Author Archives: BFC/A

About BFC/A

The Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University was established in 1981 as the first archival repository dedicated to collecting, preserving, and making available historically and culturally significant films by and about black people. The BFC/A's primary objectives are to promote scholarship on black film and to serve as an open resource for scholars, researchers, students, and the general public; to encourage creative film activity by independent black filmmakers; and to undertake and support research on the history, impact, theory, and aesthetics of black film traditions.

Black Film Center/Archive Fall 2016 Preview

Black Film Center/Archive’s Fall Preview, 2016

The Black Film Center/Archive is pleased to announce its Fall semester programming for the 2016-2017 academic year. Below you will find information about both upcoming film screenings as well as artist and scholar visits. We’d like to thank the IU Cinema, The Media School, and our many other campus partners  for their support in the planning of these events. For more on event times and locations, please visit the BFC/A’s “Events” page. And for additional information or any questions regarding these events, please contact the Black Film Center/Archive by phone at (812) 855-6041 or by email at bfca@indiana.edu.

September, 2016

20th African Film Festival Traveling Series, September 12 – September 15, 2016 

Curated by New York’s African Film Festival, this 20th edition of the AFF traveling series celebrates the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent.  Festival director Mahen Bonetti writes that the eight films in the series represent “a unique opportunity to examine the ways in which African men and women have broken through borders with films and narratives that form part of the global imagination. These films reflect a new era of filmmaking, led by the emerging generation of directors whose work embodies a new direction in African cinema.”

The series at IU kicks off with a feature presentation of Dare Fasasi’s Head Gone on September 12 at the IU Cinema, and continues over the following three days with screenings in the Phyllis Klotman Room (Wells 044B) at the BFC/A.

The 20th African Film Festival Traveling Series is sponsored by IU Libraries Media Services, Black Film Center/Archive, the African Studies program, The Media School’s cinema and media arts program, the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, the Department of History, the Department of Comparative Literature, and the IU Cinema.  Special thanks are due to Monique Threatt of the IUB Libraries Media Services and Alimah Boyd of the African Film Festival, Inc.

Screenings: 

  • Monday, September 12, 7:00 pm at the IU Cinema
    • Head Gone (2014) Directed by Dare Fasasi, Nigeria/Sweden, 111 min. In English & Pidgin with English subtitles.

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      Head Gone (2014)

  • Tuesday, September 13, 6:00 pm at the BFC/A’s Phyllis Klotman Room (Wells 044B)
    • Red Leaves (2014) Directed by Bazi Gete, Israel, 80 min. In Hebrew and Amharic with English subtitles.4fecf3_4eb91ae3f3f94ad89d135478bbbb4473
  • Wednesday, September 14, 6:00 pm at the BFC/A’s Phyllis Klotman Room (Wells 044B)
    • *6:00 pm Afripedia: Ghana (2014), Directed by Teddy Goitom, Benjamin Taft and Senay Berhe, Ghana/Kenya/Sweden, 28 min. In English.

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      Afripedia:Ghana (2014)

    • *6:30 pm Afripedia: Kenya (2014), Directed by Teddy Goitom, Benjamin Taft and Senay Berhe, Ghana/Kenya/Sweden, 28 min. In English.

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      Afripedia, Kenya (2014)

    • 7:00 pm The Longest Kiss (2013) Directed by Alexandra Sicotte-Lévesque, Sudan, 72 min. In English and Arabic with English subtitles.

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      The Longest Kiss (2013)

*for more information on Afripedia, take a look at okayafrica’s coverage of this documentary series.

  • Thursday, September 15, 6:30 pm at the BFC/A’s Phyllis Klotman Room (Wells 044B)
    • 4:00 pm Cholo (2014) Directed by Muzna Almusafer, Oman, 21 min. In Swahili with English subtitles.

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      Cholo (2014)

    • 4:30 pm Panic Button (2014) Directed by Libby Dougherty, South Africa, 25 min. In English.

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      Panic Button (2014)

    • 5:00 pm The Prophecy (2015) Directed by Marcia Juzga, Senegal, 20 min. In French & Wolof with English subtitles.the_prophecy_9

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      The Prophecy (2015)

October, 2016

  • Monday, October 3, 2016 6:00 p.m.
  • A Talk with Dr. Gerald Butters

Gerald Butters, PhD: Dr. Gerald Butters is a professor of history at Aurora University. His areas of specialization are film history, U.S. social and cultural history, and gender and race studies. Additionally, Dr. Butters is a co-editor of the forthcoming Beyond Blaxploitation, which is the first book-length anthology of scholarly work on blaxploitation film, which “sustains the momentum that Blaxploitation scholarship has recently gained, giving the films an even more prominent place in cinema history.” One of the chapters of the book was written by Indiana University’s very own, Dr. Vivian Halloran, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature.

