Blaxploitation: International Films

Blaxploitation arose at a critical time for the Hollywood film industry. While black political activists battled in the courtrooms and streets for the end of segregation and equal civil rights, it became increasingly difficult for Hollywood studios to ignore black society, which ultimately led to the infiltration of black actors and filmmakers in Hollywood. Thus; Blaxploitation was born. Here are just two examples of the type of films produced in this genre.

Across 110th Street [1972]

This film is set in Harlem, of which 110th street is an informal boundary line. In a daring robbery, some $300,000 is taken from a Mafia-owned Harlem policy bank. Several mafiosi are killed, as are two policemen. Lieutenant William Pope, played by Yaphet Kotto, has to work with crude, racist but streetwise Italian-American Captain Frank Mattelli, played by Anthony Quinn, in the NYPD’s 27th precinct. They are looking for three black men who slaughtered seven men, three black gangsters and two Italian gangsters. Mafia lieutenant Nick D’Salvio, played by Anthony Franciosa, and his two henchmen are also after the hoods. Will the mafia catch these criminals first, or will the police?

The film has claimed to be more than just a cliché. It was deep and developed, yet had a simplistic story about cops and criminals, with a gritty and honest addition to its characters. It was seen as pure and uncut, with cinematic genius from beginning to end. Despite the many pitfalls seen by critics, the film continually saved itself by being genuine and dark throughout. The film demonstrated the raw force of truth, giving viewers a rare (yet fictional) story of the changing of the guard in Harlem, the truth of its streets, and the minds of its criminals.

mv5bmdnimtrhmjytowm1my00mjqxltljmmmtmdg5njc0mwyxzwqzxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymji4mja5mza-_v1_

Across 110th Street [1972]

Foxy Brown [1974]

A sexy black woman, Foxy Brown (Pam Grier) seeks revenge when her government-agent boyfriend is shot down by gangsters led by the kinky couple of Steve Elias (Peter Brown) and Miss Katherine (Kathryn Loder) that services local judges, congressmen, and police in the area. Foxy decides to pose as a prostitute to infiltrate the company, and helps save a fellow black woman from a life of drugs and sexual exploitation and reunites her with her husband and child. However, not long after she infiltrates the company,  Foxy is caught before she can escape…

It was this film that catapulted Pam Grier to a level of iconic stardom. Foxy oozes independence and woman empowerment. She’s a ‘whole lotta’ woman who’s got what it takes to beat the baddies at their own game, a voluptuous body, a show-stopping Afro, and, most importantly, a “black belt in barstools”. Together with Jack Hill’s (director) slick direction and an exciting yet soulful Willie Hutch soundtrack, this movie is a modern classic that exceeds the Blaxploitation genre in which it evolved.

mv5bmji2nty1nte3n15bml5banbnxkftztcwntqymdgzna-_v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_

Foxy Brown [1974]

There are hundreds of International blaxploitation films on the market which we encourage you to watch. The genre carries many themes to suit your taste, such as action, romance, horror, crime, and sci-fi to name a few. So bring out the popcorn, kick up your feet, and enjoy!

Advertisements

South African Blaxploitation Films

What is Blaxploitation? Blaxploitation was a term coined in the early 1970’s to refer to a sub-genre of black cinema, which incorporated the culture of Black people in America and worldwide. Although initially popular, it quickly disintegrated as a film genre criticized for stereotypical characterization and glorification of violence.

In retrospect, Blaxploitation and the legacy it left behind have been acknowledged as a positive contribution to African and African-American film history. Blaxploitation films such as Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss song [1971], Coffy [1973], and Dolemite [1975] proved that black actors possessed a strong box-office appeal, and despite the fact that many of the films were written, directed and produced by white people, black audiences finally saw the recognition that African and African-American actors, directors and writers deserved, and fought for, since the early days of silent film. The following South African films, restored by Retro Afrika Bioscope, depict the essence of Blaxploitation.

Umbango (The Feud) [1986]

When Kay Kay, a powerful, ruthless businessman sets out on a mission of revenge against two men accused of killing his brother, he strong-arms the local sheriff into forming a posse of thugs to aid in his vendetta. But when Jet and Owen, the two easy going friends, learn of the gang out for their blood, they prepare to stand their ground and fight back. It all comes to a head in a final gunfight, a showdown in the small western town where blood will have to be split if the friends wish to come out of this alive.

