Ganja & Hess

Ganja & Hess
Bill Gunn, 1973, 113’

“I want to say that it is a terrible thing to be a black artist in this country – for reasons too private to expose to the arrogance of white criticism. [...] A critic wondered where was the race problem. If he looks closely, he will find it in his own review. If I were white, I would probably be called ‘fresh and different.’ If I were European, Ganja and Hess might be ‘that little film you must see’. Because I am black, I do not even deserve the pride that one American feels for another when he discovers that a fellow countryman’s film has been selected as the only American film to be shown during ‘Critic's Week’ at the Cannes Film Festival. Not one white critic from any of the major newspapers even mentioned it.”

Bill Gunn1


“[Ganja & Hess] might be the country’s most intellectual and sophisticated horror film. [...] In Hollywood Gunn was a prince among the philistines.”

Ishmael Reed2


Ganja & Hess is quiet, literate, thoughtful and sombre – as far from Blaxploitation as it is possible to get. Its luminous cinematography and fascinating modulation from refined Europhilia to sophisticated Afrophilia constitute an African-American art-house movie that remains unparalleled to this day.”

Lina Gopaul of The Otolith Group3


“Almost before the credits have finished their cryptic roll in Ganja & Hess, you know you are watching an extraordinary film. Something about the ‘voice’ of the film – its editing, camerawork and point of view – tells you this experience will be unique. The film has a vitality that seems to broadcast itself. It comes alive as only masterworks do... Like the greatest films of the horror genre, Ganja & Hess taps hidden reservoirs in our collective unconscious for its power. But unlike most of those films, it doesn’t think to emphasize the metaphor. Its terror is considerably closer to home than to Hollywood’s Transylvania.

Someday, Ganja & Hess will rise.”

James Monaco4

  • 1Bill Gunn, “To Be a Black Artist,” The New York Times, May 13, 1973.
  • 2Ishmael Reed, “Bill Gunn,” Whitney Museum of American Art, 1990.
  • 3Life in Film: The Otolith Group,” Frieze, Issue 101, September 2006
  • 4James Monaco, “The Black Film (and the Black Image),” American Film Now: The People, the Power, the Money, the Movies (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979).”
UPDATED ON 24.03.2019