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Gerald C. Butters, Author and Scholar

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Beyond Blaxpoitation (forthcoming release, December, 2016)

VERSAILLES ’73: AFRICAN AMERICAN BEAUTY AND DESIGN IN THE WORLD’S EYE, with Deborah Riley Draper, October 10-11

Themester, Fall 2016: “Beauty”

Writer/historian Tanisha C. Ford and filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper will revisit a watershed moment in fashion history, 1973’s Grand Divertissement à Versailles, to open a broader exploration of beauty culture as a force in the cultural and political expression of black women. The Versailles show, a meeting of French and American designers, challenged the race-based beauty ideals of the Parisian fashion establishment with the introduction of African American models and design to the world stage. Public events will include a Jorgensen guest filmmaker lecture by Draper and a screening of Draper’s award-winning documentary, Versailles’73: American Fashion Revolution, which explores the inextricable links between race, beauty, fashion, politics, and advocacy.

  • October 10, 2016, 3:00 p.m. at the IU Cinema
    • Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecture with Deborah Riley Draper
  • October 10, 2016, 7:00 p.m. at the IU Cinema
    • Versailles ‘73: American Runway Revolution (2012) 91 minutes, Directed by Deborah Riley Draper

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      Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution (2012)

Director Deborah Riley Draper is scheduled to be present at the screening for a conversation to follow the film.  

In addition to these Themester programs, Deborah Riley Draper will present a second program at the IU Cinema:

  • October 11, 2016, 7:00 p.m. at the IU Cinema
    • Olympic Pride, American Prejudice (2016) 90 min. Directed by Deborah Riley Draper

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      Olympic Pride, American Prejudice (2016)

These events are sponsored by the Black Film Center/Archive with Themester at the College of Arts and Sciences, the Elizabeth Sage Historic Costume Collection, the Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions, the National Sports Journalism Center, the Center for Documentary Research and Practice, The Media School’s cinema and media arts program, the Department of History, and the IU Cinema.  Special thanks to Emma Young.

About Deborah Riley Draper:  Named one of Variety’s “10 Documakers to Watch” in 2016, the veteran advertising executive Deborah Riley Draper has launched her career as a documentary filmmaker with two features. From the impact of the first Black models in the world of high fashion to the early African American Olympians who inspired on the field and beyond, Draper’s work presents the perspectives of Black American cultural icons that have contributed to shaping American history, often in ways that are not yet fully recognized.

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Deborah Riley Draper, Filmmaker

#BlackPanthersMatter, October 17 and 22, 2016 

Founded 50 years ago on October 15, 1966, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense created the foundational iconography of Black radicalism in the United States. Their revolutionary aesthetics and self-controlled image established them in the nation’s eye: black berets, Afros, leather jackets and militarized organization. #BlackPanthersMatter brings together four films that highlight the depth behind the visuals, both by relating the Black Panthers outward to contemporary Black lives and by turning inwards to the emotional experiences of the movement’s founders.

  • October 17, 2016, 7:00 p.m.
    • Off The Pig (1968) 14 minutes Produced by Newsreel Films
    • A Huey P. Newton Story (2001) 86 minutes Directed by Spike Lee
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A Huey P. Newton Story (1991)

  • October 22, 2016, 6:30 p.m.
    • May Day (1969) 13 minutes Produced by Newsreel Films
    • The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011) 100 minutes Directed by Göran Olsson

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      The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

#BlackPanthersMatter is sponsored by: the Black Film Center/Archive, the Cinema and Media Studies unit at The Media School, and the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies.

December, 2016

Julie Dash: Daughters of the Dust 25th Anniversary (December 8-9, 2016)

Julie Dash’s rich filmography explores the spectrum of Black women’s experience across wide swaths of geography and time. 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of her groundbreaking film Daughters of the Dust, and the Black Film Center/Archive is excited to sponsor a screening of the newly released digital restoration print, along with a selection of short films from her time as part of the UCLA-based Black cinema revolution of the late 1960s to late 1980s, known today as the L.A. Rebellion.

 

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Filmmaker and author, Julie Dash

  • December 8, 2016, 7:00 p.m.at IU Cinema
    • L.A. Rebellion Shorts: Four Women (1975), Diary of an African Nun (1977), and Illusions (1982) Directed by Julie Dash

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      Diary of an African Nun (1977)

  • December 9, 2016, at IU Cinema
    • 3:00 p.m. Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecture with Julie Dash
    • 6:30 p.m. Daughters of the Dust (1991) 112 minutes Directed by Julie Dash
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Daughters of The Dust (1991)

Julie Dash Daughters of the Dust 25th Anniversary is sponsored by: the Black Film Center/Archive, The Media School’s cinema and media arts program, the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, and the IU Cinema.

 

 


Who is Danny Glover?

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Danny talking with Michael T. Martin

Danny Glover’s cinematic gravitas has made him one of Hollywood’s most talented and renowned actors.  Through some of his most notable roles in movies (such as in The Color Purple (1985), Beloved (1998), and the Lethal Weapon franchise (1987-1998)), he has incited anger, sympathy, compassion, and laughter. However, acting is only one part of his vibrant and prodigious legacy.  Glover is a producer, humanitarian, and political activist.  Through these many endeavors, Glover’s legacy can be summed up in two words “citizen engage´.”

