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.

An Interview with African Film Festival Founder Mahen Bonetti


Mahen Bonetti, Founder & Executive Director of African Film Festival Inc.

In the early 90’s, Mahen Bonetti, the Sierra Leone-born founder and executive director of the New York-based African Film Festival Inc., created both the African Film Festival and its traveling series counterpart.  For the last two decades, the Festival has enjoyed immense success and garnered respect from the world of film festivals and and their audiences for its carefully curated selection of films created by filmmakers from every corner of the African diaspora. A few days ago, Yalie Kamara of the Black Film Center/Archive had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Bonetti about the 23rd and 20th respective anniversaries of the African Film Festival and African Film Festival traveling series (the latter makes a stop at Indiana University Cinema and the BFC/A this week), her thoughts on African Cinema, her vision, and what she believes the future holds for African cinema and its international audience.

Yalie Kamara: What makes you the most excited about arriving at the 20th year of the traveling series?

Mahen Bonetti: I would say the fact that the production has increased you know; we will never run out of stories. And that there is a growing audience and also the fact the people on the continent are getting to see these images, they partake in the conversation so that makes me feel good about our mission and goals…that if we do not complete anything else, that this is taking place. And this is where tech is so much more resourceful and practical for people from the global south. We think about utilizing this technology. I get off subway here and no one is thinking about how to get to Point A to Point B, someone has to look up…well anyways that’s another story, let me not digress. [laughs]

Y: In keeping with that theme, in looking at the last twenty years of these films, what has been the most surprising thing about the way that African Cinema has changed?

M: I think the experimental genre and the fact that you have…for example in this year’s festival, we had a combination of shorts, feature films and the different genres documentary, fiction and the long and short format and the experimental format. And the thing is…in total we had 54 films and half of those were made by women. I mean, you go to Cannes, and there may be two women in the whole program, and this is what we overlook, sometimes, you know. They talk about whenever we speak about Africa and even we as African people have, you know, belief in this hype! When out of 54 half are made by women, that’s huge!


Faaji Agba (2015) by Remi Vaughan Richards

Additionally, these films are no longer just representing a narrative coming out of a colonial Francophone country or colonial Anglophone [country], there’s a mashup. You even have the Portuguese-speaking African kids. And there’s this caravan that is traveling around the continent, I’m almost envious. Like I hope I find someone quickly to take care of this [festival] so I want to join these young people, artists traveling from country to country. I hear it all the time, like “Where are you? We don’t see you anymore!” And the thing is, Yalie, I cannot also accept invitations because I know about our time, and when the moment comes for our major festival and our major flagship program, our time is so limited. I want to maintain a quality, so my first obligation is to filmmakers, as many as I can bring. And then if I have that extra infusion of cash, then I’m going to write a producer or programmer.

Outside of their country, the French have the largest number of speakers on the continent of Africa and they are supporting a lot of these initiatives, even in Francophone countries. And now the Germans are also doing it. So now you have these manifestations have that support of governmental institutions, European Union. I don’t have that. When they say “where are you?” I feel like sometimes “just accept it,” but I think that’s wrong and I know I have been invited with the expectation that I reciprocate, you know. So that being said, this is what makes me excited. That the conversation is not only taking place in this isolated space, you know.  There’s an incubator that exists on the continent and in the diaspora. And there’s this…coming back to the technology to social media to, you know, blogs, these kids are communicating amongst themselves. They’re the adults in the room.  Half the time, they know more about what is going on in the country than the president, who is busy stealing. That’s all they know how they do, you know? Anyways.  I hope I answered your questions. [laughs]

Y: You definitely did. What have been some of your favorite moments from the traveling series or from the African Film Festival. Feel free to answer whichever you want. I just want to capture the excitement.

M: I think the excitement is that we are considered a niche festival, but that the fact that we’ve built under this label of niche, there’s been a trust, a loyalty that over the years you know and people know where to come. So in a way, it galvanizes our community. That makes me excited. And it’s not a matter of scale because that community is international and it’s also regional, it’s also local, it’s also grassroots. But there is a community of like-minded people. And it’s huge. It’s the subculture where everyone goes to poach and not only for film. You know I was reading an article in the New Yorker about Hood By Air, I don’t know if you know this label.  They really — how do you say — brought high-end stree twear to the mainstream.


Hood by Air’s Spring, 2016 Collection

Hood By Air was founded by a Trinidadian kid who brought on an Afro-Dominican kid. I mean they’re the most successful beyond…what would you call it…..I’m sorry, my daughter tells me all these names…well anyways, what he said was “I noticed everyone was poaching our ideas but we don’t get the big investor and what they do is…” the way that  he described it was excellent. He said “It’s like, I like how you look, but I don’t know how to approach you, so I’m going to put a bit of me in you, so I can control it.” Do you understand what I’m saying? So he says “I make tee shirts that are really, really, just in your face and then I see then the guy at one of those big couture labels doing it.” Next time they turn around, their tee shirts have been modified!

