In 1975, Jessie Maple won her hard fought battle to become the first African American woman to become a member of the union of International Photographers of Motion Picture & Television (IATSE) in New York.  Following several years of producing short documentaries with her husband Leroy Patton for their company LJ Film Productions, Maple directed her first narrative feature Will in 1981. The groundbreaking work will screen in New York twice this month during two innovative programming series at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Lincoln Center.  The 16mm print screening at both venues is courtesy of the Black Film Center/ Archive, where the film was recently preserved with support from NYWIFT’s Women’s Film Preservation Fund. Maple’s second feature, Twice as Nice (1989), will also screen during the Lincoln Center Program.


On February 3rd, MoMA will present Maple’s first feature about a former athlete who recovers from drug addiction with the help of a homeless boy. Shot on location, Will depicts early 1980s street-life in Harlem in all of its complexity, but without sensationalizing its people and places.  Will won an award at the Athens International Film Festival and was used as an educational film at many New York drug rehabilitation centers.

Will screens in the “New York, NY” program alongside Shirley Clarke’s Bridges-Go-Round (1958) and Elaine Summers’ Windows in the Kitchen (1977) as part of the series “Carte Blanche: Women’s Film Preservation Fund: Women Writing the Language of Cinema” that runs from Feb. 2-15, 2015. In 1995, New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) and The Museum of Modern Art established the Women’s Film Preservation Fund (WFPF) in order to preserve the cultural legacy of women in the film industry. In celebration of the program’s 20th anniversary, MoMA has invited the WFPF programming committee to select films that reflect the role of women in the development of cinema as art. Other screenings of note include Spencer Williams’ Dirtie Girtie from Harlem U.S.A. (1946), featuring Harlem dancer Francine Everett, which is programmed with Julie Dash’s recently preserved 1982 feature, Illusions.

On Monday, February 16th, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will present “An Evening with Jessie Maple,” featuring a screening of both of Maple’s feature films and a Q&A with the filmmaker, as part of their phenomenal February series,“Tell it Like it Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986”.

From the Film Society of Lincoln Center Press Release: “The series will feature key films, starting with William Greaves’s seminal  Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One and culminating with Spike Lee’s first feature, the independently produced She’s Gotta Have It which launched a new era of studio filmmaking by black directors. During this time, activist New York–based black independent filmmakers created an exciting body of work despite lack of support and frequent suppression of minority film production. Women filmmakers play a prominent role throughout the series, starting with the exclusive one-week theatrical premiere of Losing Ground, directed by the late Kathleen Collins, one of the first feature films written and directed by a black woman. Madeline Anderson will present her films, including the classic I Am Somebody, her first documentary, as well as work from Black Journal. Filmmakers Christine Choy, Susan Robeson, and Camille Billops will discuss their work screened in the Women’s Work Program, a selection of films bringing to light the remarkable contributions of female storytellers and their image-making prowess. Trailblazer Jessie Maple, will be in attendance on February 16 to present her films Will and Twice As Nice.”

Jessie Maple screening times:

Museum of Modern Art
Tuesday, February 3rd, 4:00 PM
Will (Maple, 1981) Full Details here.

Film Society of Lincoln Center
Monday, February 16th, 6:30 PM
“An Evening with Jessie Maple” featuring a Q&A following a screening of Will. Full Details here.

Film Society of Lincoln Center
Monday, February 16th, 8:45 PM
Twice as Nice (Maple, 1989) Introduction by Jessie Maple. Full Details here.  

Both screenings of Will to be presented on 16mm, courtesy of the Black Film Center/ Archive’s Jessie Maple Collection. For more on Jessie Maple, check out our 2012 “Into the Archive” spotlight post on the Maple collection: Exploring the Jessie Maple Collection

Read “Shadow and Act’s” 2013 review of Will following its restoration here.

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