BlacKkKlansman Thoughts

Guest Post by Avery Hayden Pierce, IU ’18. 

BlackKkKlansman screens Nov 2 at 8PM and Nov 4 at 2PM  Indiana Memorial Union, 900 E. 7th St. Bloomington, Indiana 47405

I’ve considered Spike Lee to be retired for many years now. Oldboy (2013) began the descent and Chi-Raq (2015) marked the end of his creative ability. Even though I found his recent Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It (2017), a remake of his first feature film, entertaining, it did little to change my opinion of him as an artist. I saw it less as an indicator of newfound imagination, and took it more as a sign that Lee was content to relive the former glory of his early Joints. So, it was with much trepidation that I saw BlacKkKlansman (2018). Even though the initial reviews were positive I was prepared for the worst. Thankfully, BlacKkKlansman surpassed my low expectations. I found the film to be surprisingly subtle in its critiques, at least in comparison to other Spike Lee joints, and was impressed that he tried to touch upon new subject matter. I won’t go so far as to say that this is a complete return to form, but it’s proof that Spike is anything but content to settle into mediocrity.

Spike Lee’s BlackKkKlansman screens Nov 2 at 8PM and Nov 4 at 2PM 
Indiana Memorial Union

What surprised me most about the film was how deliberately different it is from the rest of his filmography, at least visually. He has largely abandoned many of his most distinct traits. Gone are the bold primary colors, here replaced with muted grays and rustic greens. The camera largely remains still, confident that the dialogue will hold the audience’s attention. And there are minimal references to other films and pop culture, save for a brief celebration of classic blaxploitation. Of course, this is still a Spike Lee Joint so there is the obligatory dolly zoom shot as well as a dark sense of humor.

However, the change that interested me the most was Spike’s discussion of Judaism, both its relationship with whiteness and similarities with black struggle. Flip Zimmerman, Adam Driver’s character, is ethnically Jewish but makes it clear he doesn’t identify as Jewish. He didn’t have a bar mitzvah, doesn’t go to temple, and has never read the Torah. Even when one of his co-workers comments that he is wearing a Jewish necklace, Flip reacts negatively and insists, “it’s not a Jewish necklace, it’s a Star of David.” It isn’t until he comes in conflict with the Klan does he realize that he may be excluded from whiteness.

John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth with Adam Driver as Flip Zimmerman in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, a Focus Features release.
Credit: David Lee / Focus Features

This isn’t completely new territory for Spike. He has criticized the construct of whiteness before, most notably in Jungle Fever. But he has never done so through the lens of religion or with a sympathetic angle. The audience is not meant to mock or judge Flip for realizing that he’s been passing as white. We are meant to applaud him for using this painful lesson as motivation for fighting against the Klan and the racism that is pervasive in the police force.

It’s impossible to separate a movie from the cultural conversations surrounding it, and so it is with a Spike Lee Joint.  When I went into the film Boots Riley’s criticism was at the forefront of my mind. Riley, and other primarily younger critics, argued that the film prioritized protecting the feelings of a white audience instead of pushing a more progressive message. And, at least on a surface level, that criticism bears true. Stallworth gives an impassioned speech about the value of the police, there are four police officers who are undoubtedly good guys, and speeches of black liberation are often juxtaposed with speeches of white nationalism. But after reflecting on the plot, and revisiting Spike’s earlier works, I’ve soured on Riley’s arguments.

The thrust of the social criticism against BlacKkKlansman is that it’s pro-cop and pushes the argument that the police, an inherently racist system, can be changed on the inside through good cops like Stallworth. They effectively declare the film to be propaganda. This argument only holds water if you ignore the last ten minutes of the film. Stallworth attempts to save Patrice, the president of the black student union and the love interest, but is thwarted by two white cops who don’t believe his claims of being an officer. Patrice is ultimately saved by the KKK’s own incompetence. Afterwards Chief Bridges calls off the investigation due to “budget cuts” and orders Stallworth to never contact the Klan again. Later Patrice makes it very clear that she’s dumping Stallworth because he’s a cop, and she can’t accept that according to her politics. The KKK then burns a cross in front of Stallworth’s apartment and the film immediately cuts to footage of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA in 2017, and footage of the murder of Heather Heyer.

The message of the final sequence is as blatant as it is bleak: Stallworth accomplished nothing. The Klan is still active and unafraid, David Duke will be elected in Louisiana, and Heather Heyer will die. The crosses will burn, and there is nothing Stallworth can do to stop it. The ending is nothing short of the complete unraveling of everything Stallworth tried to accomplish. By depicting Stallworth’s effort as a failure, if a noble one, it’s hard to see how BlacKkKlansman is advocating for changing the system from within. Stallworth tried that approach and has nothing to show for it. I struggle to see how anyone could misinterpret the final message of the film.