And it’s exactly that… so I feel that the fact that we have this audience…I think this has been is what keeps us relevant and this is, in a way, why the AFF is the envy of a lot of these major institutions: we are not a dying audience. You should see all these young kids coming around. And I see my grey hair and I’m like “Oh my God, I’m the Pied Piper!” And it’s just fantastic and that is also what keeps me going…

So these communities, they’re mushrooming they’re huge, you know? Like in Toronto, the city-to-city spotlight is Lagos this year. Who would imagine? A few years go, everyone was snubbing their nose.


Featured at 2016’s Toronto International Film Festival: Green White Green (2016) by Abba Makama

But I always knew that Nollywood would evolve. You will always have that telling of the traditional Nollywood story that appeals to a lot of people, but each generation is going to come around and raise the bar even higher…production, structure, storytelling, you know? And an alternative Nollywood will have different genres within Nollywood, so Toronto International Film Festival, their city-to-city-spotlight this year is Lagos. We’re generating new audiences all the time and then there’s the material. And for me, when the story resonates, production quality is secondary, because the story can hook anyone.  Whether they’re in China, whether in Burma, whether in Burundi, the story is universal. As a poet you understand. So you connect to a character. You know that sound, you know that intonation. You can almost smell the space.

Y: When you’re looking for or thinking of different film submissions that you encounter, in addition to narrative heft, what are some of the other qualities that make a good fit for the African Film Festival?

M: For me. I mean first of all, I’m not a filmmaker. I’m not an academic. I was just desperate in the late 80’s to do something. [laughs] I was like “I want to hear my voice in this. Everyone is talking like maybe these are realities, but there’s another perspective here you know? Come on! Our continent is not sinking. We’re not all infected with AIDS. We’re not all swinging from trees! What’s wrong with these people?”  So for me first of all, each year, I look at a theme. It could be something historic, contemporary, current, because when you’re building a program, you’re also telling a story. So the entire program is like a circle. Each film connects to the next film. It’s like a continuation of the story.  Or going back to revisit the story or moving forward, or being in the present time of the story.  Does that make sense? So if one person comes and there’s one film they get, they look at the theme, International Decade of People of African Descent, Modern Days, Ancient Nights: 50 Years of African Filmmaking, Digital Africa. If there’s one film they see, it ties into that theme. Because you are also telling a story, because you are making it structurally like the rhythm.  We are all in that rhythm, you know?

Y: After seeing many films over the years, are there still specific representations of Africa/ African countries or themes that are yet to be addressed that you’re hoping to see emerge in the future of filmmaking?

M: One thing that I like right now is the documentary genre. I think it’s the most powerful right now. It’s very exciting and it’s a lot of women who are using this format. But they really take no prisoners on top of it. And they’re telling the story like no one else.  Like Sembène would be proud, wherever he is in that other world, you know? And then there’s docudrama genre, also, so that’s one exciting thing. I mean we’re slowly coaxing filmmaking at our own pace. And I know that, I’m just so excited, because I’m learning also! I’m learning about myself. That’s why I even started it. I wanted to know myself. I wanted to love myself, meaning I wanted to love Blackness. I wanted to love Black people. Because no matter what we think, colonialism and slavery have done such a job on our psyche, you know what I mean? Like who validates who? I wanted to be the one to validate myself. And not using someone else’s cultural references or standards to decide how beautiful I was, how smart I was, how well I spoke something, you know what I mean?  So for me, it was all about reclaiming, reappropriation.

In Sierra Leone, generally your traditional education guides you, even if you don’t have the formal education, but during the civil war, all that was shattered. All the infrastructures were broken…so this is what’s exciting in Africa right now: these kids are re-inventing what it is to be Black, to be African, and to live on the continent. They’re using their imagination and they’re kind of wild! They are like the Black Lives Matter kids. And that actually started on the continent. Even though we don’t label things, a lot of things started on the continent. Feminism started on the continent. Like the mother selling oranges and peanuts. Her bank is the knot in her lapa [wrap around skirt] and then she educated five children. That’s feminism. We don’t label things, you know what I mean? Like the Black Lives Matter. That movement started and then it comes back somehow and is labeled Négritude, even when that starts in the diaspora, its intersection of Black people of African descent meeting. That’s how these labels are created. That is why I wanted to have that conversation. We welcome everyone because that is also Africa’s nature. We are a people of humanity. Even when we are killing each other. You know we’ll go and cry and put kola nut offering for the one we killed.

I told someone the other day that we [Africans] are beautiful even when we…I told someone a story about the last day of  one of my trips to Sierra Leone. One of the people with me had gotten their sneakers stolen. And after the fact even the thief was coming to us asking if we’d found the sneakers and acting like he was helping to look for the sneakers, even though he knew he took them! We have a sense of community and there’s a lot of drama! It’s poetry in motion.

