African American Cinema

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Black Cinema

The subject of African-Americans in Motion Pictures provides some of the most interesting studies along with the many controversial interpretations of the roles as actors they played on screen. As far back as the silent films era, African-Americans have been featured in motion pictures playing roles depicting some aspect of acting and being purveyors of a black image. The messages or themes of these movies have over the years presented a mixture of images based upon what was thought to please the viewers of each particular film. Unfortunately, many of those films showed black characters in negative stereotypical roles, which the average African-Americans would never truly identify as being like themselves. Since many of our American icons and heroes have come from our motion picture stars, we need to understand what this narrow view presented and compare it with what we presently see at our local cinema today.

The movies Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967), Shaft (1971), Do The Right Thing (1989), Boys n the Hood (1991), and Menace to Society (1993) show a thematic style and stereotypes in the way that black films have progressed over the years. The motion picture industry was never too quick to change their approach in presenting African-Americans in realistic roles depicting social or civil conditions in an integrated context. Many of these roles required scenes showing African-Americans in positions of authority or relating to white Americans in a positive way. This Integration Period therefore brought together African-American actors with scenes along side white actors in roles showing both players dealing with racial conflict and resolution. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was truly a unique film for its time in that Sidney Poitier's character breaks all the stereotypical views of blacks in American Cinema. In the early 1930's blacks were portrayed as lower class, slow-witted figures of entertainment, often showed in menstrual shows....
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