A strong cast of young actors are assembled for Higher Learning, John Singleton’s third film as writer/director (following on from Boyz N The Hood and Poetic Justice). This time the drama takes place on a university campus and once more Singleton proves himself to be a sensitive filmmaker with an intuitive eye for presenting racial issues in a thought-provoking manner. Although Higher Learning depicts life on campus in all its highs and lows, rest assured that this is not School Daze, Spike Lee’s unsuccessful attempt to make a black frat comedy.
It’s the start of a new academic year at Columbus University which, with its wide range of students, acts as a microcosm for American society. As the new students arrive, we chart the lives of a handful of the freshers: Kristen (KRISTY SWANSON) learns that her dates here are different from those she experienced at high school and is soon and questioning her sexual identity; Remy (MICHAEL RAPAPORT) is a social misfit from Idaho who’s unaccustomed to mixing with different races and struggles to fit in; and Malik (OMAR EPPS) is an athlete who’s discovering that he can’t cruise through college if he wants to eventually get a full sports scholarship. Professor Phipps (LAURENCE FISHBURNE) lectures politics, and takes a keen interest in Malik, who becomes inspired by his tutor’s ideas. Both Kristen and Malik will both be taught a hard life lesson by the end of term, while Remy will become involved with a group of dangerous skinheads, with disastrous consequences.
A powerful drama that avoids preachiness or dogma, Higher Learning features fine performances from Fishburne as the pipe-smoking, Caribbean-born lecturer; JENNIFER CONNELLY as a lesbian who runs a woman’s support group and befriends Kristen; and COLE HAUSER, as the chillingly-portrayed skinhead who recruits Remy to his cause.
USA / 1995
Director and Writer: John Singleton
Cast: Omar Epps, Kristy Swanson, Michael Rapaport, Ice Cube, Jason Wiles, Tyra Banks