11391413_479488512209762_7354554828980101255_n

Umbango (The Feud) [1986]

Bullet On The Run [1982]

Bullet is back, and this time he will have to put his reputation on the line as he goes deep undercover in prison to unfold the mystery of a police corruption ring, being run by one of the most wanted mob bosses in the country, a man known only as Snake.

hqdefault

Bullet On The Run [1982]

When looking at Blaxploitation films, we can see a historical cultural significance that comes from a time and place which transcends into the universal truths of freedom, expression, and community. Despite some of the controversy that these films created, it opened the doors to talented African-Americans, ultimately proving to its audience that they could thrive in film. Thus, their achievements speak for themselves.

International Women’s Month: Leading Ladies In Film

It is with great honour that through Retro Afrika Bioscope, we restore and re-release once discarded South African films to a new generation of audiences worldwide. In light of Women’s Month, it is only appropriate that we acknowledge and commend the talented women of the time who played such significant roles in these films, and for their contribution to the development of the South African film industry.

“Joe Bullet” [1971] is about a man [Joe] who helps save his soccer team when faced with a series of onslaughts from a mysterious gangster a week before the championship final. Joe will have to battle against villainous henchmen, escape booby-trap bombs and bring his martial arts expertise to the fore in order to survive an attack from a deadly assassin. Not only does he have to save his team, but that of his beautiful love interest, Beauty – played by the multi-award winning Abigail Kubeka. The odds will be stacked against him, but he will  fight with all his might to save the day.

Joe Bullet

Joe Bullet [1971]

“Rich Girl” [1985] portrays a young, beautiful lady who comes from a wealthy family, however; with this, comes many consequences. Her father hires a highly trained bodyguard to protect her, but she refuses to believe that she needs any protection at all. One day, his worst fears come true, and the two of them are kidnapped by a pair of thugs, but the unsuspecting crooks have no clue as to what the bodyguard is capable of, and are soon to learn the error of their ways.

Rich Girl Poster

Rich Girl [1985]

“Hostage” [1985] – one of the most captivating films – depicts three men who decide to blackmail a young local businessman by the name of Ben, in the hope of using one of his warehouses in the harbour to store a shipment of drugs coming in soon. Ben refuses to cooperate, until his wife Thuli is kidnapped by the crooks. This changes everything for him, as he will do whatever it takes to save his wife.

Hostage Poster

Hostage [1985]

 “Thunder Valley” [1985] tells the story of three friends, John, Sipho and Thandi, who spend the summer holidays at Uncle Joshua’s cottage. Despite their best efforts to stay out of trouble, the three manage to encounter a group of crooks hiding out in a supposed abandoned shack on the river. However, one of the crooks decides to join forces with the youths to save the day and defeat the remaining crooks who are holding a large cache of stolen weapons.

Thunder Valley Poster

Thunder Valley [1985]

If you haven’t see these films yet, we encourage you to do so. Despite the trying circumstances of the time, so much talent and effort went into these films and it is important that this is recognized.

 

Benjamin Thomas Cowley – CEO of Gravel Road Entertainment Group & Founder of Gravel Road African Film Legacy Initiative

Benjamin Cowley

Photos by: Patrick Ryan

Shot on location at the Waterfront Film Studios, Cape Town

Ben started in TV more than 14 years ago where he was involved in both live and pre-recorded programs at Namibia’s one and only national broadcaster: NBC.  Without giving away his real age…. He was VERY young and earned a salary of R50 per month for his sins.

Fast-forward several years, he found himself in the fantastical world of TV Commercials hoping this industry to be full of excitement, glitz and glamour. Needless to say, this pre-conceived notion couldn’t be further from the truth! Becoming a slave of the ad world for many years, he at least got to play with really expensive toys and very soon learned that there’s no problem in the advertising world that the client’s money can’t solve.

His passion has always been in story telling and creative filmmaking, so it was a no-brainer that when the slightest opportunity to jump ship came ….he took the plunge.

The Legacy Initiative (Retro Afrika Bioscope) is Ben’s baby and it’s his responsibility to nurture it and allow it to grow to its full potential. He works closely with the original filmmakers, film owners and national film, video and sound archives in sourcing/locating all the old films and getting them to Cape Town to restore them and ultimately get them onto a platform where the public can view them.

Ben is balding and proudly accepts it!

Benjamin Cowley, Katlego Maboe and Tonie vd Merwe on the Expresso Show on SABC

Benjamin Cowley, Katlego Maboe and Tonie vd Merwe on the Expresso Show on SABC

CEO of Gravel Road Entertainment Group at the press launch of the Mayibuye Film Festival in Johannesburg

CEO of Gravel Road Entertainment Group at the press launch of the Mayibuye Film Festival in Johannesburg