To mark the recent restoration of Kathleen Collins’s rarely seen feature films, the Black Film Center/Archive is co-sponsoring a special screening of Losing Ground and The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy; this is the U.S. theatrical premiere of both restorations. The double header will show tonight, Thursday, March 21 at 7:00 pm at the IU Cinema. Prof. LaMonda Horton-Stallings, who wrote a critical essay on Losing Ground for Black Camera in 2011, will lead a Q+A session at the conclusion of the screening.
Collins was a truly multi-talented woman. In addition to independently producing, writing and directing films, she also had extensive experience as a film editor. Moreover, Collins wrote plays, helped to create the film studies program at City College of New York, studied literature, film and philosophy in Paris at the Sorbonne, and translated for Cahiers du Cinéma. Sadly, in 1988 she passed away from cancer at the relatively young age of 46.
BFC/A founder Phyllis Klotman invited Collins to IU a few times in the early 1980s. Collins presented Losing Ground in 1983, and later returned to campus to teach a seminar on film production and film aesthetics. In a fascinating interview conducted by Klotman, Collins revealed her fiercely independent spirit, seen here in her reasoning for turning down a lucrative job as a producer at a major TV network:
…I did consciously turn that job down. I did say that I don’t really feel that whatever creative work that is going to come out of me will come out successfully if I have to work off other people’s formulas…[E]ven if I made that decision [to accept the TV network job], I might presumably be producing…television drama, [but] I don’t think I would have ever gotten the chance to direct at all; I would have never gotten the chance to write my own scripts. I don’t think that other avenues would have been open to do any of the films I’ve done at all. I don’t think anyone would have bought those ideas and said, “This is terrific!” And so to that degree I consider it a necessity that I do it independently. And I can’t imagine ever veering from that.*
In addition to the aforementioned interview, the BFC/A holds a number of significant research and archival materials related to Collins, including a 16mm print of Losing Ground and a video-recording of Collins interviewed by a local Indiana PBS show. Of particular note is the John Williams collection. Williams, film scholar and former publicist for the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, recently donated copies of Collins’s written work (essays, scripts and translations), reviews and film festival program notes–amongst other research materials.
“The Lost Films of Kathleen Collins” is part of the “New Restorations from Milestone Films” series at the IU Cinema. Friday evening will feature the newly-restored print of Shirley Clarke’s Portrait of Jason at 6:30 pm. Dennis Doros, president of Milestone Films, will give the Jorgensen Lecture earlier on Friday afternoon at 3:00 pm.
More about Kathleen Collins:
* This quote is taken from a transcribed interview between Kathleen Collins and Phyllis Klotman that is part of the BFC/A’s research materials on Collins.
~ Nzingha Kendall