Beloved Director John Singleton has passed away at 51

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 11.59.20 PMShocking news hit the headlines thirteen days ago that John Singleton had suffered a stroke. I for one was immediately disturbed and distraught until I first heard it was a mild stroke. ( My mother recently suffered a mild stroke as well so I immediately had  confidence that he would have a slow but successful recovery. To my dismay days later I first heard John Singleton was now in a coma and his family was having a discrepancy about his estate.

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 1.24.37 AMIn the back of my mind I was thinking, “Why are they fighting over this man’s estate and who would decide what, as I thought that Singleton was showing signs of improvements. Hours later I read the news that John Singleton had passed away at the young age of  51. My heart is literally broken. Singleton was a young black filmmaker who understood LA history.  He perfectly depicted life in South Central LA for a black man and the worries of a black woman raising a young black son grooming him to be a man. Singleton just perfectly understood and knew how to capture it all on film. The LA Times explained it best:

His death Monday at the age of 51 coincided with the 27th anniversary of the 1992 riots that tore apart his city, one that he depicted with great love and tenderness, force and fury. Los Angeles was where Singleton attended USC film school and where he set several of his projects, most recently the FX series “Snowfall,” a snapshot of the crack cocaine epidemic in the early ’80s, and “L.A. Burning,” a 2017 A&E documentary about the riots that he produced. It was also, of course, the setting of his landmark 1991 first feature, “Boyz N the Hood.”

Drawn from shards of Singleton’s personal experience, “Boyz N the Hood” had the furious urgency of something wrested from deep within its maker’s gut, but it also spoke with the assurance and clarity of someone who had thought long and hard about what he wanted to say.

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-29 at 11.57.18 PMThe story spans seven years in the life of Tre Styles (played at different ages by Desi Arnez Hines II and Cuba Gooding Jr.), whose mother, fearing for his childhood and his future, sends him to live with his stern, loving father. It’s a decision that makes a crucial difference for Tre as he and his closest friends grow up, hang out, get in trouble, fall in love and find themselves vulnerable to both the lure and the impact of gang violence.

 

Singleton’s movie vividly captures the flow and texture of life in homes and communities where the everyday reality of crime is answered, but rarely solved, by a near-continual background hum of helicopters and police sirens. What makes the picture so resonant is its irreducibility, its ability to see how scenes of domestic contentment and broader upheaval — a backyard barbecue, a father’s banter with his son, an instance of youthful bullying, a drive-by shooting — come to exist on the same continuum.

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 12.19.16 AMWith “Baby Boy,” he analyzed and exploded theories about the systemic infantilization of the African American male, turning assumptions about gun-toting brothers and philandering, neglectful fathers into characters whose complexity transcended stereotype. That complexity, it’s worth noting, wasn’t reserved only for men; the movie’s finest performance is given by a young Taraji P. Henson as Gibson’s justly defiant girlfriend, who, like more than a few women in Singleton’s body of work, refuses to be either mistreated or pigeonholed.

After “Boyz N the Hood,” both Ice Cube and Fishburne

resurfaced in the audacious “Higher Learning,” set at a fictitious university where a melting pot becomes a seething cauldron. This frequently overwrought and confrontational ensemble drama doesn’t seem much subtler now than it did in 1995, but it is a reminder that, as Singleton himself clearly knew, there are times that call for virtues other than subtlety. It’s a sweeping, corrosive look at issues of race, sexuality, class and privilege, folded into a story about affirmative action, sexual assault, mass shootings and white supremacists. Only in the movies. To read the entire article https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-john-singleton-appreciation-boyz-n-the-hood-20190429-story.html

My memories of John Singleton will always be of him at ABFF dancing and having the best time ever in his swimwear shorts. He was a risktaker who never passed up an opportunity to tell his story. He went after his dreams, created history, introduced new actors to the world and turned them into movie stars. I love how Ice Cube said “he taught me how to make films.” That speaks volume of the type of person Singleton was. The last time I saw him was in Atlanta at the private screening for Snowfall and he was so excited to tell this story. He understood life in LA at so many different phases of manhood. Unless you lived in LA and grew up as a black man in South Central LA, it’s really hard to understand what it means. John Singleton embodied what it was like whenever he was able to capture it on film.  You will truly be missed John Singleton.

Gone too soon 😦 ….

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