Boots Riley also chastised Spike for creating Flip Zimmerman. Arguing that since the real Ron Stallworth never partnered with a Jewish officer, then Flip is a tool created to propagandize the police. But this misunderstands the larger implications invoked by Flip’s identity as a Jewish man. Because of his heritage Flip is denied entry into whiteness by the violent gatekeepers of the KKK, even though he has always considered himself a part of the white monolith. But Flip is still able to infiltrate the Klan successfully. He does so by adopting the KKK’s accepted brand of whiteness, which mainly consists of saying nigger and shooting guns. Flip is so successful that David Duke uses him as an example of a great white man. The point of Flip Zimmerman isn’t to provide another sympathetic police officer for a white audience, but to undermine whiteness by showing the performative nature of race, further showing the illusions of the concept of race in general. Critics also are dismayed that Spike seems to draw a line between black liberation and white nationalism, often juxtaposing the two ideologies. I disregard this critique outright. I find it hard to believe that Spike Lee, a man who wholeheartedly agrees with Malcolm X’s quote “I don’t even call it violence when it’s self- defense, I call it intelligence”, truly believes that black liberation is on the same moral ground as white nationalism. To claim that he does is to take BlacKkKlansman entirely in bad faith.

Laura Harrier stars as Patrice and John David Washington as Ron Stallworth in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, a Focus Features release.
Credit: David Lee / Focus Features

Riley focuses on the political implications of Flip’s and Stallworth’s jobs as policeman, and in doing so he misses the true meaning of the film. BlacKkKlansman is not a film about cops vs the KKK or one black man’s quest to fix a broken system. No, it’s primarily about the ties that bind Jewish people and black people together in the decades long struggle against white supremacy in America. The oppressors see us as one and the same, Spike argues, so why bother dividing ourselves when we are stronger together? Either we confront the system as one or we shouldn’t even bother. This message is reinforced directly and indirectly throughout the whole film. Flip uses his status in the force to advocate for Stallworth’s investigation, Stallworth chastises Flip for not being more emotionally invested as a Jewish man, and they both rescue one another from danger multiple times. The message of racial solidarity isn’t presented in the brash tone to which we are accustomed from a Spike Lee Joint, but it’s there. BlacKKKlansman is a call for solidarity among all people in the struggle against white supremacy, for we are much stronger united than divided.

Avery Hayden Pierce is a Senior at Indiana University. He would one day like to produce feature films.


Go-Rilla Means War and Black People in Bloomington

Guest Post by Essence London, Indiana Review Editor-in-Chief.

September 20, 2018 the BFC/A held a Mystery Screening in partnership with #DirectedbyWomen and IU Libraries Moving Image Archive. The content of the screening was not announced beforehand. In the essay below guest contributor Essence London reflects on the event and her complex relationship to the histories of Black Bloomington. 

The Mystery Guest was Crystal Z. Campbell, a US artist and writer of African-American, Filipino and Chinese descents hailing from Oklahoma. Campbell’s work in analog film, video, sound, performance, sculpture, drawing, painting, photography, and community projects are excavations of unsettled historical narratives. Campbell uses art as a tool for agency, social transformation, and time-travel. IULMIA screened her 2017 film Go-Rilla Means War. The film is a relic of gentrification, and highlights the complex intersections of development, cultural preservation, and erasure in the form of an intricately woven parable and celluloid frames weathered by decades of urban neglect.


September 20, 2018, I entered a screening room on the ground floor of Indiana University’s library, a couple minutes late because that’s somehow become a habit. I stepped in and made eye contact with a calm woman wearing glasses and big hair. To show that I, both a stranger and a writer among film buffs, come in peace, I waved. I’m new here but I’m nice. I found a seat upfront, to the far left because my hair is also kinda big, and settled in, really curious due to the Mystery Screening frame for the event. I wondered what kind of film we’d be watching, how long it was; I wondered if the visiting filmmaker was already in the room. From the information included on the marketing materials—the Black Film Center/Archive as a host and the film as part of the #DirectedbyWomen series—I could infer that the filmmaker identifies as a Black woman. Even with no knowledge of her name or her image, no context on the film at all, there was a certain intrigue and attention that I noticed in my body as Go-Rilla Means War came onto the screen.

Reenactment, exhibition at BRIC Arts
From Go-Rilla Means War by Crystal Campbell. 35mm Film transferred to Digital Video, Paint, Bench, LED’s, Stereo Sound, Speakers. 20 minute Single Channel Video. 2017.

