John Singleton’s extraordinary film debut—at the age of twenty-three—was based on the director’s own experience of growing up in South Central Los Angeles. Screening at the prestigious Un Certain Regard category in Cannes, it not only enjoyed enormous critical success, but was also one of the most profitable films that year and remains a film with a lasting and singular impact on Hollywood and the nation. Singleton became the first African American to be nominated for a Best Director Academy Award (as well as a nomination in the Best Writing category). Released shortly after the Rodney King incident, Singleton’s powerful social commentary unfolds within a complex, realistic portrayal of family, community and coming-of-age featuring the exceptional talents of Laurence Fishburne and a cast of (then) newcomers including Cuba Gooding Jr., Regina King, Angela Bassett, and Ice Cube of N.W.A. fame as Doughboy, a role specifically written for him. Three decades later, racially motivated violence and discrimination continue to plague America. What has changed is the current generation of African American directors—such as Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and Ryan Coogler (Black Panther)—for whom Singleton, who died earlier this year, helped pave the way.
Age recommendation: 16+