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Dave Chapelle's Block Party

You're invited to the party of the decade! 

Year: 2005 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Dave Chapelle's Block Party

In 2004, comedian Dave Chapelle enlisted the help of critically acclaimed director Michel Gondry to film the Block Party he had planned for the people of Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighbourhood. Chapelle aimed to, and succeeded in bringing the most talented members of New York’s Hip Hop community together for a party no one would forget.

Prior to the party, Chapelle travels around his hometown in Ohio, giving members of the community a chance to witness an event they would never have otherwise had the opportunity to see. Chapelle hands out golden tickets like Willy Wonka, inviting people from all walks of life to the event. Despite limited funds, he also manages to arrange transport and accommodation for Ohio's Central State University marching band, enabling them to play for the people of Brooklyn.

The Block Party itself boasts an incredible collection of the most talented artists on the planet. Kanye West is on top form, whilst Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, The Roots and Common exceed expectations. Another focal point of the live performance aspect of the film is the reunion of The Fugees and in particular, Lauryn Hill’s almost acapella rendition of Killing Me Softly.

The film bares a similarity to Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz, as it continually cuts between live performance and interviews. However, where The Last Waltz is restricted to The Band discussing their career, Block Party benefits from the vast array of people and subject matters addressed in the intervening segments between live performances. The highly politicised lyrics of Hip Hop group Dead Prez, social issues regarding the Bed-Stuy neighbourhood, and the uninformed generalisations made about Hip Hop as a genre are just a few of the issues tackled by Dave Chapelle. The comedian never fails to keep the film light-hearted though, juxtaposing harsh realities with side-splitting humour. For example, Chapelle discusses the tragedy of the loss of Notorious B.I.G. and the influence he has had upon the neighbourhood, whilst keeping the film optimistic and humorous by telling jokes on-stage and ‘battling’ a Mr. T look-alike.

This is more than just a live performance captured on celluloid; it is a celebration of the Hip Hop culture and what the musical genre should stand for, whilst the limelight is stolen and manipulated by the less talented artists who are concerned with selling an image. These lesser artists do not feature, only the crème de la crème of the Hip Hop community shall be found within this two hours of joy.

James Cotton

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Screenings of this film:

2006/2007 Autumn Term (35mm)
2006/2007 Autumn Term (35mm)