Fear of a Black Planet wasn’t just the name of a Public Enemy album when it arrived in 1990, coming at the tail end of an epic rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. In Brett Kashmere’s “video essay” From Deep, that era’s anxiety over a style of play allegedly taking over the game – and the worry over hip hop’s growing cultural importance – form a funhouse-mirror image of America’s fear of miscegenation. Watching how the NBA was transformed by Bird-Magic, the Michael Jordan years and hip hop is riveting, but Kashmere’s decision to eschew the ESPN-style talking-head-driven sports documentary format for archival footage, movie clips and showcases of street ball action takes away from the charm of his quixotic ode to the game. Without the voices of witnesses to this history, the various parts of the film jostle uncomfortably, never quite coming together to produce the monster dunk I was hoping for.
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