Baldwin: Step outside your cinematic comfort zone

Published 10:14 am Friday, August 10, 2018

Greetings, my fellow cool cat cinephiles of Winchester!

I dig the 1970s, more so than any other decade.

The 70s produced great music and introduced musicians who are now considered legends within the classic rock genre.

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Music morphed from standard rock n’ roll and rhythm and blues into punk, disco, funk and hip hop before the close of the decade.

The 70s saw the creation of some of the most entertaining and thought-provoking movies by the directors of New Hollywood as they shook up the medium and challenged authority, censorship and society’s norms.

Independent film birthed a new style of cinematic storytelling by filming on location rather than on a set under supervision by the studio on a low budget which usually turned a healthy profit for the Hollywood brass.

Popular films of the decade featured controversial issues, showed honesty and, at times, depravity as the film ventured into uncharted territory for viewers stuck in the facade of the American Dream the studios sold to viewers since post-World War II.

Though the 70s have come and gone, today’s filmmakers keep citing films from that decade as a source of inspiration.

Today’s release is no different as we explore Spike Lee’s award-winning 70s-throwback docudrama, “BlacKkKlansman”

“BlacKkKlansman” is the crime comedy, drama of African-American undercover police officer, Ron Stallworth portrayed by John David Washington of “Ballers,” as he infiltrates the racist white supremacist Ku Klux Klan before becoming the head of the Colorado chapter in the 1970s.

It is a crazy premise for a movie indeed, but what makes this story even crazier is it is true. The film was adapted by Stallworth’s book on the case, “Black Klansman.”

In the 1970s, Stallworth successfully engaged in the above operation by duping the KKK over the phone with his quick wits and perceived authenticity to be a racist white male.

When a situation called for him to appear in person to meet with the Klan, Stallworth would deploy his caucasian Jewish partner, Flip Zimmerman, portrayed by Adam Driver of “Star Wars: Episode VIII,” to be his cover unbeknownst to the famous hate group.

If you know anything about the KKK, it makes the sting of this ruse more satisfying because the two detective’s roots stem from ethnic groups the Klan hates. It just goes to show truth and justice has a sense of humor when battling the blind ignorance of racism.

“BlacKkKlansman” is reminiscent of titles and themes featured in the popular 70s film subgenre of Blaxploitation.

Blaxploitation films were low-budget ethnic films produced for the black communities featuring black heroes as they fought through the injustices of contemporary race relations, brutality from “The Man,” and the daily struggles of living within the urban landscape.

The films were so popular and enjoyed by other races as well, Hollywood got into the genre and started to mass produce to make a hefty profit throughout the decade. Some of the more memorable titles were “Shaft” (1971), “Super Fly” (1972), “Dolemite” (1975), “Coffy” (1973), “Foxy Brown” (1974) and “Blacula” (1972).

These titles are just the tip of the iceberg. If you are new to this subgenre, you will have plenty to view and enjoy.

So, do me a solid and step out of your comfort zone by watching some of these films to better understand cinema, race relations and the perspective of your fellow man.

Respect and understanding of your neighbor will lead you on the right path to living a life full of contentment and wisdom. This is the truth, it’s no jive.

I’ll catch you on the flipside. Have a funk-tastic film day.

Rick Baldwin is a writer, filmmaker and film/music historian. He is president of the Winchester-Clark County Film Society ( Find more from Rick on Facebook at and online at He is on Twitter @rickbaldwin79  and can be reached by email at