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16 Unexpectedly Influential Film Directors of the 20th Century

Gordon Parks

Brilliantly talented African-American photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks revolutionized black cinema with Shaft in 1971. For the first time, audiences saw a black man -- here, a private detective named John Shaft -- pursue his own agenda in the white world and control his own life, establishment be damned. The movie launched the so-called "blaxploitation" genre that brought stardom to Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Ron O'Neal, and Shaft's Richard Roundtree. Blaxploitation flourished throughout the 1970s and has lately been honored -- and gently parodied -- by nonconformist directors Quentin Tarantino and Larry Cohen.