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Trying to Get Over

Trying to Get Over
African American Directors after Blaxploitation, 1977–1986

This groundbreaking text focuses on the post-blaxploitation era of American filmmaking and illuminates contributions of directors who, although largely unrecognized, have shaped popular culture over the past quarter century

March 2016
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287 pages | 6 x 9 | 30 b&w photos, 2 b&w charts/graphs |

From 1972 to 1976, Hollywood made an unprecedented number of films targeted at black audiences. But following this era known as “blaxploitation,” the momentum suddenly reversed for black filmmakers, and a large void separates the end of blaxploitation from the black film explosion that followed the arrival of Spike Lee’s She's Gotta Have It in 1986. Illuminating an overlooked era in African American film history, Trying to Get Over is the first in-depth study of black directors working during the decade between 1977 and 1986.

Keith Corson provides a fresh definition of blaxploitation, lays out a concrete reason for its end, and explains the major gap in African American representation during the years that followed. He focuses primarily on the work of eight directors—Michael Schultz, Sidney Poitier, Jamaa Fanaka, Fred Williamson, Gilbert Moses, Stan Lathan, Richard Pryor, and Prince—who were the only black directors making commercially distributed films in the decade following the blaxploitation cycle. Using the careers of each director and the twenty-four films they produced during this time to tell a larger story about Hollywood and the shifting dialogue about race, power, and access, Corson shows how these directors are a key part of the continuum of African American cinema and how they have shaped popular culture over the past quarter century.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. Blaxploitation Reconsidered: African American Directors and the Political Economy of Hollywood
  • 2. Our Man in Hollywood: Creativity and Compromise in the Films of Michael Schultz
  • 3. Writing His Second Act: Sidney Poitier’s Move Behind the Camera
  • 4. Think Locally, Act Globally: Fred “the Hammer” Williamson, Low-Budget Genre Filmmaking, and the Struggle for Self-Definition
  • 5. Outside of Society: Jamaa Fanaka, the LA Rebellion, and the Complications of Independent Filmmaking
  • 6. Dreams Deferred: Untapped Potential, the Transformation of Black Popular Culture, and the Cinematic Legacies of Gilbert Moses and Stan Lathan
  • 7. Dirty Minds Reformed: Celebrity, Power, and the Directorial Turns of Richard Pryor and Prince
  • Conclusion
  • Filmography, 1969–1994
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Trying to Get Over is required reading for those interested in film at the intersection of racial politics, production histories, and media industries...[Corson] reminds us of the rich and dynamic history of African Americans in Hollywood persistently making films that are now considered cult classics.”
Media Industries Journal

“Corson provides depth to our knowledge of black filmmaking during the understudied downturn in the decade following Blaxploitation. Understanding changes in the economic and decision-making forces during this time put both the Blaxploitation era and the 1990s into a new context.”
Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television

“A much-needed addition to the history of black filmmaking in America. The histories and contributions of the filmmakers in Corson’s book are finally reclaimed; a significant bridge has been built between the blaxploitation and New Black Cinema eras. I gained a new understanding of and respect for these filmmakers.”
Mikel J. Koven, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, University of Worcester, and author of Blaxploitation Films


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This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca