An Act of Momentary Utopia


Pondering a Dave Chappelle film directed by Michel Gondry conjures up some bizarre cinematic prospects—dancing mandalas of belligerent black George Bushes, perhaps, or Rick James (bitch!) swirling through space-time wormholes—but Half Baked fans be forewarned: The resolutely grounded Dave Chappelle’s Block Party offers no such otherworldly fantasies. A street-level document of a free all-star music concert thrown by the comedian in Bed-Stuy in September 2004, Block Party is all about the pleasures to be found in the very real world, albeit one enhanced by celebrity largesse. The show provides a locals-heavy lineup handpicked by Chappelle (many alums of his TV show), among them Mos Def, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, and a reunited Fugees. While the mostly black and Latino Brooklyn audience may be demographically pre-planned, it is also an act of momentary utopia; as Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson of the Roots remarks to Chappelle backstage, both performers share the frequent experience of playing to audiences that don’t look like them. Unfiltered observations like these give a critical edge to what otherwise would simply be a well-crafted concert doc shot during one gently sundowning autumn day.