For many John Singleton broke new ground with his debut feature Boys N the Hood. While I admit I was quite taken with the film upon its release, it personally has not aged very well for me. The film has a luster to it (a la an afterschool special) that my advanced years would not expect with such a downtrodden subject matter.
However, with the release of 1997′s Rosewood, I think that Singleton has produced his best work to date.
Rosewood is the true story of an almost unknown incident in a small Florida town, ‘Rosewood’ (town’s name was fictionalized for purposes of the film) – the town was inhabited almost entirely by law-abiding African- Americans, most of whom were prosperous, middle-class property landowners. On January 1, 1923, following the false testimony of a white woman against a black man, the town was obliterated by mobs of angry white residents from a neighboring community, who were seeking revenge.
The graphic details of how the inhabitants of Rosewood are on full display for the viewer in this film.
Although in a supporting role, the shining gem of Rosewood is Mr. Don Cheadle as the resilient Sylvester. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I was not overly convinced by the performance of Ving Rhames as Mann. I think a main reason for this is he is clearly one of the characters who is clearly an invention of the filmmakers – his ‘larger than life” presence in the film at times felt like it took me out of the drama and action that was otherwise rooted in a reality.
The film also stars Jon Voight and Esther Rolle.
Please make sure to check out other “overlooked” titles by visiting Todd Mason’s Sweet Freedom blog.