The mission of The Department of Afro-American Research Arts and Culture to identify the global significance of the creative contributions pioneered by an international diaspora of Blackness
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lean On Me (1989)

"Lean On Me" is a biographical drama based on a true story. Directed by John G. Avildsen and written by Michael Schiffer, the film stars Morgan Freeman as Joe Clark, an inner-city high school principal at Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey. Warner Brothers released the movie, which was highly successful at the box office, grossing over $31 million on a $10 million budget. The film has an outstanding cast, including Beverly Todd, Robert Guillaume, Alan North, Lynne Thigpen, and Michael Beach.

Today, "Lean On Me" remains one of the finest pieces of black cinema. At one point, every household seemed to have this movie in rotation. It's an incredibly nostalgic film and genuinely inspirational on so many levels. The soundtrack and theme song are iconic, with the original song by Bill Whithers and the rendition by Thelma Houston and The Winans. The RnB group Riff performs the Eastside High School song memorably in the movie.

"Lean On Me" has a tremendous culture. The high school setting and the adults involved in the administration, from parents, school, and city, give a total experience. The kids in the high school drive this film to extraordinary levels. Every actor portrays their character masterfully. The scene between Guillaume and Freeman is an epic lesson in acting and a dosage of humility. The interactions between Freeman and Thigpen are brilliant and genuine. Everyone that had their moment on screen made the best of it. I will forever recommend "Lean On Me." It's an excellent feel-good movie. 

Director: John G. Avildsen
Writer: Michael Schiffer

Starring Morgan Freeman, Beverly Todd, Robert Guillaume, Alan North, Lynne Thigpen, Robin Bartlett, Michael Beach, Ethan Phillips, Sandra Reaves-Phillips, Sloane Shelton, Jermaine Hopkins, Karen Malina White, Karina Arroyave, Ivonne Coll, Regina Taylor, Michael P. Moran, John Ring, Tyrone Jackson, Alex Romaguera, Tony Todd, Mike Starr, Michael Best, Stephen Capers Jr., Dwayne Jones, Kenneth Kelly, Yvette Hawkins, Nicole Quinn, Elsie Hilario, Michael A. Joseph, Richard Grusin, Jim Moody

In this fact-based film, a New Jersey superintendent, Dr. Frank Napier (Robert Guillaume), watches helplessly as East Side High becomes the lowest-ranked school in the state. With nowhere else to turn, Dr. Napier enlists maverick ex-teacher Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman) to take over as principal of the declining school. Unfortunately for Clark, before he can focus on improving the student body's state exam scores, he has somehow to rid the school of its gang and narcotics problems.