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UK, 1993 (MIFF 1994, Documentaries)

Director: Isaac Julien

Gangsta chic, violence and nihilism, the hard edge of Rap and Ragga increasingly dominates the image of black popular culture. Director Isaac Julian (Looking For Langston, Young Soul Rebels) and the Black Audio Film Collective bring their combined talents to this intelligent and provocative investigation of the social and political influences of the music and its hardcore proponents. Allowing for a more complex response to the elements involved - ritualised machismo, misogyny, homophobia, gun glorification - the film never opts for easy judgements. Instead it delves into issues of class, commercial marketing, the legacy of colonialism, fundamentalist faith and fears governing notions of masculinity.

Moving between London, Jamaica and the USA, the film captures the vastly different stances of: Buju Banton (whose ragga dance hit Boom Bye Bye demands all gays be shot), Shabba Ranks, Ice Cube, Michael Franti (Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy), Britain's Moni Love, fans, academics, civil rights activists and even Jamaica's former Prime Minister Michael Manely. Dancehall and hip-hop club scenes, talking head interviews (exchanges between Julien, a black, gay filmmaker and the self professed gay-hating, gun-toting rappers provided much tension during filming), music video clips and the director's hallmark visual style are fused together in this long overdue examination of the darker side of contemporary black music.

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