Monthly Archives: February 2013

Baseball in the Time of Cholera + Sun City Picture House at IU Cinema Tonight

Tonight at IU Cinema, visiting filmmakers Bryn Mooser and David Darg will be present to introduce and discuss their 2011 film Baseball in the Time of Cholera along with Darg’s earlier film, Sun City Picture House.  The free event begins at 7PM.  The two will return to the Cinema tomorrow at 3PM as part of the ongoing Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecture Series.

Still image from the film Baseball in the Time of Cholera

Baseball in the Time of Cholera tells the parallel stories of a young boy who plays on Haiti’s first little league baseball team and of the Haitian lawyer seeking justice against the United Nations. As a Cholera epidemic rages in Haiti, the UN denies that it is responsible for introducing the disease despite glaring evidence. As the epidemic spreads, the two stories intersect in the struggle for survival and justice.

Still image from the film Sun City Picture House

Sun City Picture House is the story of Raphael Louigene, a young Haitian man who loves movies. Raphael works at a children’s hospital in Port Au Prince and every Thursday he helps bury the dead with a Catholic Priest named Father Rick Frechette. Despite their situation, the two have a hope and vision for Haiti’s future. Raphael recruits his two aid-worker friends, Bryn and David, to help him achieve his dream of building the first movie theater since the devastating earthquake of 2010.

Sarah Fabio Exhibit

If you hear the word poet or poetry and as I do, imagine a pile of written words, placed at odd angles on a page, stanzas lacking punctuation, countless metaphors, its delivery silent to the ear, you have yet to be acquainted with the works of Sarah Fabio. Take a moment to listen to one of my favorite poems of hers, “Work It Out”, off of her vinyl record Boss Soul: 12 Poems by Sarah Webster Fabio.

Set to “drum talk, rhythms, and images,” Sarah Fabio’s poetry takes flight. As a daughter of a poet myself, I find her works break from the page in ways I have never heard before, becoming more poignant with each intonation and each accompanying beat. Understanding Sarah Fabio’s approach to poetry has also helped me appreciate her singsong spoken word records more. According to numerous biographies on Sarah Fabio her unique approach to poetry involves juxtaposing Western and non-Western dialects and metaphors. She views language as a means of control. “Words were often used to deny and distort Black reality by the people who sought to oppress and repress and suppress Blacks.” In response to this colonialization of English, Fabio posits “Black talk has always taken words and images and ‘broken’ or ‘distorted’ them to present their world view, to code a new language which would be foreign to those who could control and repress them. Double talk with two levels of meaning.” Fabio’s poetry captures this tension inherent in the use of English in the United States, and in turn, the larger tension in a society that continues to struggle with oppressive forces and racism. You can hear this unique linguistic method used in “Work It Out”, with the male speaker using Western English and Sarah Fabio following in slang.

Sarah Fabio

I’ve learned all this and more about Sarah Fabio’s poetry as part of my work at the BFC/A over the past two weeks, as I’ve helped to set up an exhibit of Sarah Fabio’s work in the IU Cinema with the help of Jim Canary of the Lilly Library and Brian Graney of the BFC/A. Last week as part of the set-up, I made a trip to the Lilly Library where I was able to examine the 7 works in the series Rainbow Signs, released in 1973, that will be featured in the exhibit. When they were all laid out on the table, the design of the small booklets in this series clearly followed the theme of the title, forming a rainbow of colors in the reading room of the Lilly Library. Each cover has a different neon color and overlapping fonts that sometimes make it hard to distinguish the title names. These vibrantly colored books are outspoken and bold, a reflection of Fabio’s legacy of activism for black consciousness and her outspoken condemnation of racism. For the display, some of the books will be propped open so viewers get a look inside at the poetry and Fabio’s signature while others will be positioned to show the cover art. The exhibit will also include a summary of Sarah Fabio’s life for those who would like to learn more about her. These 7 booklets, along with a broadside of Sarah Fabio’s poem Race Results, U.S.A., 1966,  printed in red ink on white paper, will be up on display beginning today–Thursday, February 28th–in the lower lobby of the IU Cinema.

Jujus&JubileesBlack Back: Back Black

This exhibit will coincide with the upcoming film series A Change is Gonna Come: Black Revolutionary Poets where Rainbow Black: Poet Sarah W. Fabio, a documentary on Sarah Fabio’s life as a poet and scholar, will premiere for the first time in its newly preserved and restored state at IU Cinema on April 22, 7:00 p.m. This event is the result of over a year of work between the BFC/A, Cheryl Fabio–the director of Rainbow Black and the daughter of Sarah Fabio–and Colorlab, a renowned film preservation lab. A Preservation Grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation was awarded to the BFC/A in 2012 to fund this preservation project.

