Saturday Cinema: Superfly

Super Fly is a 1972 blaxploitation film directed by Gordon Parks, Jr., and stars Ron O’Neal as Youngblood Priest, a black cocaine dealer who is trying to quit the underworld drug business.

This film is known for its soundtrack, written and produced by soul singer Curtis Mayfield (see Super Fly (soundtrack)). Super Fly is one of the few films ever to have been outgrossed by its soundtrack.

Some critics believe the film’s glorification of drug dealers serves to subtly critique the civil rights movement’s failure to provide better economic opportunities for black America and that the portrayal of a black community controlled by drug dealers serves to highlight that the initiatives of the civil rights movement were far from fully accomplished.

However the filmakers maintain that it was their desire to show the negative and empty aspects of the drug subculture. This is evident in the movie from the beginning as Priest communicates his desire to leave the business. Nearly every character in film, with the notable exception of his main squeeze, tries to dissuade Priest from quitting; their chief argument being that dealing and snorting is the best he could ever achieve in life. This contrast underscores a major theme in artistic works – the individual vs the group collective.

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