Monthly Archives: April 2019

See BORDERLINE, Starring Paul Robeson (1930) with a new score by composer Renée Baker. 

Robeson Gif with text

The Black Film Center/Archive is excited to welcome back to Indiana University Renée Baker, who is scheduled to be present for a post-screening Q&A of the 1930 film Borderline on Wednesday April 24th at 7:00 pm. (Click HERE for tickets.) Baker, who recently visited Indiana University in 2017 to premier her score for a different film, The Scar of Shame (1927), and conduct an ensemble of musicians from the Jacobs School of Music, will return to pursue research at the BFC/A related to the life and work of musician and composer Phil Moore.

Donated to IU’s Black Film Center/Archive in 2014, the Phil Moore collection includes 70 boxes of handwritten arrangements and compositions he had created for various Hollywood films, albums, radio and TV programs and live musical acts over the years. Just last month BFC/A archivist Ronda Sewald discussed the collection in a lecture about recently digitized audio materials as part of a campus wide Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, which included several recordings of Moore’s. Baker has said of Moore that his “brilliant identity was usurped by his inability to claim ownership of so much of his work. His coaching of leading actresses and voices of the day is still a little known fact. I’m working on a project to help this visibility.” 


Exhibit curated by BFC/A Archivist, Ronda Sewald on actor, activist, and musician, Paul Robeson. It’s just outside the Moving Image Archive on the ground floor of Wells Library.

Next Wednesday’s screening (Free Tickets HERE) features a predecessor and overlapping contemporary of Moore’s, Paul Robeson, as one of the stars of Borderline. Robeson was a singer, actor, and activist who was a star of both stage and screen. He was well known for taking up anti-imperialist causes and was a dedicated advocate of civil rights. Many of these activities led to his being blacklisted in Hollywood during the McCarthy era.

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But as film historian Charles Musser writes, Robeson also achieved some of the greatest levels of artistic breadth and depth by “playing the high-low interface with diabolical cleverness; he moved among the bohemian little theater movement of Greenwich Village, the commercial world of Broadway, the black theater of Harlem, and the leftist theater of revolutionary Russia.” What is fascinating to Musser and others is Robeson’s ability to “use[…] film both artistically and as a cultural intervention. Despite his achievements, Robeson would later go on to denounce his film career, stating:

“I grew more and more dissatisfied with the stories I played in. Certain elements in a story would attract me and I would agree to play in it. But by the time the producers and distributors had got through with it, the story was usually very different, and so were my feelings about it.”

Whether this is the case for Borderline, is one reason to make sure and see it next Wednesday (Click here for tickets). Certainly the film is complex in its depiction of race and sexuality. And the question of how effective this complexity is at communicating the kind of stories Robeson thought were most honest or important makes Borderline that much more interesting.

Knife Gif no text

In the film Adah, played by Robeson’s wife Eslanda has an affair with a Thorne, a white man. The townspeople react and the brunt of their racism is put on display. Adah attempts a reconciliation with her husband, Pete (played by her real life husband, Robeson), but ends up fleeing town. Meanwhile, Thorne’s wife Astrid, played by the poet Helga Doom, seeks revenge and is met with violence. Her husband is suspected, but acquitted from criminal wrongdoing, while Pete must also leave town in light of these events.

Borderline also features an incredible technical virtuosity in silent-era filmmaking, with rapid and disorienting cuts, meant to elicit shock and intensity. Frames depicting people are juxtaposed with objects to connote uncertain meaning. And markers of non-normative gender and sexuality are subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) signaled with daring resolve. The rich visual momentum of the film highlights the distortions of racism in a world where the scandal of whiteness typically just blends into the background.

BORDERLINE, Starring Paul Robeson (1930) with a new score by composer Renée Baker. 
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
7:00pm – 9:00pm
Wells Screening Room (ground floor, within Media Services)
Free Tickets with RSVP. Click this link:


Reference: Musser, Charles. “Paul Robeson and the End of His ‘Movie’ Career.” in Contemporary Black American Cinema: Race, Gender and Sexuality at the Movies. Ed. Mia Mask, Routledge UP, 2012. pp. 14-39.

