Double Bill: Baadasssss Cinema + Shaft

A unique double bill: a documentary by Isaac Julien on the history of the blaxploitation genre, followed by the film that became the figurehead of that genre: the action classic Shaft (1971).

Time & Tickets

The films:

Baadasssss Cinema
Isaac Julien, USA, UK 2002, 58 min., English spoken, no subtitles. With: Pam Grier, Fred Williamson, Melvin van Peebles, Richard Roundtree.
Documentary in which filmmaker Isaac Julien uses film clips and interviews to illustrate the history of the so-called blaxploitation genre.
SHAFT, COFFY, SWEET SWEETBACK’S BAADASSSSS SONG – all are film classics of the blaxploitation genre. This term was first coined in 1972 and refers to a wave of stylish films in which, roughly for the first time, African American characters play leading roles, albeit in often stereotypical criminal roles. The rise of the genre cannot be separated from a change in racial thinking in the early 1970s, influenced by the ideas and work of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X in the 1960s. No more ‘We shall overcome’, rather a combative ‘Black power’. However, it were mostly white studios pulling the strings and profiting from the genre.

Julien’s examination of the genre features a host of important speakers: from director Quentin Tarantino to influential writer Gloria Jean Watkins, better known by her pen name bell hooks. Needless to say, blaxploitation icons such as Pam Grier and Richard Roundtree also appear in the documentary. The latter played the lead role in the ground-breaking SHAFT (1971).

Gordon Parks, USA 1971, 100 min., English spoken, no subtitles. Cast: Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn, Charles Cioffi.
Wonderful 4K restoration of perhaps the single most iconic Blaxploitation film. John Shaft is the private eye who sets out to find the kidnapped daughter of a gangster boss.
In 1971, Richard Roundtree’s appearance as charming private investigator John Shaft was a shock to cinema audiences. Black adolescents and twenty-somethings had never seen a black man who was the undisputed hero of the silver screen for ninety minutes. The story in brief: John Shaft – dressed in a tight-fitting turtleneck and a long leather jacket – gets into a conflict of conscience when he has to track down the kidnapped daughter of a drug dealer. After all, he hates the drug mafia. What follows is a journey through the urban jungle of seventies New York, set to the rousing soundtrack of Isaac Hayes – who won an Oscar for his work.