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Higher Learning (1995, Omar Epps, Kristy Swanson)

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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.

production details
USA | 127 minutes | 1995

Director: John Singleton
Script: John Singleton,

cast
Cole Hauser as Scott Moss
Jennifer Connelly as Taryn
Tyra Banks as Deja
Kari Wuhrer as Claudia
Regina King as Monet
Omar Epps as Mlik Williams
Ice Cube as Fudge
Kristy Swanson as Kristen Connor
Busta Rhymes as Dreads
Michael Rapaport as Remy
Jason Wiles as Wayne
Laurence Fishburne as Professor Maurice Phipps
Bridgette Wilson as Nicole
Vitamin C as Festival Singer