Citizenship does not simply end with birthrights and country of origin. Citizenship also encompasses notions of dutifulness and responsibility.  Essentially by being a citizen, one is expected to be active and engaged in their community’s social and civil affairs, at least according to Glover, a belief he holds dearly. Glover is a citizen engage´, or engaged citizen as Michael T. Martin, Director of the Black Film Center/Archive, ascribed to him during the interview. They sat down to chat about Glover’s upcoming role in the Good Catholic, his acting roots, love for world cinema,  his production company, and his humanitarian and activist efforts.

Glover was in Bloomington, Indiana in January of this year to film the Good Catholic, a romantic comedy, produced, written and directed by four Indiana University alumni: co-producers Zachary Spicer,  John Armstrong,  and Graham Sheldon, and writer Paul Shoulberg.  Glover stars as a priest alongside John C. McGinley and Spicer who also play priests, and love interest, Wrenn Schmidt.  Glover seemed delighted about his role and the script and credited his interest to great writing and the casting director’s conscious decision to cross-color cast him for role.

 

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“The writing was just amazing, wonderful”

 

Glover got his first taste of stage performance at 20 years old as a student at San Francisco State University (SFSU) performing at a nearby college. He recalls it quite vividly:

“I remember that first performance, at the Merrick Junior College we had a stage there, the first time I went on, and I walked by Amiri, and really my relationship was somewhat abstract, somewhat distant and everything else.  He said ‘have a good performance.’”

He was referring to the legendary author/poet/playwright/activist, Amiri Baraka, who was also considered to be one of the leading voices of Black theater at the time.  What was seemingly a perfunctory gesture became more of a confirmation that validated the young actor’s purpose. Acting and activism took on new meanings for him.  Soon after, Glover became more involved with the Black Student Union at SFSU, which was the first Black Student Union in the country, where he was responsible for bringing guest presenters and Black theater to campus. It was at SFSU, through theater and involvement with the BSU that ignited a flame of political activism, fanned by race, politics, and performance.

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Danny Glover from his student activist days at San Francisco State University

Political activism resonated with Glover and it became a source of inspiration for his acting: “It’s kind of been my moral guide in terms of what I’ve been able to do.  I feel that the work I do has value to it; therefore, it connects to my sense of myself as a citizen and [as] an artist as well.”  He attributes South African playwright, Athol Fugard, as having a major influence on his acting. “I’m not an actor as my career has translated itself if it [had] not [been] for Athol Fugard.” Fugard’s Anti-Apartheid-centric work not only resonated with Glover politically, it connected with him artistically as well:

“I think I discovered my own self value and my own importance of art itself reflected in that.  It’s only [an] extension from what we were trying to do with Amiri Baraka in some sense…by the time I’m 29, 30 years old, I had been able to calculate that in a different way.”

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In addition to acting, Glover’s political fervor and interests in world affairs has carried over into the realm of producing. In 2004, Glover and business partner, Jocyln Barnes, started Louverture Films, a production company geared toward producing independent films with historical relevance and social purpose. So far they have produced Cemetery of Splendor (2015) and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010), by Thai director, Apichatpong “Joe” Weerasethakul and The Time That Remains (2009) by Palestinian film director and actor, Elia Suleiman, with several other films in the works.  As Danny puts it: “Certainly the mission is to do relevant, historically relevant, socially relevant movies.” Not only are they going for relevancy, they also want to make films that are provocative. Films like The Shadow World (2016), a documentary (Dir. Johan Grimonprez) based on the book by Andrew Feinstein on global arms sales, and Eugene Jarecki’s The House I Live In (2012), which was about the war on drugs, are examples of the kinds of jarring uneasy movies Glover speaks of.

 

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“I think that’s the mission of our company is to make people uncomfortable.”

 

“I don’t think anyone does what we do… When I went to a church in Newark of about 800 people, I saw all the people who were stakeholders or involved in it, whether it was the grandmothers who had taken care of children, whether it was the actual victims of the war on drugs, whether it was the counselors, or the children themselves, all of those things met at that particular moment and said how do we use this?  How do we use this in our platform whether it’s organizations about the sentencing project?  How do we use this now to explain what is happening? …I think that’s the mission of our company is to make people uncomfortable.”

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Danny Glover speaking at March for Immigrants’ Rights in Madison, Wisconsin 2007

Without a doubt, Glover’s activism resonates through his work. However, it is not only through film we can see his passion for civil engagement, we also see it through his humanitarian efforts all over the world. He has participated in protests in South America, vocalized concerns about housing issues in his hometown of San Francisco, and recently he has been actively campaigning for Bernie Sanders. Whether it is fighting against oppression or championing economic or political reform, the core of Glover’s activism is simply being a citizen. This seems to be one of the utmost values he holds:

“…before I was an actor or an artist I was a citizen, and I remained a citizen… I do not, in any way, abdicate my responsibility as a citizen because I may be visible.  There are artists who do incredible things in the service of being citizens who aren’t visible.  Am I supposed to say shut up and sit behind whatever gilded gate I may have and everything?  No.  I don’t do that.”

Glover has come along way since his first performance as a college student.  He has become an artist, a purveyor of cultural films, an aficionado of Black theater, a voice advocating rights and fighting injustice, and a humanitarian. His artistry influenced by his beliefs and his beliefs added value to his art. The strand that seemed to tie it together was a need to be a dutiful citizen, a role that he was born to play.

~Roosevelt T. Faulkner


An Interview with Dorothy Berry Pt. II

Featured below is the second half of our interview with Dorothy Berry, Black Film Center/Archive’s 2015-2016 Graduate Assistant.  (Part 1 here)

When Dorothy Berry is asked about her future plans, it’s clear that they involve calling attention to African American narratives that seem to linger in the periphery of American culture.

Dorothy Berry at the IU Cinema, November 2015

Dorothy Berry at the IU Cinema, November 2015

“I guess my curatorial goals are to get audiences and viewers to have an awareness of African Americans, specifically African Americans as present throughout the entire length and breadth of American history. I get really excited about a Black carpenter in 1785. I feel like we often start our African American history at about 1850…we start a little before the war…but who knows what happened before? Those are things that I find really exciting.  I would love to see an exhibit about the clothing in Charleston in 1820’s.  I think that was the decade that they made it illegal for African American women to buy beautiful fabric because they were dressing so great and they had amazing head wraps and they were walking down the promenades on their off nights and it was upsetting to people. There was a letter to the editor at a local newspaper, in which it was mentioned that it was shocking that you would walk behind a woman in a beautiful dress, that you would brush by her and say ‘Pardon me, ma’am,’ but then you’d turn around and she’d be Black and that would be horrible, because you just said ‘Pardon me, ma’am’ to a Black person! She doesn’t get a ‘Pardon me ma’am.’ I think things like that…there are so many aspects to Black culture beyond these flashpoints that I’d like to bring to the forefront.  And that’s a real joy of mine. Not just earlier history (though I have loved the 19th century since I was a child, a small dork).”

Berry’s interests also include an examination of the erasures found throughout the scope of African American history.

“I was just recently working with Indiana University’s Moving Image Archives for an online exhibit, which may potentially be educational material accompanying the films for their collection of Black Journal, which was a public TV show in the late 1960s and early late 1970s on WNET in New York that was part of the period when African Americans were getting some funding because there was a lot of controversy about who public television funding was going to.  And there are just all these things that we brush over because they weren’t game changers in African American history and the history of all marginalized people gets concentrated down to big things.”

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Black Journal former Executive Producer, William Greaves.

“That’s what I mean when I say that we start Black history around 1850,” Berry adds. “We’re all thinking about these very concentrated things… ‘Slavery was terrible…and then war was over. And then they were free.’ And then we kind of skip Reconstruction. Skip Black people in the Senate. Skip voting. Move to Harlem Renaissance. Again, another 40 years gone and then move from Harlem Renaissance to like 1947, ‘We couldn’t drink at the same fountains’ and then move to Martin Luther King.” These huge gaps, Berry posits, are missed opportunities for exploring Black history. “So many things were happening, and there’s so much archival information…there’s so much in the archival record about Black history, but because there haven’t been funding opportunities or archivists of color with the ability to make those things accessible and to contextualize them, everything is just scattered throughout different collections. So I guess my real curatorial vision is to combine my research interests with my skill set to share African American history that gets left behind.”

Berry also speaks to the almost serendipitous nature of research that uncovers fragments of important African American history and how this can serve to both the detriment and fortune of African American history.

“I’m sure that there are intentional erasures, but I think that a lot of it has to do with lack of time and opportunity given to African Americans to really pursue high level historical research, so I think a lot of times, people just end up discovering something just by chance in a book, and they feel like ‘This is important and I need to forefront this!’ And so they produce something and scholars are like ‘This is subpar,’ and it maybe is subpar in the scale of how we can do academic writing and how we can do historical research…but nobody else was doing it.”

When asked about an exhibit that really resonated with her love of the intersection of art, history, writing, curation, and archival work, she shared the following:

“An exhibit space just design-wise that I found beautiful was when the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian had its pop-up in the National Museum of American History. It was really a walk-through of Black history, it was a highlights type thing because they had a very small amount of space, but they had a section on the March on Washington, where they had constructed an open room, three walls and a cube, with one wall missing and they had printed a giant print of the March on Washington in an immersive way, so you walk in with the people on both sides, speech in the front.”

Crowds gathering at the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. Credit James H. Wallace/The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture

Crowds gathering at the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. Credit James H. Wallace/The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture

That image was so visually powerful I think that the kind of artistry that brings is really important because I think that sometimes design and that sort of thing gets left behind because we’re so much at a disadvantage…people know so little of us. People have had so little opportunity to learn about African-American history, that it feels like you want to start at square one but I feel like sometimes when you do that, then you’re compared to some really cool exhibit that’s more established and has a style because  you’re just trying to do is get people to be like “That’s a slave cabin!” because they don’t even know … because there won’t even be that intrigue that you find at another museum, and also there’s just like the aspect of funding and the aspect of respect…you don’t want to make a ‘fun’ slave cabin!”

Berry offers an example of an institution that privileges both aesthetics and historical accuracy in its narrative:

“But then there’s also a type of beauty that can be brought in like the Whitney museum in Louisiana, that has been funded specifically to forefront the slave experience, which is rare because plantation museums are generally a place to explore how great it was to be rich in the Antebellum South and ‘slaves are like family members to us.’ What they’ve done is that, instead of having a lot of people do historical reenactments, is that they have statues that are representative art and they are also somewhat abstracted…so you’ll go to a slave building and there’s a half circle of these child statues of slaves. I think that this is a type of respectful artistic beauty.”

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Sculptures of the Children of the Whitney Plantation

 

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The Whitney Plantation, Wallace, LA.

Berry also cites a career inspiration whose power lies in her ability to simultaneously transcend genre while critically engaging audiences around the world.

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Artist Kara Walker

“When asked about what archivist or curator inspires me for this type of thing, my first thought was Kara Walker, who’s neither a curator nor an archivist. But that’s the kind of thing that I’m interested in.

A Subtlety, or The Marvelous Sugar Baby by Kara Walker, 2014

A Subtlety, or The Marvelous Sugar Baby by Kara Walker, 2014

I’m really interested in the combination of hardcore, citation-heavy, footnoted, the-white-man-can-respect-this-research, history with the kind of beauty, and aesthetic, and design, because I think that that’s compelling, and I think that that in a way, which is not the only way, which is not necessary, but it’s relevant to me, and resonant for me and it brings that history up to the level of all other histories that are already treated that way.”

 ~Yalie Kamara

 


An Interview With Dorothy Berry

                  

Meet Dorothy Berry, the Black Film Center/Archive’s 2015-2016 Graduate Assistant. In addition to completing her graduate studies (Masters of Arts in Ethnomusicology and Master of Library Science with an Archives Focus), Berry has played an important role in contributing to the success of the BFC/A’s year-round programming opportunities, including as programmer of the Fall 2016 film series, #BlackPanthersMatter: The Black Panther Party at 50. In this two-part interview, Berry first shares her personal connection to the Black Panthers and her role in organizing the Black Panther Party Series.

 

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Black Film Center/Archive Graduate Assistant Dorothy Berry and award-winning actor and activist Danny Glover

Prior to her studies at Indiana University, Berry earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from Mills College. As a college student in Oakland, California, Berry experienced the city in a way that spoke to its rich historical roots.

When I lived in Oakland, I had an afro that I would wear every day.  I always had a combed-out afro walking down the streets of Oakland, people would always yell Angela Davis. Or old men would talk to me about what the 60’s were like.

Last time I was in Oakland I was walking to Lois the Pie Queen, and I walked by this old man and he just shouted out ‘I ain’t seen a natural like that in hella years!’ Oakland is an empowering Black place to live,” Berry shares, when describing her time in Oakland.

Berry recalls one of her first encounters with the Black Panther Party dating back to her freshman year of high school, in which she gave a presentation on A Huey P. Newton Story (2001), a solo theatrical performance based on Black Panther Party leader Huey P. Newton’s political vision, which was created, written, and performed by Robert Guenveur Smith and adapted into a film directed by Spike Lee.

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Roger Guenveur Smith’s A Huey P. Newton Story

“I think the one man show is in and of itself incredibly powerful if done correctly. There’s a real intimacy to it [A Huey P. Newton Story], even on film. His ability to get into both the charisma and unsettling obsession of the mindset was really powerful. I think it took me a long time to separate Huey P. Newton, the living human being, from Huey P. Newton as portrayed in this play. “

Following this experience, Dorothy conducted further research on the Black Panther Party and found herself equally enthralled by their organizational skills as it related to their ability to mobilize supporters and the deftness with which the Panther’s ideas were presented.

Though Berry found this one-man play did a good job in not glamorizing Huey P. Newton, she is aware of how often the Black Panther Party’s cult of personality eclipses the true complexities of the Black Panther Party.“Romanticization is a real danger especially with the masculine identities within the Black Panther Party, because they were so powerful…socially…culturally but there was also the misogyny. Eldridge Cleaver…the monstrosity of raping and the beating of Kathleen, etc.  You know it’s not something that I would romanticize and I feel like that’s one of the things about the Black Panthers that can be disadvantageous…it’s almost impossible not to romanticize something that just looks cool. Like even if you don’t know who they are or you don’t care about it and you’re like ‘Black Panthers, they like Black Power and they look great.’”

This ties into what Berry dubs as the “The misfortunate coolness of Black aesthetics,” in which the visuals are easy to consume, while the ideas are hard to process.

“The images become iconographic regardless of the visage of the actual person….like the Black Panthers have that aspirational coolness that Black people have always had; subcultural Black people in the United States always have coolness. They’re always defining the style years in advance and there is that long term history of everyone wanting the commodifiable aspects of cool Blackness but not the struggle aspects. That’s particularly dangerous with something that is a specific political movement because you can go buy a leather jacket and a beret and you can set yourself up to be whatever you want. So my question is does the iconography live beyond the actual message?  But also I think that they specifically utilized and militarized their imagery, it wasn’t just that they happened to be some cool guys that loved jackets.”

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The Black Panther Tours’ Official Black Panther Historical Tour Guide

When considering other films that might continue to showcase the Black Panthers’ cultural and political reach, Berry also selected The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 as she found it to be a film that provided various opportunities for its screening audience to engage with the story of the Black Panther Party in a profound way:

“I think that there is this audience at an academic university that already has a knowledge of the Black Panther Party and the things that they may think are cool relating to the Black Panthers, but those things aren’t necessarily accessible to a wider audience, even a wider audience that’s equally smart and equally willing to be engaged but just hasn’t been engaged as of yet. So I think a film like that which has interviews with people that are more potentially recognizable like ?uestlove or Erykah Badu makes it more accessible to a broader audience than someone that would be like ‘Oh yeah, I love the Last Poets…I’m already down for that part of the cause.’”

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Scene from The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

In addition to the milestone anniversary of the Black Panther Party, the programming of this series was fitting for many other reasons:

“I thought for a 50th anniversary and since they’ve been in the spotlight a lot lately, visually, with Beyoncé at the Super Bowl, and even with just different news articles doing a chronology with Black Lives Matter I think that an actual straightforward primer is really beneficial.

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Scene from Beyoncé’s performance at the 2016 Super Bowl Halftime Show

And also thinking about this being screened at an academic institution, it makes it easier to maybe assign attending the screening to students.”

Berry’s hope is that this can be used as an educational opportunity that can engage as wide of an audience as possible at Indiana University.

“It’s saddening just what people aren’t taught even at ages where I would assume that they would know things. I taught a Survey of Hip Hop course and those kids really didn’t have a background to be prepared to talk about American history. I feel like it’s important to provide screening opportunities and cultural opportunities generally that are accessible beyond people that already like films. Like people who do want to go and see it because they’re like ‘Oh I’ve always wanted to see this on the big screen.’ Or have always wanted to see this in 16 mm…which is great, because that’s who I am, but I think as a programmer in a public academic institution, you have a responsibility to everybody.”

~Yalie Kamara

[Part two of “Interview with Dorothy Berry” coming soon]


Reflections Unheard: BFC/A Interview with Nevline Nnaji

On Friday, April 8, at 3pm, the Black Film Center/Archive, IU Libraries Media Services, and Directed by Women will present a free screening of Nevline Nnaji’s 2013 documentary, Reflections Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights.  The screening will take place in the Phyllis Klotman Room (044B) at the Black Film Center/Archive in Wells Library, on the IU Bloomington campus.

Free Huey Newton, Black Panther Rally, San Francisco, May 1, 1969

Free Huey Newton, Black Panther Rally, San Francisco, May 1, 1969. From REFLECTIONS UNHEARD: BLACK WOMEN IN CIVIL RIGHTS

In Reflections Unheard, Nnaji chronicles the experiences of some of the 60’s and 70’s most prolific Black female activists during moments of political triumph as well as in the face of gender, racial, and class inequality. Through a series of interviews and stunning archival footage, Nnaji calls attention to the oft-overlooked obstacles these women endure while organizing for the social and political betterment of women in both national and international contexts.

Yalie Kamara, an MFA student in IU’s Creative Writing Program and a BFC/A archives assistant, spoke with Nevline Nnaji in advance of tomorrow’s event:

_________________________

Yalie Kamara: From start to finish, how long did it take you to complete this project?

Nevline Nnaji:  Two and a half years.

YK: Can you remember the exact moment when it became clear to you that you had to pursue this documentary project?

NN: Around the time that I started film school, I’d began reading Black women’s literature. I was inspired by Elaine Brown’s A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story. It was the first time that I was made aware of the mistreatment of women in the Black Power movement. Also I had a conversation with a friend one day and she was like “you know, you could do a documentary,” and I was like “I think I can!” and once I joined the film program, that’s when I started producing it.

YK: How did you choose the archival footage/public domain footage/Creative Commons footage? What was the richest source of archival footage or was there a tapestry of different archival sources that supported the construction of this film? What were some of the workarounds that you employed in order to successfully complete this documentary?

From REFLECTIONS UNHEARD: BLACK WOMEN IN CIVIL RIGHTS

NN: I had difficulty accessing archival footage because of a lot of the copyrights that were placed on the films.  So even some older footage, that was usually captured by white photographers and filmmakers back in and the 60s and 70s and was either held in archives by those same people in whatever company they had or placed in these larger archives like Getty or even something that’s public like WGBH television. I remember the lowest that I got in that regard was like $50 per second and that was the student rate! But usually it runs from that to about $250 per second. And so that was my budget. I think [those rates] are mostly made for filmmakers who have an extremely large budget for these things and are maybe a bit more well off. And that wasn’t really the place that I was coming from. This was my first film. So this experience made me dig deeper into what was available at Library of Congress. I got a lot of footage that’s not really been seen because of how deeply you have to dig and do research in order to get this footage.

YK: Why was it important for you to focus on prolific Black female activists of 1960s and 70s without integrating the voices of contemporary, younger activists? I found this to be particularly powerful and wanted to know a bit more from your own perspective about why this was important to you.

NN: I wanted to make sure to have this documentary focus on the women who contributed to the Civil Rights era. In creating documentaries, when you have a focus, you can get a lot of out of the story, instead of just having a bunch of stuff and getting messy. It just needed to be that.

The only perspective that was not from an activist of the Civil Rights era, was Kola Boof. I included her in this documentary because of her activism work and her commentary on Black feminism and the worldwide perception of Black women.

From REFLECTIONS UNHEARD

From REFLECTIONS UNHEARD: BLACK WOMEN IN CIVIL RIGHTS

YK: I was interested in learning more about the inclusion of the archival footage that highlights the Moynihan Report as well as the Woman’s Welfare Club. What were the reasons these segments are part of the documentary?

NN: I included the Moynihan Report because it centered around the conversation about Black women. The report is evidence of certain cultural beliefs that started in the 60’s. I won’t say that this report is the cause for the belief that Black women’s role in the Black family weakens that of men’s, but this report can be seen as a type of mainstream evidence that this notion is still circulating around certain subcultures. That being the idea that Black women oppress the Black family through assuming the role of the Black male.

The Women’s Welfare Club was meant to be a transition between the conversation around white feminists and the women of color led movements. The Women’s Welfare Club shows the example of an actual organization formed for and led by Black women. It showcases resistance as a way of beginning the conversation around Black feminists and women of color led movements.

YK: Tell us a little bit more about your background. Aside from knowing that you are also a dancer and a filmmaker from Northampton, Mass., what else should we know about you as an artist? You can share whatever you’d like.

NN: That’s a really big question (laughs).

Director Nevline Nnaji

Director Nevline Nnaji

YK: Well, maybe as a starting off point, did you grow up making films? Do you come from a family of documentarians or artists? Or did you grow up creating art?

NN: You know…this film that I made, I didn’t have any film background when I made this film, when I started it. I learned as I made it. I’m an artist. I’m a natural. I’m very gifted. And I’ve always been that way and I am a bit of an outsider. And I’ve always been that way since I was a child as well.  I just consider myself to be a multidisciplinary artist. So when I have a vision or passion, I throw myself completely into it and then I dedicate myself, so I can make the vision come to life. But other than that, I love cats. Really. I’m very passionate about the kitties.  If you see any of my other films, there’s always a yellow cat in there.  Other than that, right now, my main focus is pole dancing. I’m just training a lot right now and performing.

YK: Can you tell me about your involvement with the New Negress Film Society and what it meant to you as a Black female filmmaker?

NN: We started that, the New Negress Film Society, in 2013, which was the year that I released the film and it was really exciting for me to do that. Because really that was the first kind of organization of its kind, where it was just for and about Black women filmmakers and so I think it really was my first experience forming and having a real community who had shared a similar experience as me.

And that’s really why I came to Brooklyn and it was to have that. It was an honor for me because my favorite filmmakers were Black female filmmakers who were Tisch graduates and stuff. I got to screen my film alongside one of my favorite film directors, Nikyatu Jusu. And it was just an honor for me to work with these artists and to create something like this. I am no longer a part of the New Negress Film Society, but I think we did a lot of really important work and I’m so glad that I got to be a part of it.

YK: What was the most surprising piece of feedback/response you received from your viewing audience regarding the documentary?

NN: My first ever screening of Reflections Unheard happened when I was about to graduate from Boston University and I posted it at the Women’s Resource Center and I had always thought that the TazamaFestfilm would only be appealing to Black women and that only Black women would be interested in attending. So I was very surprised to see a very diverse group of people of various genders and ages and races. I didn’t know other people would be interested and influenced by the work. I’d felt limited at the time, so this was a pleasant surprise. That it picked up in the way that it did. I was also surprised that I was able to make a living and travel from this film for a time. I never thought that the film would show in Africa, and I just went to the Congo this year where it was screened through the Tazama Film Festival, which focuses on African Women in cinema. The film was screened at the American Embassy in Congo, in front of a room of mostly Congolese men. That blew my mind. It continues to blow me away the people that are actually interested. It was beautiful.

___________

Reflections Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights (2013, Dir. Nevline Nnaji)
Friday, April 8, 2016 | 3:00 p.m. | Phyllis Klotman Room at BFC/A (Wells Library 044B)

Trailer:

 


BLACK CAMERA Vol. 7, No. 1 Now Available

The latest issue of Black Camera: An International Film Journal is now available in print and online from the Indiana University Press.

Fall2015

The current issue features a Close-Up on Fugitivity and the Filmic Imagination from guest editor James Edward Ford III, including articles by Autumn Womack, Frank B. Wilderson III, Shana L. Redmond, Rizvana Bradley, David Marriott, James Edward Ford III, and M. Shadee Malaklou.

