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Review: Higher Learning (1995)

Higher Learning (1995) 

Directed by: John Singleton

Premise: Multiple storylines of students entering a university and dealing with gender and racial conflicts. 

What Works: The film balances its characters very well, and genuinely explores the characters’ lives and how they interact with each other. Rather than isolating the storylines, the characters’ stories interact and each one complicates and informs the others. What is most interesting is the way the film balances out the characterizations. No one in the picture, including the white supremacists, are totally devoid of goodness and each carries some responsibility for another character’s misery.

What Doesn’t: Like Crash, the film’s characters present fairly extreme positions on race. While these storylines are well drawn, the positions do not present a cross section of racial and gender tensions, which are typically subtler than Higher Learning portrays them.

DVD extras: None

Bottom Line: Few films have seriously questioned racial and gender conflicts as directly as Higher Learning. While the film does not always succeed, it does ask some of the right questions and makes for stimulating viewing. It’s also something of a swan song for director Singleton, who started his promising career films with films like this and Boyz ‘n the Hood but has recently gotten into making prurient and stupid action films like 2 Fast, 2 Furious and Four Brothers.

Episode: #65 (August 28, 2005)