Black Dynamite

What do you know of Blaxploitation films? I grew up watching them on television without being aware of the genre. All I knew was that the films were fun to watch, packed with action, sometimes humor, but most of all a simple to understand yet serious message. Black Dynamite by writer/director Scott Sanders is just such a film. What makes this work special, however, is that it's not an old film resurrected from the past; this is a new film that is perhaps not so much a homage, but perhaps a renaissance of Blaxploitation. Every level of production is so spot on that it would be easy to argue that this is some restored, forgotten film of the genre. From the film stock to the cinematography; from the production design to the art direction (look at that poster!); from the script and directing to the original soundtrack, it is obvious that Sanders understands what he is doing. Better yet, everyone around him "gets it" as well. What they've managed to create looks to be a highly entertaining film that is also a throwback to simpler days:

Played by Michael Jai White, (yea, the guy from Spawn who also shares co-writer credit) the hero, Black Dynamite, takes action against those who would corrupt his community. He's cool, suave, manly, and the upholder of justice/virtue when others around him give in to "the man." He is absolutely confident in who he is. These qualities are all central to Blaxploitation which grew out of a need in the black community in the late 60s and 70s for films that were about them; that spoke to them. The only people who could do that were black filmmakers. Needless to say, the studio "system" was still largely engaged in entertaining whites, so black filmmakers had to do things themselves. The budgets were modest, but the creativity, talent, and most importantly, the enthusiasm were boundless. I won't go into the history of the genre here; there is an excellent summary of it on the Black Dynamite official homepage. Suffice it to say that this film captures the mood of the era with a casual wink of the eye that is just as charming as the title character.

The film has been playing the festival circuit, recently bringing down the house up in Park City (Sundance) and should hopefully be making it's way to an art house theater near you. Whether or not Scott Sanders will make another film like this is unknown. For now, I'll just revel in what he's created already.

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