April’s Awesomeness at the BFC/A!


Nina Lorez Collins, daughter of the late Kathleen Collins, whose masterwork Losing Ground was the great rediscovered film of 2015, will read selections from a new book of her mother’s writing, Notes from a Black Woman’s DiaryThe conversation with Collins, BFC/A Director Terri Francis and Professor of English Vivian Halloran precedes a screening of Losing Ground (1982), which had its U.S. theatrical premier at IU Cinema. Copies of Notes from a Black Woman’s Diary will be available for purchase, as well as Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?, Collins’ 2016 collection of her mother’s stories.

6:00 pm Conversation with Nina Lorez Collins about Notes from a Black Woman’s Diary

7:00 pm Screening of Kathleen Collins’ Losing Ground (1982)

Presented by the Black Film Center/Archive and hosted by the Moving Image Archive Screening Room. Additional support from The Ruth Lilly Professorship of the English Department.

*This event is free, but ticketed, and open to the public.

RSVP Here:

Burial Bloomington

Through a magical realist lens, THE BURIAL OF KOJO follows the story of Esi, as she recounts her childhood and the tumultuous relationship between her father, Kojo and her uncle, Kwabena. Directed by TED fellow, music composer and musician Samuel “Blitz” Bazawule, the film chronicles the tale of two brothers through the gifted eyes of a young girl who transports the audience to the beautiful lands of Ghana and other worlds that exist between life and death.

Born from a newspaper article and a Kickstarter campaign, Bazawule skillfully captures the beauty of a family, even when the circumstances aren’t beautiful. THE BURIAL OF KOJO is an essential human story of courage and survival. THE BURIAL OF KOJO is a 2019 Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) Official Selection and 2018 Urbanworld Film Festival Best Narrative Feature Winner. (Dir. Sam Blitz Bazawule, 2018, 80 mins, HD Presentation)

This visually striking debut film has been embraced by The New Yorker, The LA Times and The New York Times. See it here with us!

Sponsored by the Black Film Center/Archive and the African Studies Program; hosted by IU Libraries Moving Image Archive/Screening Room.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019
7:00pm – 9:00pm
Wells Screening Room (ground floor, within Media Services)
1320 E. 10th Street, Bloomington

*This event is free, but ticketed, and open to the public.

RSVP Here:


Composer Renée Baker returns to IU for a screening of BORDERLINE (1930) with her original score!

Renee Baker, composer.

Wed, April 24th, screening takes place in the IU Libraries Screening Room, Wells 048 at 7:00PM. Baker will be present for post film discussion.

Check out this awesome interview HERE that Jane Cummings recorded with Baker during her visit to Bloomington last year!

From WFIU:

Renee Baker is a violinist and violist, a leader of several musical ensembles, and a composer of more than 200 compositions ranging from string quartets to much larger ensembles.

She draws heavily on her classical training, creating music that does not fit easily into any one genre. Her work is part classical, part jazz, cross-cultural, and often highly improvisational. She has been referred to as a “disruptive composer.”

Baker is the concertmaster of the Chicago Sinfonietta, of which she has been a member since it was founded in 1987. With the Sinfonietta, she has performed around the country and around the world.

She is also the founding music director and conductor of the internationally-acclaimed Chicago Modern Orchestra Project, The Mantra Blue Free Orchestra, and around 20 other cutting-edge new music ensembles.

Baker is currently writing film scores, such as the one she composed for Oscar Michaeux’s 1925 silent film Body and Soul. She came to Bloomington to collaborate with students from the Jacobs School of Music for the premiere a new score for the 1927 film The Scar of Shame.

Wed, April 24th


Wells 048, IU Libraries Screening Room.