Higher Learning [1995]

This ambitious 1995 film by John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood) doesn't quite succeed at painting the illuminating, collective portrait of college life in the '90s that the director seeks. But Singleton does do a fine job of defining some conflicting impulses for young people on the cusp of adulthood, particularly the desire to broaden horizons on the one hand and circle the wagons with like-minded allies on the other. Students in the film's Columbus University divide themselves along lines of race, sexual preferences, ideology, and, most dangerously, levels of paranoia. Among the fine cast is Michael Rapaport, who portrays a loner drawn to a local community of neo-Nazis. His resultant problems with the school's African-Americans takes over the story at the expense of other, parallel dramas, but Singleton's insights into race hatred on campus--a microcosm of the surrounding culture--is not to be dismissed. --Tom Keogh

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