Hidden Gem: Aaron Loves Angela (1975)
One simple statement can be definitively made about this film: it is one of the best teen oriented films of the Blaxploitation genre. Take into account that it was made after the “golden years” of the era (1969- 1974) and was the last film directed by Gordon Parks Jr. (Superfly, Three the Hard Way) and it becomes even more astounding.
Set mostly in Spanish Harlem, Aaron loves Angela reads like a contemporary Romeo and Juliet without the modern cliché of us against them. Gordon Parks Jr.’s expert direction paints a vivid picture of the hardship faced by youth in the New York’s urban jungles. Hard times call for desparate measures seems to be the unspoken mantra of the film. Kevin Hooks (Sounder) plays Aaron, a black teenager searching for his own space in the world despite the pull of outside forces. Angela is played by the lovely Irene Cara (Sparkle, Fame) a Puerto Rican girl who loves Aaron despite what that could mean for the couple. The onscreen chemistry between the two is undeniable and Kevin Hooks particularly engaging. The fine cast is rounded out by Moses Gunn as Aaron ex-football player boozing father and Ernestine Jackson as a hooker who is more than willing to take Aaron under her coital wing. Add Jose Feliciano’s soundtrack to the mix then stir and you have one of the tastiest yet rarely savored film of the Blaxploitation canon. The most underrated of Gordon Parks Jr.’s work, it’s a hidden gem worthy of excavation.