I feel we’re coaxing the stories, we’re doing it at our own pace. There’s so much yet to be told and I’m waiting for the story where we can openly talk about…I mean even though we do, and I think your generation is doing that, it’s like who created these languages and barriers within Anglophone, Francophone, Lusophone? Who decided? Because this ties to tribalism.

I was thinking of the young kids who we did this program we did with young people in Sierra Leone where you bring a Temne and Mende together and talk about their differences. You know how did that happen?


Map of Sierra Leone


Wars always happen. But then we live together.

I’m doing this work to be self-critical and to also celebrate our achievements.

At times, I get confronted by our own people like “Why are you doing that? Why are you airing our dirty laundry?” and my response is, “Airing dirty laundry to who? Check yourself!” It’s like saying “This person is beautiful because they have this color hair or this color skin,” You need to check yourself!

Y: Beyond bringing the festival to college spaces and giving libraries an opportunity to acquire films that elicit more robust representations of Africa, what are the other benefits of having a traveling series?

M: Oh the filmmaker! Absolutely! You’re introducing someone’s work. Look at over the years, Jean-Marie Teno, even Tunde Kelani, coming to your school or Sissako Abderrahmane coming to these universities or cultural centers that means you have to buy a copy of their work, and then they get invited to be artist-in-residence and do workshops, so definitely you’re also observing and a part of the trajectory of the artist. You grow with them. You’re part of the conversation of their story.


Afrique, je te plumerai…. (1992) by Jean-Marie Teno

It’s twofold—you have audience development and make it more accessible for a wider audience. We do outdoor screenings….I’ve been told films that we show shouldn’t be older than two years, but that’s so nonsensical that it’s not even funny. How do you weave the story if it can’t be more than two years old? There are some films that were done in early African cinema that are not even dated and they’re still some of the best films you’ve ever seen in your life, and it’s still part of the story; it’s contemporary life or futuristic life or whatever.

And it’s not only the audience development and making it accessible, but also the filmmakers, the artists who are like modern day griots who are giving us this face and voice. I want to give them that pedestal because they are doing a great, great, great service for us under very, very challenging conditions half the time.

Y: Do you have a message that you’d like to leave us with?

M: I’m really proud of our young, our millennials. The African diaspora millennials, who are soaking in these stories, who are engaging in conversation and who are taking action, because it’s about activism. Every change happens usually through the young. Through activism. They’re the ones that are the agents for change, i.e. what we’re seeing right now, what’s happening here. People do not realize that it’s not just  Black Lives Matter here, it’s happening all throughout the world. And even on the other extreme side these who are voting for Donald Trump, you have to also big enough to see and put yourself in someone else’s shoes, whether you agree with them or not. And that is part of your growth and your development. Part of humanity.

I think it feels like you’re on shaky ground, but at the same time, it’s the end of the era that cannot exist anymore. Something new has to happen. It’s like the force of nature. People don’t realize planting your feet on the living earth that is leaning too much on one side. It’s like equilibrium. We’re on shaky ground because the equilibrium is off. The plates of the world are off. And that is what is creating all of this pandemonium. And a lot of mad people. It affects people. It really does. I’m seeing that more and more in New York.

I feel as scary as it is, something new has to come out. It’s the browning of the world. You know, what constitutes White and Black, we’re becoming extinct, let’s face it. Latinos are going to be American, and Arabs are going to be European, okay? Look at the Great British Bakeoff. Did you see that?! The British tradition, the great British bake sale.  She had on a scarf. You’ve heard her first. She had this big Cockney accent! She had 300,000 Twitter followers and then you see the girl! She’s got on a scarf, she’s a Muslim kid! And she baked the hell out of the English! She got number one!

The 20th African Film Festival traveling series begins at Indiana University tonight, Sept. 12, 7pm, with Dare Fasasi’s HEAD GONE at the IU Cinema, and continues from Sept. 13-15 at the Black Film Center/Archive. 

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.


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

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.


  • 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.


      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.


      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.


      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.


      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.

      CHOLO soeur-oyo-556x368

      Cholo (2014)

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


      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


      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.


Gerald C. Butters, Author and Scholar


Beyond Blaxpoitation (forthcoming release, December, 2016)


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


      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


      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.


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

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


      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.



Filmmaker and author, Julie Dash

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


      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

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?

Danny and Michael
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.



“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.


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.”


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.



“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.”


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.”


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.”

Children of Whitney High Res

Sculptures of the Children of the Whitney Plantation


Whitney Plantation-elsahahne-dg3_02631089x725

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.


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.


Berry & Glover Photo

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.

A Huey P Newton Story

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.”


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.’”


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.

Beyonce Super Bowl-816ea4ca1e4d8517

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?


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.



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)



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.


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  To subscribe, visit