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Zebrahead (film)

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Promotional film poster
Directed byAnthony Drazan
Written byAnthony Drazan
Produced byJeff Dowd
Charles Mitchell
CinematographyMaryse Alberti
Edited byElizabeth Kling
Music byTaj Mahal
Distributed byTriumph Releasing Corporation
Release date
  • October 23, 1992 (1992-10-23)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,468,300[1]

Zebrahead is a 1992 American romantic drama film produced by Oliver Stone, written and directed by Anthony Drazan and starring Michael Rapaport and N'Bushe Wright.[2] The film also stars Kevin Corrigan, Ray Sharkey, and Lois Bendler.

Set in Detroit, Michigan, the film is about an interracial romance between a white teenage boy and a black teenage girl and the resulting tensions among the characters.

The film was Drazan's writing and directorial debut and Rapaport and Wright's acting debut.


Zachary "Zack" is an eighteen-year-old introverted Jewish DJ and rapper, who lives with his chauvinistic father Richard, who runs a record store specializing in blues and jazz music. Zack's mother died when he was very young. Zack's best childhood friend is a young black man named Dee, who along with Zack is also a rapper, and both of them record music together. Zack works part-time at an Italian restaurant. In Zack's neighborhood, there is an eccentric man named Dominic who is a pyromaniac that lives on land adjacent to an industrial power plant.

One day at school, Zack gets into a quarrel with his girlfriend Michelle, and the both of them separate from each other. During this fight, he sees a new transfer student who just moved from New York, a black teenager named Nicole "Nikki", who turns out to be Dee's cousin. Zack becomes infatuated with Nikki despite never talking to her.

One night, Zack comes over for dinner at Dee's house. Zack confides in Dee that he is attracted to Nikki, to which the fact of him being a white man, and she is a black woman, he feels scared to proceed. Dee tells Zack that he shouldn't be concerned over that, however, Dee's father warns Zack that he might receive negativity from this. Zack then decides to finally introduce himself to Nikki, although not fully disclosing his full feelings towards her.

Zack talks to his grandfather Saul, at the record store his father runs for advice on how to deal with his current situation. To which he tells him (as Zack is a musician), to woo Nikki with his DJ skills. The following day at school, Zack brings his turntable set in the gymnasium and starts to DJ urban music. Some of the students, especially Nikki, seem to enjoy the music and are dancing to it. However, this causes friction between many of the black students who believe he's culturally appropriating, including Larry, who is into Pan-Africanism, and Calvin "Nut", one of the school's delinquent bullies.

Zack and Nikki become closer to each other. While picking up Nikki for a date one night at her home, Nut (who lives next door to Nikki), and some of his friends harass and say racial epithets to Zack and sexually suggestive rude comments to Nikki. To which they both ignore them. Zack takes Nikki to his father's record store, to where they have their first kiss. Soon after that, one day after school, Zack brings Nikki to his house, and they both make love, to which Zack's father secretly watches them in amusement. Zack soon introduces Nikki to his father, to which he couldn't care less that Nikki is black. Zack invites Nikki to a house party with some of his extended friends, to which she is the only black person there. In which Nikki meets Michelle, his ex-girlfriend to where she seems to be happy that Zack and Nikki are together. Nikki seems uncomfortable at the party, and unfortunately walks into Zack and some of his friends making friendly, yet disrespectful racist sexual jokes towards Nikki. Outraged, Nikki runs out of the party and breaks up with Zack. Nikki avoids Zack, and after telling Dee what happened, he as well distances himself from Zack. Nut and his friends, (and other black classmates at her school), tell Nikki that Zack was playing some type of sick game with her, and she needs to stay away from him. Nut also briefly seduces Nikki, to which at first she accepts his advances, but she later rejects them.

After making amends and apologizing to Dee, Zack goes to Nikki's house and apologizes to her on her front porch. Nikki decides to remain friends with Zack and invites him to a roller rink later that night, in which some of the other students from school will be there. Nut, who was eavesdropping on Zack apologizing to Nikki, becomes envious and angered. At the roller skating rink, Nut sexually harasses Nikki, which she tells him to leave her alone. Zack, who arrives late, notices Nut agitating her and tells him to stop. Nut and Zack begin to fight, to which Dee also walks over and pushes Nut to the ground. Nut then fatally shoots Dee and runs out of the skating rink.

At Dee's funeral, Zack gives a eulogy to Dee in Aramaic (the Mourner's Kaddish, a Jewish ritual, is recited in Aramaic, rather than Hebrew). Nikki while walking home from the funeral, is attacked by Nut who threatens to kill her. Nut then runs away. The following day at school, many of Zack and Nikki's classmates both talk about what happened at the skating rink. The discussion later turns heated into the fact that many classmates believe if Zack and Nikki never got together, Dee would never be shot. Nikki then quickly dismisses that fact and runs out of the classroom. The rest of the class continues into a heated racial discussion with Zack staying silent watching. After Vinnie and Larry start to get into a verbal fight, Zack runs out of the classroom. He runs into the school principal Mr. Cimino, who tells Zack to stick with his own race when it comes to relationships. He ignores him and walks past him. Back in the classroom, Vinnie and Larry start to physically fight and they both tussle outside in the hallway. Zack notices Nikki crying in the hall and goes over to comfort her, then they passionately hug.



Zebrahead has an overall approval rating of 71% based on 16 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.[3]

Rapaport and Mahal were nominated at the 1993 Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead and Best Original Song.

At the 1992 Sundance Film Festival, director Anthony Drazan won the Filmmaker Trophy and nominated for the Grand Jury Prize.

At the 1992 Locarno Film Festival, Drazan won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and was nominated for the Golden Leopard.

Drazan was nominated for the Critics Award at the Deauville Film Festival

Roger Ebert gave the film two out of four stars and said,

"Zebrahead" is not so much a movie as notes toward a movie - a good one, judging by what's on the screen. The strength of the central story is undermined by loose ends and subplots that are hinted at but never developed, and watching the film is a little like solving a puzzle. If the director didn't have the money to finish what he started - and apparently he didn't - then he should have been more merciless in his editing, leaving out the footage that's distracting.[4]


The soundtrack was released on October 13, 1992, by Ruffhouse Records and Sony Music Entertainment.[5] The soundtrack was produced and supervised by MC Serch, who contributes the track "Puff the Head". The album also features Nas, Boss, Kool Moe Dee and the Goats among others.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Zebrahead at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ Maslin, Janet (October 8, 1992). "Zebrahead (1992) Review/Film Festival: Zebrahead; A Racial Chameleon In a Hidebound World". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 5, 2010.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 23, 1992). "Zebrahead movie review & film summary (1992) | Roger Ebert". www.rogerebert.com/. Retrieved July 26, 2023.
  5. ^ "Zebrahead". AllMusic. Retrieved October 28, 2022.

External links[edit]