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Scenitunes: Shaft and a Whole Lot of Reggae

Remembering "Shaft"

Getting to Know Charles Pitts (1947-2012)

The movie "Shaft" (1971) is considered the most famous of a loosely defined film genre that was criticized into oblivion for misrepresenting black Americans.
The short-lived genre which is dubbed Blaxploitation belongs to what is known as exploitation movies which are characterized by low budget and exaggerated sensational rendering that is meant to pique the audience.
Other than exploiting themes of black American culture, exploitation movies are recently linked to several of Quentin Tarantino's movies such "Death Proof"(2007) which was a Carsploitation movie. Blaxploitation is obviously a term that combines black and exploitation. Yet many of these 'cheap' movies have earned critical attention and some are technically good. The movie "Shaft" at least identified with an unprecedented musical technique for composing a soundtrack which employed the agreeable distorting sound of the Wah Wah, a pedal that is attached to the electric guitar.
This special effect improvised by Charles Pitts drew the attention of the soundtrack maker for the movie,late Isaac Hayes, during rehearsals and made him insist on it. He was later proven right in anticipating the stunning impact of these distorted sounds in the opening scenes of the movie "Shaft". What was described by its maker as "I was just trying to tune my guitar" went on to win the Shaft theme the Acadmy Award for Best Original Song in 1972!
But who made this riff that entered the movie "Shaft" into the dear recesses of American pop culture?
The man whose obituary I stumbled upon on a friend's web page was the well-known soul and blues guitarist Charles Pitts. He died in May of this year of lung cancer. RIP Charles "Skip" Pitts. Special thanks to Taj Malick!
Note On the Movie "Shaft":
This 1971 movie features actor Richard Roundtree as detective John Shaft and tells about violence and gangs. "John Shaft first finds himself up against Bumby (Moses Gunn), the leader of the Black crime mob, then against Black nationals, and finally working with both against the White Mafia who are trying to blackmail Bumby by kidnapping his daughter." Wrote John Vogel in the IMDb web site.
"Shaft" was written by Ernest Tidyman and others. It was directed by Gordon Parks (1912-2006).
Gordon Parks
Parks was an acclaimed photographer for Life magazine before he turned into a movie director. "In 1989 his first film effort, "The Learning Tree" (1969) was selected among the first 25 films so honored by the U.S. Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Film Registry for all time." source IMDb.

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)- September 6-16 2012 has many great
feature in store for Torontonian and visiting movie fans. Among the attending stars will be Robert De Niro, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman (directing Quartet) and many more of the shining actors and filmmakers. Among the movies we will watch "Looper" a futuristic thriller by the American Rian Johnson, Joe Wright's epic "Anna Karenina", Mike Newell's adaptation of Dicken's "Great Expectations" and Deepa Mehta's adaptation of Salman Rushdie's novel "Midnight's Children". More than sixty movies are to be screened in 32 theaters in downtown Toronto.
Among the documentaries there is "This definitive new documentary "Marley" on the life and legend of Bob Marley, made with the support of the Marley family, and featuring rare footage, incredible performances and revelatory interviews with the people that knew him best."
Note On Bob Marley:
Bob Marley's universal appeal, impact on music history and role as a social and political prophet is both unique and unparalleled. "Marley" is the definitive life story of the musician, revolutionary, and legend, from his early days to his rise to international superstardom. (Adapted from Artinfo Canada)

RIP Bob Marley


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