A white, hip-hop loving teen falls in love with a black girl.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Lois Bendler ...
Dan Ziskie ...
DeShonn Castle ...
Dee
...
Marsha Florence ...
Shula Van Buren ...
Ron Johnson ...
Nut
Ray Sharkey ...
Glenn Dossin ...
Martin Priest ...
Shirley Benyas ...
Jason Willinger ...
...
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Storyline

This is a Romeo and Juliet type tale based in Detroit, Michigan. Two young men, Zack, a white teen accused of "acting black" and Dee, an African American teen, defy racial lines and form a strong friendship. When Zack begins dating Dee's cousin Nikki, his white friends presume he's seeing her because of sexual stereotypes about black women, while her black friends can't believe her interest in him. Additional conflict is added when Nut, a local black gang-banger pursues Nikki for himself and undisguised but contained racial tensions in their respective neighborhoods and the high school they all attend erupt in violence. Written by <chanteuse@worldnet.att.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong language | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

23 October 1992 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Conflicto en Detroit  »

Box Office

Gross:

$1,468,300 (USA)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

'MC Serch' lobbied hard for the role of Zack before Michael Rapaport was cast. Serch settled for a job as the film's music supervisor. See more »

Quotes

Nikki: Why you gotta be so loud?
Nut: To be heard.
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Connections

References Ms. Pac-Man (1981) See more »

Soundtracks

Puff the Head
Written by M.C. Serch (as M. Berrin), Chubb Rock (as R. Simpson)
Published by Skematics Music, Inc.
Produced by Chubb Rock
Performed by M.C. Serch (as MC Serch)
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User Reviews

 
Mixed response, some strong points though overall 5/10
22 July 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Film Critic AS a primer on race relations, what makes Zebrahead unique, and uniquely fascinating, is its point-of-view. The film begins with an assumption largely ignored in the works of Spike Lee or John Singleton

  • a belief that young white Americans are being heavily influenced by


urban black culture, by the music and the language and the dress, by the mania of Arsenio Hall and the magic of Michael Jordan. So the script takes an admittedly extreme example of that influence - a white teen-ager reared in the predominantly black environs of Detroit - and examines the implications. Can cultural conditioning yield tolerance and empathy as readily as it generates prejudice and hate? The question itself is hopeful, and the movie delivers a complex answer with subtlety and style. Making his feature debut, writer-director Anthony Drazan has done his homework well - he too is the product of a "culturally mixed" background, and a man with an obvious zest for research. Shooting over 60 hours of video footage in New York City high schools, Drazan used that raw material as the basis for his fictional screenplay, changing the setting to the urban fringes of the Motor City and finding his alter ego in the youthful character of Zack (Michael Rapaport), a Jewish kid who, by sheer dint of exposure, is "more on the home-boy side than the white-boy side." The result is a vibrant picture that, from the rough dialogue to the hip-hop soundtrack, from the electronic "hall-monitors" to the washroom crackheads, resonates with the ring of truth. Certainly, for Zack, his "home-boy" side is not an assumed pose but a nurtured fact - he naturally loves the music that flows around him; his best friend is black because so are many of his classmates; ditto for Nikki (N'Bushe Wright), the new girl in town, the one with the sassy manner and the sweet smile. When Zack and Nikki go out on a Saturday night, it feels natural, inevitable. Of course, that single date becomes the pebble tossed in the pond, and the rest of the film traces the tragic ripples.

The revealed patterns are intriguing. The fortysomethings, the teen- agers' parents and teachers, are wholly incapable of viewing the relationship through anything but a racial lens. Some are more laissez faire than others - Zack's philandering dad (Ray Sharkey) seems to have transcended bigotry by abandoning any emotion - but all are fearful, pessimistic. The same is largely true of the kids' peers, yet there are a few telling exceptions - young adults who, as a way of life, not as a matter of principle, have genuinely broken through the colour barrier. It may be sentimental to argue, as the film does, that hope rests with the young. But it's not sentimental to show exactly how and why. Despite some small flaws (a few too many plot complications and a recurring visual image that seems tacked on), that's Drazan's real triumph here - within the turmoil and the tragedy he explores, there emerges a glint of hope that doesn't smack of wishful thinking.

And hope breeds hope. One wants to believe that, by extension, the glint can become a beacon, and that a racially mixed high-school can double as an educational microcosm - a troubled hotspot that grows the seeds of a solution from within the very problems it creates. Yes, one dearly wants to believe, and Zebrahead gives us a reason. Benjamin Miller, Filmbay Editor.


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