Category Archives: Events

Free Screening: THE HOUSE ON COCO ROAD, 6/22, 7pm

On Thursday, June 22, the Black Film Center/Archive presents a free screening of The House on Coco Road.  The screening will be held at 7pm at the IU Libraries Screening Room in Wells Library.  Reservations are required and can be made online at http://iub.libcal.com/event/3363205.

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Directed by Damani Baker, The House on Coco Road is a compelling story about Baker’s mother, Fannie Haughton, an arising social activist in the 1960s.  The film spans Baker’s family history, his upbringing in the San Francisco Bay Area with personal connections to Angela Davis and her sister Fania Davis, to spending some of his childhood on the Caribbean island of Grenada.  Grenada initially appeared to be a paradise, marking a turning point for Haughton after witnessing the harsh prejudices that African Americans often endured in her native Oakland hometown, but Grenada’s peaceful environment was short-lived.  The government experienced political upheaval, especially regarding the prime minister’s role as a leader, as well as the position of the military.  As Grenada’s leadership changed, the Reagan administration grew concerned with Grenada’s military and political alliances, and as a result, invaded Grenada, having a profound effect on this island nation.

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Damani Baker and Fannie Haughton

Baker’s film features interviews with his mother, as well as interviews with Angela Davis and Fania Davis. Baker also incorporates primary sources such as recorded tapes that he discovered, newspaper sources, and strong archival footage.  The House on Coco Road premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2016, and was announced in May 2017 as the 16th acquisition of ARRAY, a film distribution company founded by Ava DuVernay.

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Filmmaker Damani Baker

Damani Baker offers this synopsis of The House on Coco Road on the film’s website:

In 1979 the Grenadian people carry out the first successful revolution in the English speaking Caribbean. Maurice Bishop becomes Prime Minister. The Revolution attracts workers from around the world including my mother, Fannie Haughton.

In 1982 Angela Davis, her family, and my mother visit Grenada to witness this miraculous Peoples’ Revolution. In 1983 my mother is offered a position in the Ministry of Education and we leave our home in Oakland and move to Grenada. I’d never seen her happier.

Grenada was briefly our home. In 1983 the United States led a military invasion following the assassination of the young popular Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop. We hid under the bed for three days as bombs shook our new paradise, and changed its course forever. Sixteen years later, in 1999, I returned to Grenada with my mother, and began shooting a documentary film, searching for her story, one that felt not just untold, but unfinished.

In 2014, I discovered a box of family super 8 footage of my great grandmother in rural Louisiana on the land our family sharecropped and my grandmother’s migration west. I started to unravel my mother’s path to activism. I started to understand why my mother, and a group of tireless women, had put their lives on the line, daring to build a better world. You may not know their names, but they have changed the course of history.

For more information about the BFC/A screening, visit our Events page at http://www.indiana.edu/~bfca/events/

~Jessica Ballard

 


An Interview with African Film Festival Founder Mahen Bonetti

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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 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.

 

 


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:

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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.

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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:

 


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


BOAN of Contention: The 1979 IU Screenings of THE BIRTH OF A NATION

On November 12 and 13, the Black Film Center/Archive presents From Cinematic Past to Fast Forward Present: D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation – A Centennial Symposium. A full schedule of events, including keynotes, panels, and screening, is available at www.boancentennial.org. In anticipation of the symposium, BFC/A graduate assistant Dorothy Berry looks back to 1979, when “over 900 people came to see The Birth of a Nation at two very different screenings” on the campus of Indiana University, Bloomington.

James Baldwin’s 1976 description of The Birth of a Nation (BOAN) as both “one of the great classics of the American cinema” and “an elaborate justification of mass murder” succinctly captures the challenges of screening D.W. Griffith’s blockbuster film. There is no denying the seminal role of BOAN in American film history. There is also no denying the seminal role of BOAN in the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and the popular rewriting of the history of the Reconstruction South.

Controversies surrounding the screening of BOAN have often emerged from the intersection of those two truths. “Why shouldn’t we screen the runaway hit of 1915 that entertained hundreds of thousands?” “Why should we screen a film that has been actively used as recruitment propaganda for the Ku Klux Klan?” These questions were asked and argued on the Indiana University campus in the beginning of the 1979 spring semester when over 900 people came to see BOAN at two very different screenings.

BOAN has long been prized for its cinematic innovations and its role in the rise of film as popular entertainment. Many fans of classic film have screened BOAN simply as that – an entertaining film from the early days of the movie industry. This sort of screening was what the local chapter of the American Guild of Organists (AGO) had in mind when they sponsored a screening of BOAN at the IU Auditorium with live accompaniment from famed silent film organist, Dennis James, with a two-dollar ticket fee, as a fundraiser for the chapter. The screening was scheduled for Saturday, February 3, 1979, and was part of an ongoing silent film series.

The AGO screening was immediately met by pushback from IU students and faculty. The first complaint dealt with the issue of timing – screening BOAN in the first week of Black History Month, an observance that had only been federally recognized for three years at that point. AGO conceded this point in the face of protests and moved the screening to March 19th.

BOAN_1979

Protesters outside the IU Auditorium direct attendees to the counter-screening at Woodburn Hall, March 19, 1979. (Photo: Terry John)

The second complaint was more complex. An argument was made from faculty, students and members of the local community that BOAN should not be shown as a de-contextualized entertainment. AGO withdrew their sponsorship, but then amidst new counter-protests, decided to continue, asserting that the film had historic, artistic, and educational merit.

What makes this case study in the history of BOAN screenings so interesting, however, is that the original protestors never called for the film’s banning. The major concern dealt entirely with framing the screening. “We don’t advocate complete censorship of the film,” IU student and Black Student Union member Deborah Bailey told the Herald-Times. “What we advocate is a proper time for debate and discussion before and after the film.”

Framing concerns came to a head on March 19, 1979, when the IU campus offered two concurrent screenings of BOAN. The AGO screening with live accompaniment moved on in the auditorium, while across the campus in Woodburn Hall, a counter-screening and teach-in was scheduled to begin a half an hour later. Guided by professor of Afro-American studies Phyllis Klotman (who founded the Black Film Center/Archive at IU two years later) and film studies graduate student, Andetrie Smith, the Woodburn Hall counter-screening was inspired and organized by the Black Student Union, with support from the IU Students Association, the Residence Halls Association, and local organizations like the Monroe County NAACP branch and Black churches.

On the eve of the screenings, demonstrators gathered outside the auditorium, directing attendees to the Woodburn Hall event and handing out leaflets that advertised “Free Admission” and proper contextualization at the counter-screening. The Woodburn Hall counter-screening and teach-in ended up with around 300 attendees, nearly a full house. The IU Auditorium screening brought in 600 attendees, twice as many as the teach-in but a fairly small attendance given the venue’s 3,154 seat capacity.

Just hours before the screening and counter-screening, Dennis James, the organ accompanist, canceled his then-upcoming screening of The Ten Commandments, planned for April 15 at the IU Auditorium, saying that “I have no concept now of judging the college audience.”

~Dorothy Berry

 


Memorabilia from Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame on Exhibit at Grunwald Gallery

Phil Moore Plaque from the Supremes

Phil Moore Plaque from the Supremes

A number of items from the Mary Perry Smith/Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame (BFHFI) Archive Collection will be on display at the IU Grunwald Gallery from Friday, October 23 through Wednesday, November 18th as part of its exhibition “The Wunderkammer: Curiosities in Indiana University Collections.”

An opening reception will be held on Friday, October 23rd from 6:00-8:00 pm at the Grunwald Gallery and a noon talk will be presented by the curators and managers of several of the represented special collections on Friday, November 6th at the Gallery.

The BFC/A’s selections include movie memorabilia that was collected by the BFHFI as part of its plan to eventually open a brick and mortar museum. Featured are a painting of film actress Madame Sul-Te-Wan, hand prints created by Lena Horne and Stepin Fetchit on paper with graphite under the supervision of Oakland artist Casper Banjo, and several personal effects belonging to Hollywood composer and arranger Phil Moore.

Painting of Madame Sul-Te-Wan

Painting of Madame Sul-Te-Wan

Although the BFHFI was never able to establish its own museum, the BFC/A is excited for this opportunity to display some of the more unusual and eye-catching items from its archives as a way of illustrating the BFHFI’s far-reaching impact on thirty years of independent film and filmmakers and celebrating the life of BFHFI co-founder Mary Perry Smith.

Items from the collections at the IU Archives, Archives of African American Music and Culture, Lilly Library, Kinsey Institute, Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Art Museum, Department of Biology Herbarium, and Elizabeth Sage Costume Collection will also be represented as part of the exhibit.

Additional information about the exhibit is available on the Grunwald Gallery’s site at http://www.indiana.edu/~grunwald/exhibitions.php?pid=the-wunderkammer-curiosities-in-indiana-university-collections.