This moment of reassessment and reckoning has arrived for my generation, known by the unusually enduring nickname of Generation X. , the Pickford Film Center, asked me. , if I wanted to guest schedule a monthly series. The first thing I thought of was the work of African American Gen-X filmmakers. And since then, discussions about Gen-X have exploded. Just a few weeks ago, the Los Angeles Philharmonic announced a program of all Gen-X Orchestral Composers.
The timing makes sense. The term “Generation X”, applied to people born between the mid-1960s and the late 1970s (later, the generational shift will move the dividing line to 1982), appeared in 1991 when the Canadian author Douglas Coupland published the novel Generation X: Stories of an Accelerated Culture about young people coming of age in the wake of the Go-Go Eighties and the Me Decade before that.
And just as the term was taking hold (after thankfully usurping the previous generational moniker which was “The MTV Generation”), African American Gen X filmmakers were making their debut. It all started with John Singleton and his debut album “Boyz N the Hood”, released in July 1991 to great acclaim and which made Singleton the youngest person to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar at the age of 24 years.
Just before Singleton came Matty Rich (b. 1971) with his feature debut, “Straight Out of Brooklyn,” made with guts, determination, $450,000 and a month of film school. One film was independent, the other was a studio film, but they both signaled the same thing: African-American auteur Gen-X had arrived.
Of course, these films were forged by many social forces and the reverberations of historical shifts. First, Generation X itself has been famously summed up as the children of Watergate, Vietnam, the aftermath of the civil rights/black liberation movements, the dawn of the gay rights movement, the feminism of second wave and divorce. We were a much smaller generation than the baby boomers who came before us. And in many ways, we had to fend for ourselves. We were the Latchkey Kids who would usually come home to an empty house and let the TV keep us until a parent arrived. In time, we would find ourselves eclipsed on both sides, as Millennials would outnumber us by significant margins. The baby boomer experience of the 60s had a double impact on us: it provided an almost unattainable standard for social activism, and it also gave us a post-60s cynicism that still defines us today. Utopianism, we were taught both tacitly and explicitly, was the concern of fools. It’s as good as it gets and if you don’t accept that and stick with the program, you’re a bigger jerk than the aging hippies that are derided in so much of pop culture.