The Darker Side of Black

Isaac Julien

1994, 59:09 minutes, colour, English


"In 1992 Jet Star records released 'Boom Bye Bye', a reggae single by Jamaican reggae dancehall recording artist Buju Banton, which suggested that lesbians and gays should be executed. Shabba Ranks is also notoriously homophobic in his lyrics, which he justifies by thumping the Bible.

Moving between London, Jamaica and New York and talking with stars, fans, academics,activists and even Jamaica's former Prime Minister, director Isaac Julien takes on the darker, harder edge of rap and reggae: homophobia, gangsta chic, urban violence, gun worship, machismo, misogyny, nihilism, drugs dance-hall culture's sexual dynamics. This provocative documentary veers between the prudish and poetic, and incorporates a good dose of fact and analysis in arguing that aggressive power in music is a substitute for social and political power. It also delights us with its intelligence, its refusal of easy judgments, its rich visual textures- music video clips, interviews, club scenes and cinematographer Arthur Jaffa's ravishing images."

-Kay Armitage, Toronto International Film Festival, 1994

Interviewees include academics Cornel West and Tricia Rose, and stars like Chuck D and Ice Cube.

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Critical Writing

Riffing on Omeros: The Relevance of Isaac Julien to Cultural...
by Jane Bryce. Small Axe, June 2010, v. 14, no. 2.
Interview with Isaac Julien
by Bruce Morrow. Fuse, Summer 1995, v. 18, no. 5.
Strange Fruit Sends Gay Festival Reeling
by Cameron Bailey. NOW, May 18, 1995, v. 14, no. 38.