both DMX and Nas’ characters draw extensively from the real-life personas both rappers had come to cultivate over the course of their established musical careers.
While critically maligned at the time, Belly is without a doubt a movie you need to SEE, not just watch. Much more than “just a long music video,” with Belly Williams created a world which translated street nihilism into a vibrant, dark, and innovative visual aesthetic and took up themes regarding the prison industrial complex, the movement of drugs and violence into inner cities, black on black crime, black conceptions of beauty, religion and spirituality, and black diaspora. Belly’s embrace of rap and R&B music video aesthetics, much of which Williams had been at the creative helm of, is exactly the point - the film’s prodigious, ultraviolet opening sequence says it all.
If you’ve seen Friday, you need no introduction. If you haven't seen it, first of all, remedy that immediately this April, and, second of all, you've probably already been unknowingly referencing it (“Bye, Felicia”) because this movie has GIVEN so much. Friday’s continued influence on us is still being felt, and for good reason. It’s what happens between Thursday and Saturday, baby.
F. Gary Gray is, without a doubt, a certified Black Gold favourite - after his directorial debut with Friday, he went on to work on other mainstays of black cinema such as 1996’s queer camp classic, Set it Off, and 2015’s instant nostalgic hit, Straight Outta Compton. And with a script written by Ice Cube and DJ Pooh? Chris Tucker in his first starring role? Criminally underrated femme queens Regina King and Nia Long? Film and television's greatest dads, Bernie Mac and John Witherspoon? Do yourself a kindness and catch this one on the big screen.
This one goes out to anyone who's ever had cereal and water for breakfast.
Directed by Robert Clouse and starring Jim Kelly, both fresh off of Enter the Dragon, 1974’s Black Belt Jones gives its black heroes center stage. Kelly stars at the titular Jones and is tasked with saving local legend Pop Byrd’s karate school from the predatory business interests of the city’s quickly encroaching mafia and drug-dealing associates. Joined by Byrd’s students and daughter (played by a show-stealing, ball-busting Gloria Hendry), Jones kicks ass and is not here for any white nonsense.
A perfect blend of martial arts and blaxploitation, the film offers Jones and Hendry as the archetypal, community-minded heroes we’ve come to know from the surge of blaxploitation cinema which followed. While critically maligned at the time in the shadow of Enter the Dragon’s success, Black Belt Jones clearly stands on its own - it's all-black and all-kitsch, baby. Come for Jim Kelly, stay for the indeterminately extended car wash fight scene.