Welcome to Bold As Love’s new weekly feature column Yes! No!! Why?!? This column will highlight trailers of both upcoming and little-known older films starring or made by Black talent and contrast them with ones we’d rather forget.
In our inaugural edition, let us watch the trailer for The Forgotten Kingdom, a mystical looking South African-based debut feature film from American writer/director Andrew Mudge. In Forgotten, a young Johannesburg man named Atang, played by Zenzo Ngkobe from the Academy Award winning drama Tsotsi (2006) reluctantly embarks on a journey to his ancestral land of Lesotho to bury his estranged father. Once there he reunites with Dineo (played by Nozipho Nkelemba), a forgotten female childhood friend with her own father issues, with whom he strikes up a romantic relationship. When problems between Atang and Dineo’s highly-traditional father occur, the young man is forced to leave Lesotho once more but finds himself drawn back to the mystical beauty and hardships of the people and the land he had forgotten.
The Forgotten Kingdom played most recently at the Seattle International Film Festival and has won the Best Narrative Feature Award at the Sarasota, Ashland Independent and Florida Film Festivals this year alone. A definite ‘YES’ in our books, the film with beautiful cinematography from Director of Photography Carlos Carvalho plays next at South Africa’s own Durban International Film Festival and the Woods Hole Film Festival in Massachusetts.
Staying within themes of romance comes another trailer that potentially could have portrayed a loving relationship between its leads but instead falls flat and simply goes the easy over-sexualized route.
Let’s take a journey back to the 1970’s film world; a world much like ours, where when Hollywood felt like they had a good thing it got copied until its significance became lost. Blaxploitation films, low-budget and mostly money-making films targeted to and thus exploiting Black moviegoers, with their often recycled plotlines fell deeply into this vein with many of their titles inserting ‘Black’ into popularly known ones. The most famous and infamous among them are Blacula (which besides being cheap was not altogether bad) and Black Caesar (a remake of gangster film Little Caesar), and kooky ones like Blackenstein and The Black Godfather.
Black Shampoo (1976) falls under this regrettable behavior as well. Based in title and somewhat in premise on the Warren Beatty starring 1975 sexual satire hit Shampoo, this Greydon Clark directed film is from disjointed with its problematic romantic portrayals of African-American characters, overly-inappropriate nudity and violence, bad writing, and worse acting. These are tropes that plagued the worst of the bad Blaxploitation films. In the film, Jonathan Knight (John Daniels, The Candy Tangerine Man – 1975) is the most popular heterosexual hairstylist in Hollywood, “a man who takes care of his female customers by doing much more than just their hair,” according to Josiah Howard’s breakdown of the film in his book ‘Blaxploitation Cinema: the Essential Reference Guide.’ When his receptionist Brenda (Tanya Boyd) is threatened by Mr. Wilson, her powerful ex-boyfriend, Jonathan protects her by taking the receptionist out on a date. Upon return to his salon, Wilson’s henchmen have destroyed Jonathan’s shop. Angered, he decides to take a shower to cool off and Brenda, as payment, strips off her clothes among the broken shop then makes love to Jonathan in his steamy shower. Now in love with him, Brenda sacrifices herself back to Mr. Wilson in order to save Mr. Jonathan’s salon from further attack and the heartbroken salon owner eventually fights to get her back, resulting in a gory climax. Black Shampoo is in many respects a cartoonish film with its stereotypical representations of Black male heightened sexual prowess and overly effeminate gay hairstylist characters, but it is about the perception from non-Black audience members that should be taken into regard.
I immerse Black Shampoo in the ‘Why?!?’ column instead of NO mainly because it is intended as kitsch and smartly does not take itself too seriously. Also, John Daniels and Tanya Boyd are a great looking couple on screen, and it’s hard to turn away from seeing that. Just put the mute button on so that you won’t have to hear the bad dialogue.
Here’s the trailer below, and the full movie is available on YouTube as well. Warning, it is NSFW.
Is The Forgotten Kingdom a film you’d love to see soon? Please let us know in the comments section below or on the Bold As Love social media pages on Twitter or Facebook. Is Black Shampoo a film you’d rather never see or does it look so bad it’s a must-see? Let us know as well.