Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Rosewood (1997), directed by John Singleton

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.


  1. Patti Abbott says:

    Don Cheadle is always good, isn’t he? I think I was out of the country when this debuted. Will have to try and look for it.

    • For sure. Even when he is in a turkey of a film, he is still watchable. I am happy for his recent GG victory (although I don’t know many people who actually watch the show).

  2. As Patti said, “Don Cheadle is always good…” Been wanting to see this film but it’s fallen through the cracks. I need to rectify that. Thanks, Iba.
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  3. I loved this film but because of the depressing subject matter, it can be a tough re-watch. But I guess that’s what Ving’s character was for, to add action/levity to the film, which I think it did (but I agree that it was a bit too fantastical, i.e. for a film that was based on true events).
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  4. I’d rank this and Boyz ‘n’ the Hood as Singleton’s two best flics.
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