Shirley Clarke’s Cool World, a series celebrating the filmmaking of Shirley Clarke, will screen three of the prodigious filmmaker’s features and host a lecture by Milestone Film’s Dennis Doros on Clarke’s contributions to independent cinema.

The Connection (1962) will screen on Thursday, November 1st at 7:00pm, with Ornette: Made in America and Robert Frost: A Lover’s Quarrel with The World screening on Friday, November 2nd at 6:30pm and 9:30pm, respectively.  Dennis Doros’ lecture – ‘Where’s Shirley?’ – will also be on Friday, November 2nd at 3:00pm at the IU Cinema.  All screenings and the lecture are free and open to the public.

Clarke, the only woman to sign the New American Cinema Manifesto (in either 1961 or 1962; there are different claims), has received an amount of acclaim as an independent filmmaker (including an Academy Award nomination for Skyscraper), though the New York Times called her “one of the great undertold stories of American independent cinema.”  A bit more, as a way of introduction to Clarke, from the Times piece, which goes on to focus on The Shirley Clarke Project:

A woman working in a predominantly male world, a white director who turned her camera on black subjects, she was a Park Avenue rich girl who willed herself to become a dancer and a filmmaker, ran away to bohemia, hung out with the Beats and held to her own vision in triumph and defeat. She helped inspire a new film movement and made urgently vibrant work that blurs fiction and nonfiction, only to be marginalized, written out of histories and dismissed as a dilettante.

A screenshot from Ornette: Made in America

Dennis Doros and Amy Heller, the husband and wife team who co-founded Milestone Films, have spearheaded The Shirley Clarke Project (sometimes referred to as Project Shirley) to protect and preserve the films of Clarke.  Milestone’s contributions to black and independent cinema have been great; for example, we have them to thank for the restoration and redistribution of Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep.  So far, the project has preserved the three films featured in Shirley Clarke’s Cool World, and Milestone Films is keen to continue the effort.

Next up for The Shirley Clarke Project is a restoration of Portrait of Jason, recorded on one 12 hour night with Manhattan hustler Jason Holiday, “about his life, his loves, his work and his beliefs.” The film is slated to be restored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles, with assistance from Milestone, who have launched a Kickstarter campaign for the restoration (please circulate – it’s a wonderful restoration effort).  Here is a short clip from Portrait of Jason:

Shirley Clarke’s Cool World takes its name from Clarke’s 1964 The Cool World (which the BFC/A has an original print of in its poster collection), and is sponsored by the Department of Communication and Culture, Black Film Center/Archive, Indiana University Film and Media Studies, and the IU Cinema.

For those with a further interest in Clarke, here is a pretty fascinating hour-long interview with Clarke, with a style that evokes Portrait of Jason, and here is an extensive presskit on The Connection and its restoration effort.

~Jonathan Jenner

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