Born Walter Gordon, the awesomely-monikered Jamaa Fanaka moved from Jackson, Mississippi to L.A. as a kid. After serving in the Air Force, he attended the University of California film school where he became part of “the L.A. Rebellion,” a group of young African-American film-school grads who rejected blaxploitation. Other members of the group included Julie Dash and the sublimely talented Charles Burnett.
Fanaka’s filmography is quite brief (six features), a phenomenon he blamed on the Director’s Guild of America, against whom he brought class-action lawsuits in the early ‘90s, alleging that the group was discriminatory. According to his obits, the lawsuits became a “mission” of sorts for Fanaka, whose career did ultimately suffer, but who drew attention to an important problem in the process.
The movies continues to stun as it moves on, as we find that Geary has a cellmate/servant/lover named Cleopatra, played by drag queen Jim Bailey. The piece de resistance comes when we are introduced to the device by which Geary intends to “humble” Leon Isaac, someone called “the Midnight Thud.” The Thud is a grunting, mohawk-sporting midget (wrestler the Haiti Kid) who “takes the manhood” of people that have infuriated Geary.
The fact that the Midnight Thud goes on to become Kennedy’s manager in the final fight (we learn that the Thud talks pretty late in the picture), and that Fanaka includes some jaw-dropping Christ imagery in said no-rules brawl only serve to make the pot sweeter. Below is a short montage of a few clips from the film that I put together for the show back in late ’97. Feast, or the Thud will come get ya!