The Blaxploitation genre has been derided as shallow and degrading, but has also been exalted for its independence and unique contributions to the history of black cinema. The term originated from the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP who eventually forced the genre's demise in the late 1970's. However, there are several notable films in the genre that go beyond the stereotypical subjects of cops, gangsters, and drug dealers. One of those films is the classic The Spook Who Sat by the Door, which we will be screening Saturday, October 1st in Central Library's auditorium. The film will be introduced by Calvin Wilson from the St. Louis Dispatch, who will also lead a discussion following the film.
The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973): The story of a former black C.I.A. agent who leaves the agency to return home to Chicago and train community members in guerrilla warfare was so controversial it has been reported that the F.B.I. had several movie theaters remove the film from screens. For decades it was believed lost until a print was discovered in a vault under a different name. Now the film has been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress.
Ganja & Hess (1973): This experimental horror film is about more than vampires and an ancient evil, and is now seen as a metaphor for cultural imperialism. In the film an anthropologist named Hess is stabbed by his assistant with an ancient evil dagger that transforms him into a vampire. From there Ganja falls in love with his assistant's wife and the film becomes something more than a horror film.
Black Mama, White Mama (1973): Starring the great Pam Grier as an escaped convict who is chained to a fellow white female prisoner, this thriller is filled with a lot of racially brawling as the two women try to outrun the cops.
Cooley High (1975): This laid back and unsentimental look at high school life for a groups of friends in Chicago in the 1970's has gone on to have significant cultural influence. Check out the movie theater sequence which the Fugees referenced in their music video for Killing Me Softly.
Author: Kyle Knight