Shaft (1971)

Director: Gordon Parks Run Time: 100 min. Rating: R Release Year: 1971

Starring: Charles Cioffi, Christopher St. John, Gwenn Mitchell, Moses Gunn, Richard Roundtree

Country: United States
Language: English

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About the film:

The mob wants Harlem back. But they’re gonna get Shaft.

Richard Roundtree stars as New York City private detective John Shaft. He’s cool, tough and won’t back down to anybody. But when the New York Mafia wants to take over the Harlem drug trade, they kidnap local crime lord Bumpy Jonas’ daughter. Now in the middle of a war between mobsters that’s ready to ignite a racial tinderbox, Jonas hires the one man tough enough to get his daughter back – John Shaft.

Selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, Gordon Parks’ Shaft was adapted from Academy Award-winner Ernest Tidyman’s novels by Tidyman and screenwriter John D. F. Black. The film’s irresistible theme won soul music icon Isaac Hayes the Academy Award for Best Original Song, making him the first Black man to win that honor and paving the way for other artists of color. Learn more here.

About the filmmaker:

Writer, musician, and celebrated photojournalist Gordon Parks worked as a consultant in Hollywood before writing and directing The Learning Tree (1969) based on his semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in 1920s Kansas. It was the first film directed by a Black filmmaker for a major American film studio and was among the first films selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

One of the top photojournalists of his time, much of Parks’ work focused on chronicling the Black experience in America for Life magazine, though he began his career in 1941 working for the federal government.

“I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs. I knew at that point I had to have a camera.”

– Gordon Parks. Learn more here.

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Trailer