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Death of John Singleton, committed pioneer of African-American cinema

Representing, among others, Spike Lee, the African-American wave that seized Hollywood cinema in the late '80s and early' 90s, filmmaker John Singleton died at age 51 in Los Angeles on Monday. a heart attack. It was revealed, at just 24 years old, by his first feature film, the abrasive Boyz N the Hood (1991), drama about the endless violence of gangs in the South Central Angels District where he grew up. The film earned him an Oscar for Best Screenplay and Best Director – a first for a black filmmaker, which also allowed him to break Orson Welles' early record of 25 years at the time. Citizen Kane), until then the youngest named.

Enthusiastic success

Critical and commercial success, Boyz N the Hood helped to reveal Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube and Angela Bassett, and captures the importance of urban culture in zeitgeist of America at the time – from the hip-hop explosion to the upcoming Los Angeles riots in 1992. Trained at the USC School of Cinema (as Spike Lee or the director of Black Panther Ryan Coogler), Singleton quotes, contrary to this first edgy and lyrical success and upcoming films, influences like Steven Spielberg, Akira Kurosawa, François Truffaut or even the Stand By Me Rob Reiner for Boyz N the Hood. In a completely different kind of artistic reverence, the Farrelly brothers thank Singleton for the credits of Dumb and Dumber, for giving them filming advice.

The rest of his career remains pegged to the African-American question of that time (in a fac, explosive concentrate of the society in Fever at Columbus University in 1995) and yesterday (Rosewood two years later, reconstitution of a massacre of African-Americans in 1923), obtains pretty performances of actors from singers (Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur in Poetic Justice, 1993) or re-convenes the fantasy of blaxploitation in a remake of Shaft (2000). But the sincere and spontaneous Boyz N the Hood (a film where he claims to have learned everything from the realization and even the possibility of making more than one shot) will not be renewed.

In contraband

Given the reluctance of studios to his personal projects, Singleton turns to a more commercial cinema (2 Fast 2 Furious, 2003), attempts to smuggle personal preoccupations (black and white utopian siblings Four Brothers, 2005, with Mark Wahlberg and André Benjamin, "One of the best contemporary Hollywood studio films" according to the brilliant Brazilian filmmaker Kleber Mendonça Filho, author ofAquarius and the sounds of Recife) and finds the TV series as artistic, controversial and temporal refuge: Snowfall ("a Game of Thrones of the ghetto »), broadcast since 2017 and co-created and produced, plunged into the Los Angeles 1983 and the spread of crack, maintained especially for the CIA to fund the fight against communism in Central America. "I could have made more movies," the filmmaker, representative of a period – from before Ryan Coogler and Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) – where Hollywood courted African-American filmmakers without knowing how to find them a place.

Leo Soesanto

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