This week the Black Film Center/Archive hosts Amir George for a multifaceted viewing and thinking retreat during which he plans to immerse himself in rare and must-see black films from our collections as well as produce new reflections on the idea of the archive and how it feeds his filmmaking process.
On April 4, 11:30AM – 12:45PM in Franklin Hall 304, Amir screens MEDITATION ON AN ARCHIVE, a program of short films, or “meditations,” drawn from his research at Chicago Film Archives and re-processed through his own nostalgia and artistic search for joyful black images.
Amir’s work moves beyond the literal and analytical as he seeks a kind of cinematic mysticism, embedded within and inspired by the images he selects. In their form and content, Amir’s moving image meditations evoke themes of ecstatic interiority and collective revelation.
In the conversation below, Amir describes his motivations as a filmmaker and his personal search for an elusive (black) identity in film.
BFC/A: How did you get your start as a filmmaker?
Amir: I always enjoyed storytelling. My parents are cinephiles. Once I learned the tools, I went to and then left film school. I figured it out from there and am still learning. Deciding to take an experimental approach came from seeing the lack of black identity in that form of cinema. I love nostalgia and I use that in my work. I engage my family in projects as a way of creating this new archive for us, like in my film Black Gold. It’s my mom and my niece singing to a song I wrote. I’m taking on a fetishization of memory to insert more archival ideas into my stories.
BFC/A: What’s the timing of your relationship to filmmaking and to curating? Did you always do both? Or did one follow the other?
Amir: Filmmaking was always first for me. The curating came out of organizing film screenings throughout Chicago and my curatorial practice definitely influences my filmmaking practice and vice versa.
BFC/A: You have repurposed materials from Chicago Film Archives. What are you making there? Another archive? A narrative out of disparate pieces?
Amir: I’ve made one project with Chicago Film Archives. I was intentionally seeking all their images of black people. I wanted to create something mystical. Looking for intersections. I pulled pieces that are rich yet unseen. I’m always interested in the images of black people outside of struggle and hardship. I want to pull some kind of joy out of the images.
BFC/A: A curator is someone who takes care (of materials, spaces, and even ideas). What is that you are caring for in your work?
Amir: I’m recently learning how to care for myself through my curatorial pursuits, while I’m also learning how to be a better curator. I like to be a disruptor of space so I’m imagining possibilities in that manner.
Amir George is a filmmaker and curator. Born and bred in Chicago. Amir creates work for the cinema, installation, and live performance. Amir’s motion picture work has been screened at film festivals including Ann Arbor Film Festival, Trinidad and Tobago International Film Festival, BlackStar Film Festival, Afrikana Film Festival, and Chicago Underground Film Festival as well as cultural institutions, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, Anthology Film Archives, Glasgow School of Art, Museum of Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles, and Museum of Contemporary Arts Detroit. Amir has organized cinematic themed symposiums at Cooper Union, and Talbot Rice Gallery at the University of Edinburgh. Amir has curated exhibitions at Transmission Gallery Scotland, and Silent Funny Chicago. In addition to founding The Cinema Culture, a grassroots film programming organization, Amir is the co-founder of Black Radical Imagination a touring experimental short film series with Erin Christovale.