If the sheer diversity of recent hits from Twelve Years a Slave
to Get Out
, Black Panther
, and BlackkKlansman
tells us anything, it might be that there's no such thing as "black film" per se. This book is especially timely, then, in expanding our idea of what black films are and, going back to the 1960s, showing us new and interesting ways to understand them.
When critics and scholars write about films from the Blaxploitation movement--such as Cotton Comes to Harlem
, and Cleopatra Jones
--they emphasize their importance as films made for black audiences. Consequently, Lisa Doris Alexander points out, a film like the highly popular, Oscar-nominated Blazing Saddles
--costarring and co-written by Richard Pryor--is generally left out of the discussion because it doesn't fit the profile of what a black film of the period should be. This is the kind of categorical thinking that Alexander seeks to broaden, looking at films from the 60s to the present day in the context of their time. Applying insights from black feminist thought and critical race theory to one film per decade, she analyzes what each can tell us about the status of black people and race relations in the United States at the time of its release.
By teasing out the importance of certain films excluded from the black film canon, Alexander hopes to expand that canon to include films typically relegated to the category of popular entertainment--and to show how these offer more nuanced representations of black characters even as they confront, negate, or parody the controlling images that have defined black filmic characters for decades.