From Publishers Weekly
In sober, almost fatigued prose, Rhines, a professor of political economy in the African American and African studies department at Rutgers's Newark campus, traces the roles that African Americans have played-or not played-in all aspects of the movies from 1895 to the present. Rhines efficiently covers an impressive breadth of subjects through considerable original research. He relates an entire troubled history of blacks in cinema from Edison's experiments, silent movies such as The Birth of a Nation and a response to it, Birth of a Race, to Depression and WWII era films, to blaxploitation movies of the '70s such as Shaft and the "gangsta" blockbusters of the '80s and early '90s such as Boyz N the Hood. But Rhines also discusses Hollywood's discriminatory employment practices, the special concerns of black female filmmakers, Spike Lee's failure as a "responsible social critic" and how film distribution "is the greatest obstacle to broad-based success for African American feature filmmakers, film crews, and film cast members." Rhines consistently treats "art" as a product in a "system of economic relations that pits one group against another in the interest of singular economic gain." Neither humanism nor aesthetic experimentation is enough to counteract this colossal problem, he says. Despite this pessimism and his implication that the "system" has a life of its own, Rhines still encourages members of the "black urban underclass" to choose moviemaking as a career. Forty-seven b&w illustrations.
Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc.