Can You Dig It? Right On!

The documentary BaadAsssss Cinema explores the meaning and art behind blaxploitation's mass appeal

When Halle Berry and Denzel Washington won Oscars in this year's much discussed Black Hollywood moment, they paid their respects to Dorothy Dandridge and Sidney Poitier, not to Pam Grier and Richard Roundtree. In the remembrances of African-American cinema past that followed, there wasn't much tribute to Foxy Brown, Superfly or Hell Up in Harlem. Blaxploitation--the genre of small-budget, big-action and bigger-Afro movies that flourished in the early to mid-'70s--has been something of an embarrassment to Hollywood and the black intelligentsia alike. (The term black exploitation was popularized by mainline African-American groups--the N.A.A.C.P., core--that protested the movies' sex, violence and criminal...

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