In 1971, famed photographer Gordon Parks followed up his quiet, semi-autobiographical film The Learning Tree with what is arguably the commercial and critical peak of blaxploitation genre filmmaking. Powered by Isaac Hayes’s Grammy Award-winning soundtrack, Shaft catapulted star Richard Roundtree into the zeitgeist as John Shaft, a New York City private dick who finds himself precariously positioned between rival Italian and Black gangsters while investigating a missing persons case. The film’s unexpected success spawned two sequels with Parks remaining on board for 1972’s Shaft’s Big Score! “Shaft’s brilliance is in the way its title figure’s confidence became contagious—both in the urban theaters where it was a hit and the dozens of blaxploitation films that would follow.”—Josh Larsen, Larsen on Film.
Appears in: 2017 Top Down: Rooftop Cinema
Genres: Blaxploitation, Action
Other Films by Gordon Parks
Based on his own autobiographical novel, The Learning Tree was, according to Roger Ebert, the first non-exploitation feature film made for wide release by an African American director. Set in rural 1920s-1930s Kansas, the film follows the story of Newt (Kyle Johnson), a teenager who must weather the racial prejudices of the time on a …