Jamaa Fanaka

Jamaa Fanaka – Emma Mae (1976)

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Emma Mae (1976)

While writer-director Jamaa Fanaka intentionally frustrates any association with Blaxploitation, he courts the forms of that money-grubbing action subgenre for the purposes of his 1976 film Emma Mae, if only to subvert them. As such, the film occupies a lonely middle ground between such well-remembered grindhouse titles as Black Mama, White Mama (1972) and The Mack (1973) and the scattering of Black family dramas to which the big studios condescended in the early to mid-70s, such as Oscar Williams’ Five on the Black Hand Side (1973) and Michael Schultz’s Cooley High (1975). The latter was a direct influence on Fanaka while he was a student at UCLA’s film program and Emma Mae, his second feature, reflects a similar interest in depicting the texture of African-American community and family life in all its contrasting and contradictory patterns. Read More »