Love is divine only and difficult always.

Toni Morrison

Love! I’m in Love! Classic Black Cinema of the 1970s features movies about people working mightily and joyfully to build happy intimate relationships. The post-civil rights eraโ€™s unfinished project of equal access to quality housing, jobs, health care, and education serves as both atmosphere and a formidable antagonist. Traditional in many ways, these romantic dramas center Black lives and feature Black stars in the archetypal narrative of people figuring out how to love and live fully, with purpose and delight.โ€‹โ€‹ This partnership is supported through IU Cinemaโ€™s Creative Collaborations program.

Curated by Terri Francis of the Black Film Center/Archive, with support from IU Cinema, the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive, the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society, and The Media School. Special thanks to Yeeseon Chae.

During the 2020 spring semester, two exhibits related to actors featured in the series and organized by BFC/A Archivist Ronda Sewald will be on display in the quiet study area on the ground floor of the Wells Library and in the exhibit case at the IU Cinema.

Centered on the 1970s the series reflects on the past through including the work of Dino Everett and Allyson Field on the restoration of  Something Good โ€“ Negro Kiss from 1898 as it examines today’s social relations through more recent films on coupling by a range of producers including Akyonos, director of the Black Sex Workers Collective, and Kevin Jerome Everson, contemporary artist. Visiting scholars include Philana Payton, Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Southern California, the University of Chicago’s Dr. Allyson Field and Dr. Mireille Miller-Young, author of A Taste for Brown Sugar: Black Women in Pornography, winner of the 2015 John Hope Franklin Book Publication Prize, presented by the American Studies Association.

February 6, 6:15PM Talk and 7PM Screening in IU Cinema

Claudine (1974), dir. by John Berry
Thursday, February 6 | 7:00 โ€“ 8:32 p.m. | IU Cinema (Free but ticketed)
 | Get Tickets

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A unique film on the emotional truths of living under the big, omnipresent force of the welfare office, Claudine follows the titular characterโ€”played by the dynamic Diahann Carrollโ€”as she raises her children by working as a domestic maid for rich, white families. Her life is changed when Roop (James Earl Jones), a charming garbageman, catches her fancy. The lives of both begin to feel richer and more worth living, but also more complicated.

Pre-Screening Talk by Philana Payton, PhD Candidate, University of Southern California | Thursday, Feb 6 | 6:15 – 6:45PM | IU Cinema

Philana Payton is a Scholar-Activist and PhD Candidate in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Southern California. Her research focus uses Black Studies, Performance Theory and Film Theory to explore blackness and visual culture through Black womenโ€™s performances. Philana has also done extensive archival research on early 20th century Black Silent Cinema and has conducted race and gender analyses on classical-era films through today’s cinema, television, and media.

Payton will discuss “Claudine, The Original Welfare Queen: Diahann Carroll and the Disruption of Respectability” in a public pre-screening talk, beginning at 6:15PM in the IU Cinema.

Most often discussed in relation to her starring title-role character in the late-sixties sitcom Julia, and later as the infamous Dominique Deveraux in Aaron Spellingโ€™s eighties hit Dynasty, Diahann Carroll epitomizes glamour to audiences around the world. She made her film debut appearing alongside Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, and Pearl Bailey in the 1954 all-Black film Carmen Jones at the age of 19, and maintained a successful film, theater, television, and singing career over the next, almost six decades.

In 1974, however, at the behest of her ailing friend Diana Sands, Carroll broke from her cosmopolitan image and appeared as a single, welfare mother of six in the film Claudine. Starring alongside James Earl Jones, Claudine was an explicit critique of the American welfare system and a deviation from any role Carroll had ever, and would ever, play again.

In this talk, Payton will discuss Claudineโ€™s socio-political significance alongside Carrollโ€™s strategic public performance of respectability and the ways in which her persona both aided and impeded the cultural impact of the filmโ€™s timely message.

February 14, 7PM Screening in IU Cinema

A Warm December (1973), dir. by Sidney Poitier
Friday, February 14 | 7:00 โ€“ 8:39 p.m. | IU Cinema (Free but ticketed)
 | Get Tickets

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Esther Anderson and Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier stars in this whirlwind romance as the recently widowed Dr. Matt Younger who meets Catherine (Esther Anderson) while in London with his daughter. As Matt gets closer to Catherine, he realizes she is not only a princess and ambassadorโ€™s niece, but is also sick with sickle-cell anemia. Tender and fantastically romantic, the film combines narrative elements of Roman Holiday and Love Story. Showing the idea of love as the be-all-end-all, the story is centrally focused around whether our beautiful couple can end up together.

February 17, 7PM Screening in IU Cinema

Aaron Loves Angela, 45th Anniversary Screening (1975), dir. by Gordon Parks, Jr. Monday, February 17 | 7:00 โ€“ 8:39 p.m. | IU Cinema (Free but ticketed) | Get Tickets

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Irene Cara and Kevin Hooks

Teenage Aaron (Kevin Hooks), a member of the aspiring but losing basketball team the Harlem Saints, doesnโ€™t really want to do anything but be with Angela (Irene Cara). Despite his fatherโ€™s wishes to turn Aaron into the sports star he couldโ€™ve been, Aaron tries to woo Angela by wandering around New York and scheming with his best man, Willie. The teenage couple fall in puppy love and soon theyโ€™re all running around together, holding hands, exploring 1970s New York. Contains mature content.