The film opens with strong, deep piano chords and the title set in white font over a background that shifts on beat between various shades of red. Within the first minute, I was struck by the seeming incongruence between the voiceover and the images on screen. I saw two boys searching for guidance from men while I heard a woman recount details of the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius and a long history Nydia figures. As the film progresses, more political threads are woven into the audio. There are clips of a Tawana Brawley press conference, a description of gentrified Bed-Stuy. We hear about the life of judge, community activist, martial artist, and filmmaker John L. Phillips and the last years of the Slave Theatre. Meanwhile, the visuals get increasingly stranger: the two boys poison a man and leave his body at a dining table staring at a mural on the wall, a cop pushes over what viewers believe is a woman, a man in a park simply looks in one direction then the next, a few martial arts segments climax inside a largely empty building.

Campbell_GMW 2
From Go-Rilla Means War (2017).

By the close of the film, the voiceover makes the connection between audio and visual explicit. She has told us the story of how she found the soundless film we’re watching as well as provided the historical, political, and artistic context. The Nydia she “may or may not have known,” is the narrative hinge, the woman who led her into the Slave Theatre, setting up the moment that a neglected film reel is kicked in the dark, rediscovered. Before this reveal, the features that merged the voiceover with the visual for me are the discoloration and the abstract scratches and patches moving atop the visual. I learned during the Q&A following the film that the blues and yellows, the overlaid textures weren’t edited in—that this film isn’t a new thing trying to look old. The damage is real, a result of years of chemical degradation and a result of the artist pulling frames apart to decipher what was on them. I also learned that the calm voice over the visuals belongs to the filmmaker Crystal Z Campbell, that the filmmaker was the calm woman I waved at when I first walked through the door.

Visual Artist Crystal Campbell was our Mystery Guest. Photo credit: Alexander A. Myers

Further into the discussion, Campbell pondered gentrification with us. Not only the effect of screening the film in various ironic settings like Woolworth’s Lunch Counter and galleries in gentrified neighborhoods, but also the fact that she’s an Oklahoman telling a Bed-Stuy story. She lived in Brooklyn for about a year and, while there, a friend told her she had to see the Slave Theatre. Clear, Go-Rilla Means War is an experimental documentary. Though a geographic outsider, Campbell nurtured 20,000 frames and has plans to continue this project, to revise it, and to play a part in the evolution and the survival of the Slave Theatre in human memory and record.


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I’m in Bloomington for what may or may not be a final year. Go-Rilla Means War made me want to learn more about the city where I currently reside and the Black people who have contributed to it. I visited the Monroe County History Center after hearing about their exhibit Breaking the Color Barrier: Bloomington’s Firsts. Before my son and I passed the pay desk even, the hostess apologetically explained that they’d hoped to have a more elaborate display and that they plan on integrating more information like it into the permanent exhibits. I expected to see first Black principals, athletes, and government officials. This is what they had with a few uniforms and props to illustrate. I also expected to see details about the first Kappa Alpha Psi chapter, the first business opened by a Black person in the area, the first community center in a Black neighborhood, etc. That is what they did not have. So I went to the Banneker the following week.

Historical marker at the entrance of the Banneker Center, 2018.

Not long after moving here in 2016, I found information online about the Banneker, a community center that was a school only for Black students during segregation. I’d only visited once before because it’s out of the way from my apartment. This time around, I spoke with the director, a young white man who’s been there three years and Pauline Bridgwaters whose grandmother was one of the Banneker’s first students. They told me it’s been a struggle to serve the children and families the building has historically served due to surrounding gentrification. Their lack of parking, for example, didn’t pose a problem until Black families were pushed into neighborhoods out of walking distance. Luckily though, the Banneker has its own library and is preserving its own story. While there, I encountered a visual timeline mounted to the walls, interviews of locals associated with the Banneker collected by high school students, framed photos over a glass display case containing relics like workbooks and the loveliest pair of pink earrings. And there’s been no effort to demolish the center, though it needs some of the same maintenance and architectural attention that Boys and Girls Clubs in the city have received. I suspect that the same subtle guilt for neglecting Black communities that I noticed at the History Center may be part of the reason why, but that’s probably not it. As I left the Banneker, the director and a group of volunteers were discussing plans for a Halloween party—pumpkins and table activities and candy bags for kids who show without one. The people connected to the center are working hard to keep it fun and relevant to the families it does serve.

Display case in the Banneker library.
Display honoring the Bridgwaters family.
Breaking the Color Barrier exhibit description.

