Blackface: Reflections on African Americans and the Movies
In this bold new work, Nelson George turns a lifetime of movie-watching and an unexpected career in moviemaking into a book that looks at the African-American screen image from both a historical and a personal viewpoint. Blackface blends stories and anecdotes about the actual experiences of going to, being in, and making movies today with the sharply edged cultural criticism that has made George one of this country's most widely read and respected critics. As always, George explores new territory. His themes include the impact of movies of all kinds on the youngest African-Americans, starting with his own memories as a seven-year-old watching Zulu and Planet of the Apes, and he casts an eye in particular on the special messages communicated to kids about black roles and role models from Sidney Poitier to Spike Lee. He takes a new look at the heyday of blaxploitation and the genius of Richard Pryor, describes the early days of the black indies, and raises questions about the kinds of roles black stars and executives are being asked to play in Hollywood today. Running through the entire book is the story of his own education in the business of creating images. George was one of Spike Lee's early investors, and has been on the scene throughout the great surge of black film, as the Hudlin brothers, John Singleton, Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, and others moved from low-budget independent productions to major Hollywood releases. This is Nelson George's most personal book, written from his multiple vantages as critic, filmgoer, screenwriter, and, most recently, film producer. It completes his trilogy on black popular culture, moving from music and sports to the movies. It is also a moviememoir that documents how a generation that enjoyed the opportunities created by the civil rights movement decided to manifest their ambitions. B-boys provided the popular image of nineties African-American youth, but it was a well-educated group of buppies, baps, and bohos who made the films that filled the theaters. Blackface is their story.
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