~Ardea Smith

March 4: THE HOUSE I LIVE IN with guest speaker David Kuhn

Grand Jury Prize winner of Sundance Film Festival 2012, The House I Live In will screen on March 4 at 7:00 pm in Jordan Hall 124.  Co-sponsored by the Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American institutions, the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, the Black Film Center/Archive, the Department of Criminal Justice, the Maurer School of Law, the Hutton Honors College, the Department of American Studies, and the Political and Civic Engagement Program, the screening will be followed by a Q&A session with former public defender turned film producer David Kuhn.


Produced by an award-winning filmmaker, public thinker and author Eugene Jarecki, The House I Live In looks into America’s failed drug war.


The documentary’s synopsis:

As America remains embroiled in conflict overseas, a less visible war is taking place at home, costing countless lives, destroying families, and inflicting untold damage on future generations of Americans. Over forty years, the War on Drugs has accounted for more than 45 million arrests, made America the world’s largest jailer, and damaged poor communities at home and abroad. Yet for all that, drugs are cheaper, purer, and more available today than ever before. Filmed in more than twenty states, The House I Live In captures heart-wrenching stories from individuals at all levels of America’s War on Drugs. From the dealer to the grieving mother, the narcotics officer to the senator, the inmate to the federal judge, the film offers a penetrating look inside America’s longest war, offering a definitive portrait and revealing its profound human rights implications.

While recognizing the seriousness of drug abuse as a matter of public health, the film investigates the tragic errors and shortcomings that have meant it is more often treated as a matter for law enforcement, creating a vast machine that feeds largely on America’s poor, and especially on minority communities. Beyond simple misguided policy, The House I Live In examines how political and economic corruption have fueled the war for forty years, despite persistent evidence of its moral, economic, and practical failures.

~Jake Yoon

Starts Tonight: The Shared Ethnography of Jean Rouch @ the IU Cinema

Influential French documentarian Jean Rouch is the focus of a retrospective at the IU Cinema this month.  The series opens tonight at 6:30 pm with a double header of Les Maîtres Fous and Moi, un Noir.


Rouch’s 1967 classic Jaguar will screen on Saturday, February 9 at 6:30 pm.  Mammy Water and The Lion Hunters will close the series on Sunday, February 17 at 6:30 pm.

For more on Jean Rouch, check out African film scholar Manthia Diawara’s 1995 documentary, Rouch in Reverse.  Diawara turns the ethnographic camera on Rouch in an act of “reverse anthropology.”   Trailer HERE.

The Shared Ethnography of Jean Rouch coincides with a nationwide tour following Icarus Films’ acquisition of the North American rights for six of Rouch’s films.  The series is co-sponsored by the BFC/A, the Departments of Communication and Culture, Anthropology, History, French and Italian, the African Studies Program and the IU Cinema.

Black History Month at the BFC/A

This month, the BFC/A will mark and celebrate Black History Month with a series of documentary screenings co-sponsored by the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, the Department of History, and the Black Law Students Association.  The documentaries–all from the collections of California Newsreel–narrate several black labor struggles and the foundations of modern black journalism.

1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike, subject of At the River I Stand

1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike, subject of At the River I Stand.

These will be screened each Wednesday in February at 7PM at the BFC/A in Wells Library, Room 044B.   They are:

*A full schedule of events, including assorted accolades and praises, is available here.  The links above are for the trailers for each documentary.

The choice to feature four films from California Newsreel is a tribute to the non-profit social documentary film center, founded in 1968, which has helped to produce and distribute a wide range of social justice documentaries with a particular focus on the African American experience (see Race: The Power of Illusion, Strange Fruit, Freedom on My Mind, etc).

Stanley Nelson, director of The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords

Stanley Nelson, director of The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords,
visiting IU in 2011.

In addition to these onsite events at Indiana University, BFC/A will collaborate with several other organizations to host additional local screenings in Bloomington:

  • Ivy Tech Community College will screen Struggles in Steel on February 6th at the Hoosier-Times Student Commons at 12:30PM.
  • The Delta Nu chapter of Delta Sigma Theta will screen This is the Life–Ava DuVernay’s 2008 documentary on LA’s Good Life scene (see the trailer below)–at Monroe County Public Library on Sunday, February 10, at 3PM.

