Kids who grow up to become directors do so because they saw movies they loved and want to make them. John Singleton saw Star Wars and found his calling. The trick, for a kid from Los Angeles‚ South Central ghetto, was to survive to adulthood. He did, and by the time he was 21, he’d written and directed Boyz N the Hood. Like many first films, it’s a fictionalized autobiography — a life story that could have been a death warrant. The boys in the neighborhood must wonder if they have any choice but dying poor from drugs or dying rich selling them. Rough in its moviemaking craft, the picture is nonetheless a harrowing document true to the director’s south-central Los Angeles milieu; he paints it black. Boyz N the Hood functions both as a condemnation of the world outside any big-city movie house and as an inspiration to those aspiring outsiders who would change history by filming it.
The movie was also an early clue to Hollywood’s avidity for young black talent, both behind the camera (Columbia Pictures gave boyz-wonder Singleton $6 million to make the picture) and in front. It showcased Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett, who two years later would play Ike and Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It, as well as Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Nia Long and Regina King. The talents of directors (of any shade) may be variable, but the movies will never run out of amazing black performers.
Next Eve’s Bayou