At a time when the Hollywood's wretched record on diversity is under scrutiny as never before, the BFI's wide-ranging and comprehensive retrospective examining the landmarks of black cinema, announced on Wednesday, could not have been better timed.and more »
Wednesday 13 July 2016 19.30Â BST
Last modified on Wednesday 13 July 2016 23.33Â BST
At a time when the Hollywoodâ€™s wretched record on diversity is under scrutiny as never before, the BFIâ€™s wide-ranging and comprehensive retrospective examining the landmarks of black cinema, announced on Wednesday, could not have been better timed. Titled Black Star, and running for nearly three months in venues across the UK, the season will feature cinema reissues of key films, in-depth surveys of specific areas such as blaxploitation and hip-hop cinema, and numerous live events including seminars, concerts and on-stage interviews.
Attention has recently focused on the hundreds of new members appointed to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the body that organises the Oscars, and part of Black Starâ€™s ambition is to focus audiencesâ€™ attention on the issues that still dog the industry. Heather Stewart, creative director of the BFI said: â€œWe are celebrating great performances and bringing them back to the big screen for everyone to enjoy. And we are also asking searching questions, of our industry and of ourselves, driven by a passion to meet the expectations of audiences who rightly expect to see their stories and aspirations reflected on screen.â€
One of Black Starâ€™s strands, consequently, will focus on the major figures of contemporary black cinema, including Denzel Washington in Spike Leeâ€™s Malcolm X and Will Smith in Ali, directed by Michael Mann. British actors Chiwetel Ejiofor and David Oyelowo are also recognised, with screenings of 12 Years a Slave and Selma respectively.
Programmer Ashley Clark said: â€œFrom cinemaâ€™s earliest trailblazers to todayâ€™s transatlantic stars, Iâ€™m excited for audiences to enjoy icons, heroes and heroines back on the big screen where they belong.â€
Black Star also examines the long history of black American cinema, with two major films being reissued for the season. John Singletonâ€™s landmark Boyz N the Hood, originally released in 1991, which gave a voice to then-marginalised communities in South Central LA, triggered a revival in African American cinema that has remained vigorous to this day. In the Heat of the Night, from 1967, featured Sidney Poitier as Detective Virgil Tibbs, and became a lightning rod in the civil rights struggle of an earlier era.
There will also be a chance to see less high-profile films: from the 1954 musical Carmen Jones (starring Dorothy Dandridge), to Pam Grier in 1974 blaxploitation classic Foxy Brown, to Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, the 1999 Jim Jarmusch film with Forest Whitaker. British TV series Desmondâ€™s, which ran on Channel 4 from 1989 to 1994, will get its own event, including a cast reunion.
â€¢ The BFIâ€™s Black Star season runs from 17 October to 31 December.
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