John Singleton - A tribute To His Stellar Career And Long Lasting Legacy
Words by: Venetia Faye Acquah
With the untimely passing of legendary filmmaker John Singleton, it is important to recognise the impact he had on the entertainment industry. From the opportunities he afforded a great many actors, actresses and directors, to the riveting screenplays he shared with the world. His legacy will never be forgotten.
Born in 1968, John Singleton grew up in Los Angeles, California. He had a budding interest in filmmaking from an early age, and studied screenwriting at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. He had a very successful stint at USC, winning three writing awards which ultimately landed him a contract with the Creative Arts Industry in his sophomore year.
In his senior year Singleton began writing his debut film at just twenty-two years old. It ended becoming his culture shifting debut, ‘Boyz N the Hood’ which was released in 1991.The impact of the film was immeasurable; it changed the landscape of American film and inspired many worldwide, so much so that John Singleton became the first black man and the youngest person ever to be nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards. Witnessing storytelling rooted in a genuine and wholesome experience is always powerful. But at that time, this was a special occurrence. Stories that may not have been explored on a commercial scale are now being seen because of this very debut. Singleton ultimately paved the way for upcoming filmmakers who felt unseen.
The film set in 1984 following the life of Tre and his friends: Doughboy, Ricky, and Chris. Exploring a range of relatable topics, including single parent households, gang violence, poverty and grief, beautifully gifted us with the multifaceted nature of Americans as a whole. It shows that black men could want more, be successful, and, most significantly, be educated. Even though John’s debut did show these things, it also shed light on the sad reality of disenfranchised young people, the devastating effects of violence and the impact it has on the families and communities of those affected, as well as the cycle of gang culture and mass incarceration that ultimately becomes their fate. Boyz N the Hood’s ‘Tre’ played by Cuba Gooding Jr. begs the question in the film about why America “don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the Hood.” And that very point could still be argued today. The timelessness of Singleton’s work is truly admirable as the events they centred around still occur today. Boyz N The Hood was also rap legend’s Ice Cube’s silver screen debut. He has consistently praised John for being a person of grace and providing opportunity to up and coming talent.
With Boyz N The Hood being penned as a coming of age story, it has truly transcended the imaginable, as well as breaking many boundaries in the realms of Hollywood filmmaking. With that being said, let’s take a look back at some more of John Singleton’s work:
Poetic Justice - (1993)
The film starring the legendary Janet Jackson and the late Tupac Shakur, centres around pain ridden hairdresser Justice; who has suffered a great deal in her life. And uses her love for literature to deal with her trauma; through writing poetry. When she meets Lucky (Tupac Shakur) she is conflicted on whether she should be open to receive love again. In this film we are given a glimpse of the potential that Tupac had as an actor being introduced in this film at just 22 years old. Which is what makes his tragic death even more upsetting. John had a great ability of mentoring all entertainment professionals, helping them expand their talents and become multi-faceted.
Rosewood - (1997)
Rosewood was a 1997 historical drama. A slightly fictionalised story of Rosewood massacre, a 1923 race riot that dismantled an established black community in a rural Florida area. Through this film, we really see John’s versatility. Through his ability to capture various depictions of the black experience as previously mentioned.
Baby Boy - (2001)
Baby Boy: set in south central Los Angeles; tells the story of Jody, played by Tyrese Gibson. A 20-year-old man stuck in a state of immaturity and struggling to live up to his responsibilities of being a father. While it examines the complexities of the extended black family; the story is riddled with romance, laughter, tears and violence. Taraji P Henson plays Yvette, one of Jody’s baby’s mothers. Being recognised as Tajari’s breakthrough role; Taraji has spoken about what it was like to work with John Singleton on her first feature film. Commending him for his impact on her life and his ability to create a great experience on set. The film also stars rapper Snoop Dogg in his first dramatic feature role.
2 Fast 2 Furious - (2003)
Singleton also directed the 2003 Fast and the Furious sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious. Which introduced Tyrese and Ludacris to a now established universe, helping diversify and market what has become a billion-dollar franchise. Singleton also made his mark in the television world as well as film. With his series Snowfall, he continued to inspire and provide opportunities for fellow creatives around the world. With an everlasting legacy, the entertainment industry will continue to mourn his passing.
Words by: Venetia Faye Acquah