John Singleton: maverick director with a radical edge

Boyz N the Hood sent audiences reeling and marked the start of an uneven career for a writer-director whose films were rooted in lived experience

By Peter Bradshaw | The Guardian | April 30, 209


Hollywood wasn’t ready for John Singleton when he exploded on to the movie scene at the age of 23 – and maybe it’s been unready ever since. When Singleton was nominated for the best director Oscar for his sensational 1991 debut Boyz N the Hood (for which he also wrote the original screenplay), he was the first African American film-maker to have been entered for the category – and the youngest person ever.

He didn’t win. But as Singleton sent audiences reeling out of theatres with Ice Cube’s How to Survive in South Central over the closing credits, it seemed to many that here was a young master, with a compelling film about young men growing up in South Central Los Angeles, something to be compared to Scorsese’s Mean Streets or Fellini’s I Vitelloni. Yet despite the respect and affection for him, despite a strong professional work rate, despite continued creativity and focus – resulting most recently in a new TV crime series Snowfall – Singleton arguably did not have the fully realised directorial career that others had.