John Singleton exploded onto the Hollywood scene in 1991 with his Academy Award-nominated screenplay for Boyz In The Hood and became the youngest person nominated for Best Director. He was 23 years old.
Singleton captured inner-city life through the eyes of three life-long friends. The storyline of Boyz hit home with me as I had also grown up within an inner city setting. Although the violence each character in Boyz In The Hood experienced was above anything I myself dealt with, the daily struggles, pain, dangers, and loyalty found within the community were very similar.
Singleton followed up the acclaimed film Boyz In The Hood with 1993’s Poetic Justice. The story follows the main character, Justice, who is a talented poet. The twists and turns of the film
When John Singleton’s Higher Learning was released to theatres in January 1995, some felt its message failed to hit the mark. The story behind the film showed again how three main characters dealt with change. Each found themselves in a brand new environment, striving to become individuals. While at the same time, hoping to fit in. Who can’t relate to that? We all seek acceptance in one form or another. No matter what stage of life you are in, inclusion is vital.
Earlier that winter I had just completed my first screenplay titled, Ashes to Ashes. I remember taking myself on an ‘artist date’ that day long before I would consider myself a writer. The creative in me watched every minute from a storyteller’s perspective. I found myself picking up subtle foreshadowing – and paying close attention to the telling of the story. I stayed for a second showing that day just so I could simply enjoy the film. Again, Singleton struck a chord with me as I was fresh out of college, with the world staring me straight in the face – screaming – forcing me to make a choice between a ‘real job’ and chasing a dream. Even at 24, life was confusing and day-to-day living was certainly in the way of obtaining my dreams.
It’s amazing how Singleton’s characters in each of these films were so very different but in every way the same. Survival unites even in the midst of madness.
John Singleton is credited on over 30 projects in film and television and one of my favorite filmmakers. His role as either a director, producer, writer, spans just about three decades. For me, his first three films, mentioned above are his best. Each one ‘spoke’ to me. I connected with the stories. The characters were flawed. The characters didn’t always have the answers. The characters were human. The characters were doing their best to make sense of it all – just like you and me.
John Singleton passed away on April 29, 2019, he was 51 years old.
What’s your favorite John Singleton movie? Drop your comments below.
Feature Image By Canadian Film Centre from Toronto, Canada. Cropped and color-corrected prior to upload by Daniel Case – An Evening with John Singleton, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24754055