By Quinton R. Arthur
Cinema has the ability to captivate audiences, providing a new perspective of the world. Major Hollywood films are often used as forms of entertainment, but they can also be used as a form of social justice.
“Some movies have the power to do more: to lift us out of our self-absorption and show us the world in a new way,” says film critic Roger Ebert. “Good movies make us into better people.”
The fourth installment of the Barbershop series, “Barbershop: The Next Cut,” not only manages to bring in audience attention through comedy, but also confronts a number of social issues.
The film, set on the South Side of Chicago, focuses on Calvin and his team of barbers and hairstylists as they strive to bring change to their community.
One of the first issues addressed in the film is the challenges of raising kids in a gang-dominated area. Calvin and Rashad, played by Chicago hip-hop artist and actor Common, both had sons that were drawn to the flashy lifestyle of money and protection.
Other issues portrayed in the film are race and violence. A scene that focused on the reality of murder of black boys and men took place. Rashad and Raja, played by actor Utkarsh Ambudkar, were having a debate on thriving in their lives. Raja’s argument was that as an Indian-American, he came from a household where his parents were immigrants.
They struggled adjusting to American culture, but were eventually able to make the American Dream possible. He also said that African-Americans have a better advantage because of the fact the president is a black man.
However, Rashad said that doesn’t change the fact Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and countless others were still being murdered on a regular basis. This conversation between fictional characters spoke to the fact that while changes have taken place on the national level, changes still have to take place on local levels of government.
The film also advocated for community advocacy for solution of problems. With the influx of violence of Chicago neighborhoods, the members of the Calvin’s barbershop organized a 48-hour ceasefire. The incentive was to have residents get free hair services during this time. It was a small gesture, but a big step towards changing the culture.
Film critic Odie Henderson believes the film did a great job of reflecting on community issues.
“‘Barbershop: The Next Cut’ dispenses its message with enough humor and wisdom to inspire and linger after it’s done,” says Henderson.
Overall the film encourages Chicago to step up and realize that community change is not just the job of politicians, parents or business owners; it will take all to make an effective change. It represents what Spike Lee’s movie “Chi-Raq” did not, which is an authentic, understood message to residents of Chicago about changing their community.