“Two Tickets for Jihad, Please”: A Conversation with Parvez Sharma


Parvez Sharma is a filmmaker who made A Jihad for Love, a critically acclaimed documentary about Islam, told from the faith’s “most unlikely storytellers” – Muslims from the GLBTQ community.  The film won Outstanding Documentary at the 2009 GLAAD Media Awards, and Best Documentary at both the Toronto Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and the Milan Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.  The documentary’s synopsis:

Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma has gone where the silence is strongest, filming with great risk in nations where government permission to make this film was not an option. A Jihad for Love is the first-ever feature-length documentary to explore the complex global intersections of Islam and homosexuality. With unprecedented access and depth, Sharma brings to light the hidden lives of gay and lesbian Muslims from countries like Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, France, India, and South Africa.

On Sharma’s recent visit to Indiana University, the BFC/A’s  Jonathan Jenner sat down to talk with him about the film.

Black Film Center/Archive: You’ve received some really vitriolic condemnations for your film, as well as some really strong commendations for such brave filmmaking.  What reactions did you not anticipate and surprised you the most?

Parvez Sharma: I think what I didn’t expect is that the film would actually save people’s lives and that it continues to do so.  I expected the vitriol – it’s just a Google search away – and the praise is easy to find from critics and others. When I started making the film, it was a bit pre-social media.  Facebook wasn’t around.  But by the time the film came out in 2008, all of that existed, and I realized that there were people in Muslim countries who were seeing the film and would email me or Facebook me and tell me that seeing this thing helped them to know that they’re not alone.  A young man in Riyadh was contemplating suicide, but heard about the film and managed to get a copy; he saw it at a friends place and that saved his life.  For me, that’s pretty amazing.

BFC/A: If you were making A Jihad for Love again, would you do anything differently?

PS: I would do the whole thing differently.  Like any filmmaker I cannot bear to look at it – I see faults and mistakes everywhere.

BFC/A: You’ve talked about A Jihad for Love addressing a battle for the soul of Islam and also as a challenge to the mainstream media’s portrayal of Islam.  You’ve also spoken of wanting to have a ‘Muslim camera.’  Who do you think of as your audience, and how does that affect your filmmaking?

PS: No – it’s very tough when you’re doing something like this over a period of time.  We’re filming in places guerilla style, where government permission will not be given.  And so it’s a jumble to be honest.  It’s not a process of immense creativity.  Any independent filmmaker will tell you that – especially those who’ve dealt with filming on taboo topics.

I never thought of any kind of formula for an audience, consciously. I was very aware of the idea of a Muslim camera, and I wanted to do that.  And yet, reactions from people are as varied as the film itself. I just hope that there’s something about the humanity of the film that is common to all people, and that they can relate to it, and that there is a storytelling involved.  That’s what filmmaking is all about – telling stories.  When you construct a narrative around fact – as opposed to fiction – that can be a little challenging, but that’s what you try and do.  We have heroes and heroines, we have journeys, and we have transformations.  When the audience sees that transformation, hopefully they are transformed as well.

Filmmaker Parvez Sharma

Filmmaker Parvez Sharma

BFC/A: Why filmmaking?  Are you an activist that uses filmmaking or a filmmaker who’s decided to make a film about Islam and homosexuality?

PS: I was a filmmaker first.  I knew I would always want to make films.

I grew up in India with Bollywood.  That was the cinema of my childhood.  As a child I would want to go into the projection booths and see how everything was done.  It’s just what I wanted to do. That’s what I ended up doing.  I’m now working on another project, and it doesn’t get any easier.

BFC/A: Can you tell us about your next project?

It will be a game changer, and a part of it is about me. I promise that – but that’s all I can say really.

BFC/A: Through this project, has your relationship to Islam changed?

PS: It’s changed completely.  This film made me a better Muslim.  I was taken on journeys that were profound and remarkable, and I relearned Islam through their eyes.  It also made me a student of the faith; I had to re-examine many things I’d taken for granted, and that made me a better Muslim.

BFC/A: You’ve said that you cut out stories of ex-Muslims from the film, stories of people who had decided their faith and sexuality were irreconcilable.  How and why did you make that choice?

PS: It’s very hard to cut out anything.  It’s like killing your babies, as they say in film school.  But as I became clearer that it needed to be, then it became it easy.   For me this film is about Islam.  It’s not about homosexuality – it’s about Islam first.  If I was making a film about Islam, then it would need to be this way.

A Screenshot from A Jihad for Love

A Screenshot from A Jihad for Love