Also included in this issue are a memorial tribute to Black Film Center/Archive founding director Phyllis Klotman; articles by Michael W. Thomas and Robin Hayes; an Archival Spotlight by Whitney Strub; and a conversation and gallery feature on the films and art of Mike Henderson.

For more information about Black Camera, please visit http://www.indiana.edu/~blackcam.  To subscribe, visit http://purchase.jstor.org/products.php?issn=15363155

 


THE BLACK G.I. and NO VIETNAMESE EVER CALLED ME NIGGER conclude IU Cinema series “40 Years On: Screening the Vietnam War”

This post was prepared as an introduction to the December 3, 2015, screening of Black Journal: The Black G.I. and No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Nigger, which concludes the series “40 Years On: Screening the Vietnam War.” The screening takes place at 7PM at the IU Cinema and will be followed by a discussion with series curator James Paasche, BFC/A director Michael T. Martin, and BFC/A graduate assistant Dorothy Berry.

This series is sponsored by WTIU, IU Cinema, the Black Film Center/Archive, the Cinema and Media Studies program, The Media School, Indiana University Center for Documentary Research and Practice, and Veteran Support Services.

 

ebony_black_soldier

The Black G.I. and No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Nigger highlight the parallels between the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, calling to stark attention the divisive issue of race in both military and civilian life. While the draft swept through the lives of the hundreds of thousands of men, the politically and economically disenfranchised were far more likely to face selective service, and African American men were largely part of those demographics. The films in tonight’s screening highlight the still-ongoing conflict of double-consciousness – patriotic Americans who want to serve and protect their country, even though their lived experience tells them that their country does not want to protect them.

The Black G.I. is a phenomenal documentary produced by filmmaker Kent Garrett for the WNET public affairs program, Black Journal. Garrett was granted permission to go to Vietnam by the Pentagon, in the hopes that the Black Journal episode would focus on the successes of African American military officers. Though they were guided through the country by Pentagon-sponsored public information officers, Garrett and his crew were given enough freedom that they were able to document the stories of the many men who followed after them and asked to participate.

The military men in The Black G.I. tell a story of service in an incredibly segregated army. Coming from a U.S. setting where performative Blackness, especially through dress and music, had never been more important, drafted men express anger at not being able to wear their natural hair and dashikis. Beyond questions of uniformity, their real complaints are that even on the other side of the world, they are still treated as though they are on the bottom rung. Soldiers talk about being called ugly by Vietnamese people, with one solider saying “Vietnamese girls called me a nigger – I know it’s not part of their language.” The idea that there was no equity of experience runs through the Black military narratives from drafted men to the military officers.

Those officers, the ones the Pentagon wanted featured, had a different, professional and career-oriented perspective on their service, but even the most loyal of them would not deny the issues faced. While they agreed things had gotten better, as their interviews progress, the disdain at their mistreatment bubbles to the surface (while remaining below the levels of insubordination).

In Struggles for Representation: African American Documentary Film and Video, Janet Cutler [co-editor, with her mother, BFC/A founder Phyllis Klotman – Ed.] discusses the thread of radical Black Nationalism that laced through every episode of Black Journal, mentioning a specific segment titled “And We Will Survive” where a blues singer’s cry of “Have you ever been mistreated? Then you know what I’m talking about” was layered with images of Vietnamese villages and a photo of an elderly Black man holder a poster reading “No Vietnamese Ever Called me Nigger.”

Scene from the 1967 Spring Mobilization to End the War

Scene from the 1967 Spring Mobilization to End the War

That shared colonial subjectivity implied with photographic collage by Black Journal comes into focus in the second documentary of tonight’s screening, which shares its name with that very poster. No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Nigger was filmed by director David Loeb Weiss and cameraman Michael Wadleigh on the occasion of the April 15, 1967 Spring Mobilization To End the War March. Though anti-war sentiment and a lack of support for the returning troops have become hallmarks in the collective memory of the Vietnam War, Weiss’ documentary shows a specific and separate response coming directly from and to the African American community.

The Mobilization March took place one week after Martin Luther King Jr.’s Riverside Church speech “Beyond Vietnam- A Time to Break Silence,” wherein the leader and orator protested the war, saying

We were taking the Black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.

That sentiment – that there was a cruel irony in sending an oppressed people to fight in the name of their country for the freedom of others – is echoed in Weiss’ film, both by the protesters at the March and by the three Black Vietnam veterans, Dalton James, Preston Lay Jr., and Akmed Lorence, interviewed for the film. The three men express the same issue that Black soldiers had experienced after returning home from all major wars, that in spite of any equality gained in the military, in civilian life they were still subject to the laws of Jim Crow.

No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Nigger

Like the soldiers in The Black G.I., James, Lay Jr. and Lorence, experienced racism in their integrated troops in Vietnam and then the further indignity felt in returning to a racist homeland. When viewed as companion pieces, The Black G.I. and No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Nigger paint a picture of conflict – personal and institutional, domestic and international – that defined a generation of Black Americans and would shape America overall for decades to come.

~Dorothy Berry


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