February 21, 12:15PM in Franklin Hall, Room 312

Something Good โ€“ Negro Kiss (1898), dir. by William Selig Friday, February 21 | starts 12:15 p.m. | Franklin Hall, Room 312

Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown

Dr. Allyson Field, University of Chicago, will present “Recovering Black Love on Screen: Early Film and the Legacies of Racialized Performance” on the restoration and historical context ofย Something Good โ€“ Negro Kiss. The 1898 film was discovered and restored by University of Southern California archivist Dino Everett and formally identified by Field. The performers featured in the film are Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown.ย Friday, February 21 | starts 12:15 p.m. | Franklin Hall, Room 312

Dr. Allyson Field, University of Chicago.

Allyson Nadia Field is Associate Professor Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. Fieldโ€™s scholarship investigates the functioning of race and representation in interdisciplinary contexts surrounding cinema. Her research focuses on African American film, both silent era cinema and more contemporary filmmaking practices, and is unified by two broad theoretical inquiries: how film and visual media shape perceptions of race and ethnicity, and how these media have been and can be mobilized to perpetuate or challenge social inequities. Her work is grounded in sustained archival research, integrating that material with concerns of film form, media theory, and broader cultural questions of representation.

She is the author of Uplift Cinema: The Emergence of African American Film & The Possibility of Black Modernity (Duke University Press, 2015). Field is also, with Marsha Gordon, co-editor of Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film (Duke University Press, 2019) and with Jan-Christopher Horak and Jacqueline Stewart, co-editor of L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema (University of California Press, 2015). 

Her current book project, tentatively titled Minstrelsy-Vaudeville-Cinema: American Popular Culture and Racialized Performance in Early Film, seeks to reframe American film history through the lens of racialized performance, tracing the development of tropes, themes, and practices from minstrelsy to the vaudeville stage and motion picture screen. In doing so, it attempts to make legible the functionings of minstrelsyโ€™s forms within American cinema, understand its complex negotiations of race in a rapidly changing social order, and explore moments of creative resistance to its dehumanizing portrayals of African Americans. In support of this project, Field was named a 2019 Academy Film Scholar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

SOMETHING GOOD NEGRO KISS 1898 RESTORED from HMH Archive on Vimeo.

April 16, 6:15PM in IULMIA | Screening and Conversation

Dr. Mireille Miller-Young is Associate Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Mireille Miller-Young, PhD, is Associate Professor of Feminist Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara, and the 2019โ€“20 Advancing Equity Through Research Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. She researches and teaches about race, gender, and sexuality in US history, popular and film cultures, and the sex industries. 

Dr. Miller-Youngโ€™s book, A Taste for Brown Sugar: Black Women in Pornography (Duke University Press, 2014) was awarded the Sara A. Whaley Prize for Best Book on Women and Labor by the Natinal Womenโ€™s Studies Association and the John Hope Franklin Prize for Best Book by the American Studies Association. She has published in numerous anthologies, academic journals, and news outlets, and has been interviewed for various books, articles, radio programs, and documentaries.

Along with Constance Penley, Celine Parreรฑas Shimizu, and Tristan Taormino, Miller-Young is an editor ofย The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure. She is also lead editor and contributor to the recent volumeย Black Sexual Economies: Race and Sex in a Culture of Capital.

Dr. Miller-Young is scheduled to discuss Love/Hate, a program of films on sexuality, gender, race and affection in a selection of Kevin Jerome Everson’s films as well as examples from her research on pornography.

Love/Hate: Kevin Jerome Everson’s Coupling Films || April 16 at 6:15PM, LI 048

This screening contains sexually explicit imagery. Mature audiences only.

Still from found footage film Picnic Free (2007-2020)

Love/Hate:
Kevin Everson Films

Picnic Free (2007-2020) is a film with found footage about a couple enjoying a beautiful day, long walks and a firearm, a blanket, food, sex and art. (11:36, b&w, color, silent)

Glenville (co-directed with Kahlil Pedizisai, 2020) is based on the 1898 film Something Good-Negro Kiss during a New Yearโ€™s Eve celebration in Cleveland, Ohio. (1:46, color)

Goddess (2019) is based on a stag film produced by American photographer Garry Winogrand and the corrupt police from Everson’s home county of Richland Ohio. (2:19, color, silent)

It Seems to Hang On (2015) is based on the true story of the serial killers Alton Coleman and Debra Brown, a young Black couple who cut a violent path beginning in the summer of 1984 through the American Midwest (Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin).

The dialogue spoken in the film is inspired and based on lyrics from the American soul duo (and couple) Ashford and Simpson’s 1979 hit song “It Seems to Hang On”. The lyrics refer to a couple struggling to hang on or to be together thought adversity. Filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson’s strategy was to make a film about a desperate, violent but loving couple on the run from the law.

The film was shot in and around the city of Detroit, and area where Coleman and Brown committed several murders. Their crimes were horrific, and their victims were Black with the exception of one white woman, a murder that eventually led to Coleman’s conviction and execution. Alton Coleman was executed in 2002. Debra Brown is doing life in a prison in Indiana. Coleman was born in 1956 in Waukegan, Illinois near Wisconsin. Debra Brown was born in 1962 in Ohio. There is no current documentation on how they met.

“It is easily the most empty clichรฉ, the most useless word, and at the same time the most powerful human emotionโ€”because hatred is involved in it, too.”

Toni Morrison

Black Film Center/Archive, 1320 E. 10th Street, Wells 044, Bloomington, IN, 47405 || bfca@indiana.edu

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