Film Blackness

American Cinema and the Idea of Black Film

Film Blackness

Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: 50 illustrations Published: September 2016

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Cultural Studies, Media Studies > Film

In Film Blackness Michael Boyce Gillespie shifts the ways we think about black film, treating it not as a category, a genre, or strictly a representation of the black experience but as a visual negotiation between film as art and the discursivity of race. Gillespie challenges expectations that black film can or should represent the reality of black life or provide answers to social problems. Instead, he frames black film alongside literature, music, art, photography, and new media, treating it as an interdisciplinary form that enacts black visual and expressive culture. Gillespie discusses the racial grotesque in Ralph Bakshi's Coonskin (1975), black performativity in Wendell B. Harris Jr.'s Chameleon Street (1989), blackness and noir in Bill Duke's Deep Cover (1992), and how place and desire impact blackness in Barry Jenkins's Medicine for Melancholy (2008). Considering how each film represents a distinct conception of the relationship between race and cinema, Gillespie recasts the idea of black film and poses new paradigms for genre, narrative, aesthetics, historiography, and intertextuality.


"This astonishingly comprehensive, compact book does nothing less than synthesize nearly the entirety of thought to date on black cinema, blackness in the cinema, and scholarship in this vital area of film studies. . . . Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals."
  — G. A. Foster, Choice

"Gillespie calibrates a series of agile and fine-grained analyses that draw upon a breadth of disciplines and methods encompassing film historiography, critical geography, debates in black film theory, questions of genre and narratology, performativity, and the business of film distribution. . . . While Film Blackness is specifically pitched to existing conversations in film and media studies, the discursivity of blackness Gillespie articulates has far-ranging implications to black cultural production across media." — Iggy Cortez, ASAP/Journal

“A necessary book. Film Blackness gives us an inspired sense of a much-needed analysis of race in film, an analysis that has so far—true to form—eluded us.” — Courtney R. Baker, Cinema Journal

"Gillespie’s text is well-reasoned and compelling." — Phillip Lamarr Cunningham, Synoptique

" [An] absorbing, intellectually sparky study. . ." — Andrew Dix, European Journal of American Culture

"Film Blackness documents Michael Boyce Gillespie’s long, intense devotion to seeing. To see, to visualize black cinema as it is and as it could be, is an act of prophetic description where theorizing is next to socializing, where the visible and the invisible converge. Gillespie constantly shows and tells us this with rigorous nuance. Happily, this long-awaited book is here and up ahead of us, waiting for the new ways of seeing it anticipates and inspires." — Fred Moten, author of In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition

"What is black film? Does it involve a black director and a black cast? Is it meant for a black audience? Michael Boyce Gillespie directs us beyond these all-too-familiar questions to an ever expansive and spiraling investigation of the work that cinematic blackness does for visual culture and public life. Beautifully written, meditative, and richly insightful, Film Blackness critically intervenes in the slippages between representational systems, aesthetic and genre conventions, and racial discourse. Building off the work of art historians, visual theorists, and scholars of affective economies, Gillespie brings a remarkable attention to detail and sustained and revelatory readings to open up scenes, dialogues, and figurations of black/ness. Film Blackness is a major contribution to cinema and genre studies, American studies, black cultural studies, and visual culture." — Nicole R. Fleetwood, author of On Racial Icons: Blackness and the Public Imagination


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Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Michael Boyce Gillespie is Associate Professor of Film in the Department of Media and Communication Arts and the Black Studies Program at the City College of New York, City University of New York.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix

Introduction. We Insist: The Idea of Black Film  1

1. Reckless Eyeballing: Coonskin and the Racial Grotesque  17

2. Smiling Faces: Chameleon Street and Black Performativity  51

3. Voices Inside (Everything is Everything): Deep Cover and Modalities of Noir Blackness  83

4. Black Maybe: Medicine for Melancholy, Place, and Quiet Becoming  119

Coda. Destination Out  157

Notes  161

Bibliography  203

Index  223
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6226-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6205-0
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