BlackStar is the ongoing series by the BFI (British Film Institute) celebrating the world’s biggest black movie stars such as Pam Grier, Denzel Washington, Idris Elba and David Oyelowo, to name a few. The BFI is giving audiences the chance to see these stars in their biggest roles until the end of the December at cinemas all over the country. Whilst new films such as Idris Elba’s 100 Streets, and the preview of the BBC special of NW are being premiered. Most of the program focuses on older films, many of which have rarely been screened in the UK before such as Jericho (1937) and The Proud Valley (1940), both starring Paul Robeson.
The Blackstar programme opened with Spike Lee’s Malcolm X starring Denzel Washington and has focused on popular hip hop films from the '90s, such as John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood and Jim Jarmusch’s Ghostdog. Whilst many of the well-known films such as Set It Off, Friday and Juice have already been screened – there are still some great films on the horizon. Whilst these films might already have a home in your DVD collection, there’s nothing quite like seeing them in their full celluloid glory, with full stereophonic sound at the BFI on Southbank.
What's more, they've all got killer soundtracks that have made their mark on the underground music scene, especially Paris Is Burning's insight into the still-going-strong vogue scene in New York City, which has spread to global acclaim.
Read through some of the remaining BlackStar program highlights below, and get that sweet and salty popcorn out.
Check out Laurence Fishburne hot off the heels of memorable roles in King of New York & Boyz N The Hood, in this early '90s undercover police drama. The soundtrack features the breakout smash from Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg which shares the title of the film. For many, this was the first time the world had heard Mr. Doggy Dogg. The song and accompanying video undoubtedly makes the movie a lot cooler. Deep Cover also features the classic reggae R&B crossover song Mr Loverman by Shabba Ranks.
This is what an all-black musical arranged by Quincy Jones starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson in his acting debut looks like. Transposed from Broadway, this funky remake of the family favourite is perfect for the big screen with its magical sets and dark musical numbers. Expect soul and gospel abound in this urban and contemporary reworking of Dorothy’s adventure in the magical land of Oz.
Don’t miss God (AKA Morgan Freeman) playing Detective William Somerset alongside Brad Pitt in David Fincher’s bleak thriller. The detective duo hunt for John Doe (Kevin Spacey) who uses the theme of the Bible’s seven deadly sins to exact his murderous plot in this psychological noir. According to Entertainment Weekly, Denzel Washington turned down the Brad Pitt role as the film was too dark, now that would’ve been a celestial pairing of two of our brightest stars.
Jennie Livingston’s captivating look into the New York drag scene in the '80s that brought us the dance style of vogueing. Celebrated for the outlandish and decadent style of the ‘Queens’ interviewed and observed in this cult film – it provides an important glimpse into the politics and perils of this often overlooked sub-culture. Paris Is Burning is also celebrated for its groovy soundtrack, which was effectively the life and soul of the club nights depicted in the film. Expect to hear disco, R&B, rap and electro from the likes of Malcolm McLaren, Diana Ross, Slick Rick, Barry White and more.
BFI Southbank also runs various schemes such as reduced rates for under 25s and two tickets for the price of one (info).