Filmmaker and friend of the BFC/A Christopher Harris has been featured in several recent publications as his experimental work continues to make waves around the world. Harris visited Bloomington in 2016 for a screening of his films at The Bishop presented by the BFC/A and Spirit of ’68 Promotions. The program was part of our ongoing exploration of experimental and “avant-garde” filmmaking in conversation with cinemas of the African Diaspora.

Filmmaker Christopher Harris
Photo by Robert Goodman in BOMB Magazine. Courtesy of The Flaherty.

In this BOMB Magazine! interview from August, Harris references an essay by BFC/A Director Terri Francis that was published in Contemporary Black American Cinema: Race, Gender and Sexuality at the Movies, (edited by Mia Mask [2011]). The essay discusses Harris’s 2000 film still/here and the way its representation of the urban landscape is different from “the so-called ‘hood films’ of the early ’90s.” Instead of coding urban spaces as the backdrop for dramatic action, as is typically seen, Dr. Francis notes that still/here reverses the conventional roles of setting and narrative by bringing the landscape to the foreground.

“I want my films to work on the subjectivity, consciousness, and experience of the viewer.”

Christopher Harris in BOMB Magazine

This intentional subversion of audience expectations by Harris emphasizes the viewer’s position as a spectator, which is something that became evident to interviewer Andrew Northrop as he watched the film. Northrop is a film journalist whose interests include “archives, film formats, restoration, essay films, and coming of age/’slacker’ narratives.” Recent screenings of still/here have been held at London’s Essay Film Festival, where this interview took place, and at Locarno Film Festival‘s Black Light Retrospective earlier in the summer, curated by previous BFC/A guest curator Greg de Cuir Jr.

This is not the first time that Harris and Francis’s work has intersected, however, as the pair have been in an ongoing conversation since 2001/2002 when Francis first saw still/here. In 2016, Francis moderated a conversation with Harris after Frame of Reference: An Evening with Christopher Harris, Feb. 26 at Black Cinema House in Chicago. The program was sponsored by South Side Projections, Black Cinema House, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, in collaboration with “Radiant Visions: Media Art from SAIC, 1965 – Now,” a month-long series of films and artist appearances celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Also in 2016, a conversation between Harris and Francis was published in Film Quarterly, Vol. 69 No. 4 with the title Cosmologies of Black Cultural Production: A Conversation with Afrosurrealist Filmmaker Christopher Harris. The interview “situat[es] Afrosurrealist filmmaking within a constellation of African American artists and writers that includes the painter Kerry James Marshall, novelist Toni Morrison, poet Elizabeth Alexander, and composer Roscoe Mitchell.”

We were so excited to see this interview re-printed and translated to Portuguese by Luís Flores in the beautiful catalog for the 21st FestCurtasBH – Belo Horizonte International Short Film Festival, which one of the most important events of diffusion and promotion of the short film format in Brazil. The interview begins on pg. 177, but ~150 pages of the catalog are dedicated to Harris and his work, including essays and interviews from a wide range of authors and sources such as film writer and teacher Michael Sicinski (pg. 219) and Cinema and Media Studies scholar Jaimie Baron (pg. 229).

This year’s festival took place from August 9 to August 18, 2019 and celebrated Harris’s impact with a two-part retrospective. From the catalog: “[Christopher Harris] makes one reflect about the history of a country – a history always shaped by its production of images, and by its buildings as well as its ruins – reiterating that cinema is not just a means of constructing reality. It is also a place of deconstruction of images and discourses which, repeatedly stated and displayed, consolidate truths that, after all, are always situated and put into perspective, even if aspiring to the universal.” (pg. 16).

In addition to the retrospective, FestCurtasBH also presented Christopher Harris: Influences and Resonances, which featured a selection of films programmed by Harris himself including works by Zeinabu Irene Davis, Cauleen Smith, Ja’Tovia Gary and Kevin Jerome Everson, all of whom have screened at the BFC/A.

The conversations between filmmakers, scholars, and curators are dynamic, ongoing, and critical to our mission at the BFC/A, so it is always an honor and a thrill to see the reverberations of past collaborations echo across time and place!

Check out excerpts from still/here below to start (or continue) your own conversation with Christopher Harris’s body of work ❤︎

Excerpts from still/here by Christopher Harris, 2001. Cinematography by Christopher Harris and Joel Wanek. Shot on 16 mm film. 60 minutes. Courtesy of Joel Wanek on Vimeo. 

BFC/A Events This Past Semester

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