David Walker
Photo: David Walker

'Jews content as clowns, not action heroes'

Creator David Walker says Blaxploitation film genre, which depicted larger-than-life African American action heroes, changed way black people are seen in media. Can Jewishploitation do the same for Jews? Only if US Jews weren't so self conscious about their image, Walker says

In recent years, filmmakers have taken it upon themselves to revive Blaxploitation - a film genre that gave vent to the hardship faced by African Americans in the '70s and targeted primarily urban, black viewers, featuring larger-than-life heroes and soundtracks to match.


But before there was Quentin Tarantino's Jacky Brown, there was David Walker - an explorer and creator of Blaxploitation and the initiator of the BadAzz MoFo project.


BadAzz MoFo started out in the '90s as a magazine, but had evolved over the years into a blog and a film production company. Among Walker's creations are the films "Black Santa's Revenge", "Uncle Tom's Apartment" and "My Dinner with A.J.", which came out this year. Walker writes the scripts, produces, directs and even acts in his BadAzz MoFo projects.


"From the beginning, I always wanted BadAzz MoFo to be an entertaining source of information about things like Blaxploitation movies, kung fu flicks and spaghetti westerns," Walker told Ynet. "This was before the Internet really took off, and it was difficult to find information about these movies. Over the years, I have used the publication as a means to explore not just movies, but everything from religion to politics."


Walker's 'Black Santa's Revenge'


The 43-year-old creator's socio-politic outlook, naturally, was affected by his unusual roots; Walker was born to an African American father and a Jewish mother.


"I was raised in a culturally diverse setting, and I never felt like I belonged anywhere," he explains. "I was too white for the black kids and too black for the white kids, and I felt like no one understood me, or saw the world from point of view.


"More than anything, BadAzz MoFo is my attempt to explain the world from my point of view, which is that of a bi-racial, non-practicing Jewish liberal," he adds.


New black hero

The Blaxploitation genre gave a creative outlet to African American communities living in the metropolises of New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and New Orleans. These were low-budget action films, heavy on the violence, featuring proud role models who fought against both white and black villains in unconventional ways – think Shaft and Foxy Brown.


Walker, who grew up during the genre's golden days, was enthralled by its overstated nature.


"My love of Blaxploitation comes from my love of the outrageous," Walker says. "Those films came along at a time when the perception of black people in America was undergoing a major shift. These films represent an overly exaggerated view of how black people were being presented in that moment in time. For the most part these films weren’t realistic, but they did help change the way black people were presented in mainstream media, and in the process created new heroic figures."


Walker credits Blaxploitation for paving the way for modern African American film heroes.


"It new created a set of new images and archetypes of black characters that would change how African-Americans were forever seen in film and pop culture," he notes. "The best example of this is the career of Will Smith. You look at Will Smith in movies like 'I Am Legend', 'Hancock' and 'Men in Black', and what you are seeing is the direct result of Blaxploitation."


While it appears that the transformation of the African American hero is complete, Walker insists on staying true to the origins and making his own Blaxploitation films. He considers "Black Santa’s Revenge," a short film starring veteran Zombie genre actor Ken Foree, his best work.


"It started as a short comic book story that I wrote and published, and eventually turned into a live action film," Walker recalls. "Watching that film with an audience is always a thrill. They laugh in the right spots, cheer in the right spots, and clap at the end, and that feels good."


But making movies, Walker notes, is not an easy process. While the projects require considerable investment, he has yet to make a profit on any of his films. And there are always conflicts on the set which he must deal with.


"All of those problems made it difficult to remember the good times, or why I was even making the movie," Walker says. "But there is something about the creative process, as a project comes together, that is incredibly rewarding."


Foree as Santa (Scene from film)


A different project, which has turned into a web hit, was a fake trailer titled "Blackstar Warrior" – a Star Wars spinoff that presents Lando Calrissian as a Blaxploitation hero. Comic book artist Matt Haley came up with the idea, which Walker developed into a script. Though he enjoyed making it – Haley relieved him of the direction and production duties – Walker was surprised by the video's success.


"Even though I believed in what we were doing, it all seemed silly to me," he said. "I still have trouble believing that the film has become as popular as it has, because we were just fooling around and having a good time."


'I could do it better than Tarantino'

While the Blaxploitation genre seems to make periodic comebacks every few years, it is often the doing of white filmmakers. But Walker notes that this is not an unusual occurrence – even in the '70s, the African American works of rebellion against the white establishment were often supervised by white producers.


"The film industry as a whole is controlled by white people, so to a certain extent Blaxploitation was heavily influenced by white people," Walker says. "There were plenty of black filmmakers like Gordon Parks Sr. and Gordon Parks Jr., Ossie Davis and Michael Schultz making these movies, but the people who made the most money were always white."


Walker's Uncle Tom's Apartment


While he is not bothered by Tarantino's attraction to the genre, he is irked by the filmmaker's smug approach.


"The thing that bothers me about Tarantino is the notion that he knows everything about all these different film genres, and he is the filmmaker best qualified to make these cinematic tributes," he says. "If you gave me a few million dollars, I could make a better Blaxploitation film than Tarantino or any other filmmaker in the world."


What about Jewish side?

Walker's African American heritage is expressed through his filmmaking and acting endeavors, but what about the Jewish side? Walker says lists the '76 film "Raid on Entebbe" and Steven Spielberg's "Munich" as some of the best Jewishploitation films out there, and identifies Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds as an attempt at the genre – although he didn't like it overall.


Walker says he would love to make a Jewishploitation film that would do to Jewish protagonists what Blaxploitation did to African American ones.


"It would be set in the world of boxing and gangsters in the 1930s," Walker says. "My mother’s father and uncle were professional boxers, and they had loose connections to the Jewish mafia, and I would love to make a gritty movie set in that world.


"There is a scene in the movie 'Cinderella Man', where Russell Crowe’s character has a fight with a Jewish boxer named Abe Feldman," he says. "In real life that was my mom’s uncle. I hated 'Cinderella Man', in part for the way they treated my great-uncle, and it made me want to do a movie inspired by him."


According to Walker, the problem with making any sort of Jewishploitation film is that American Jews are too self-conscious about their image.


"As a whole, America is not a Jew-friendly country, and I think there are people who would rather lay low and not call attention to themselves," he explains. "Jews are content in this country with being seen as clowns and comedians, but not as action heroes.


"Maybe they are worried that being an action hero will be seen as being a threat to non-Jews in some way, I don’t know."




פרסום ראשון: 02.08.11, 13:14
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