The Slave Theatre wasn’t so fortunate to outlive gentrification or efforts to destroy it. In 2017, it was sold for $18.5 million and torn down. It makes all the sense in the world for Campbell’s Go-Rilla Means War to end with Tawana Brawley saying, “I simply want justice then I want to be left alone.” When I heard that statement, I said, “Okay?” in my Black Women In Agreeance voice. This approach to our communities may be all we have left in order to heal and survive and take them back. I’ll remember Brawley’s words whenever I return home to Little Rock. I’ve got idealistic aspirations to help rebuild the clubs, the beauty shops and restaurants, the theatre that my city destroyed in the 1960s and 70s. Thank you Crystal Z Campbell for merging image, sound, color, time, and place in Go-Rilla Means War, for getting me to think about revitalization with a complex, non-linear frame. The work is only beginning. The work never ends.


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


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.

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.

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

~Jessica Ballard


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.



SEMBENE! directors Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman visit Indiana University, Oct. 19-20

With a filmography spanning over forty years, Senegal’s Ousmane Sembène (1923-2007) earned international renown as a revolutionary artist and as the “Father of African Cinema” for his indigenized filmmaking practice. Sembène eschewed Western languages and narrative style for a new cinematic aesthetic drawing from African storytelling traditions, performed in African languages (Wolof, Diola, Bambara), and expressly produced for African audiences. Sembène has been heard to say: “Africa is my ‘audience’ while the West and the ‘rest’ are only targeted as ‘markets.’” Fifty years on from his first feature production, the Black Film Center/Archive and IU Cinema celebrate his legacy with a series featuring a new documentary and digital restorations of two of his earliest films.


In addition to the October 19 screenings of La Noire De … (Black Girl) and Borom Sarret (The Wanderer), the new biographical documentary Sembène! will be shown at IU Cinema on Tuesday, October 20th, with filmmakers Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman scheduled to attend. This will follow a roundtable discussion with BFC/A director Michael T. Martin.

Reviewing its 2015 premiere at Sundance, Bilge Ebiri wrote that, of all the festival’s entries this year, “no film demonstrated the power of cinema more resonantly than Sembène!” The documentary chronicles Ousmane Sembène’s fascinating life as a militant artist, self-taught novelist, and “Father of African Cinema.” Using rare archival footage, animation, and the firsthand experience of Sembène expert and colleague Samba Gadjigo, the filmmakers present an honest and complex portrait of a man whose significance to modern African culture cannot be overstated.

Jason Silverman and Samba Gadjigo


Sembène! emerges also as Gadjigo’s story, as he recounts the ways that Sembène’s work transformed his life. The Mount Holyoke professor was born in Senegal, where his life was changed by Sembène’s novel, God’s Bits of Wood. After earning his PhD from the University of Illinois, Gadjigo returned to Africa to connect with the artist who had such a formative impact on his life. “We worked together for 17 years,” Gadjigo told Indiewire. “and it was an honor to help him bring his stories into the world. On the day of his death, I promised that I would not let his stories be forgotten. That’s why we made this film.”

Jason Silverman, who is the director of the cinemathèque at the Center of Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, reached out to Samba Gadjigo as part of an effort to include more African film in the center’s programming. “I knew Jason was so knowledgeable about the cinema world,” Gadjigo told BOMB Magazine, “so I told him I had all this [Sembène] material and wanted him to help me organize it. A film really wasn’t the idea so much as building a website to share all this material with the world. He looked at me and said, ‘No. We should make a movie!’”

Ousmane Sembène


In conjunction with the IU Cinema and BFC/A screening series, Sembène: Father of African Cinema, Black Film Center/Archive director Michael T. Martin will moderate a roundtable discussion of Sembène’s work and legacy. This discussion will follow from the previous evening’s screenings of the World Cinema Project‘s digital restorations of La Noire De … (Black Girl) and Borom Sarret (The Wanderer).

Roundtable discussion participants include:

Akin Adesokan, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature

Samba Gadjigo, Professor of French, Mount Holyoke College, and Co-Director of Sembène! (2015)

Eileen Julien, Director, Institute for Advanced Study, and Professor of French and Comparative Literature

Michael T. Martin, Director, Black Film Center/Archive, and Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, The Media School

Jason Silverman, Cinematheque Director, Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe, and Co-Director of Sembène! (2015)

The event is free, and begins at 3:30 PM, before the evening’s screening of Sembène!  This series is sponsored by the Black Film Center/Archive, The Media School, the Cinema and Media Studies program, and the departments of African Studies, French and Italian, and Comparative Literature.

~Jezy Gray

Celine Sciamma’s GIRLHOOD at the IU Cinema this week, May 28-30

Girlhood is a mesmerizing exercise in the enlightenment that can happen when a filmmaker shifts the male cinematic gaze ever so slightly and uncovers what looks like a whole new world.”–Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

Marieme/ Vic with her “bande de filles”

Director Celine Sciamma calls Girlhood (original title: Bande de Filles) the conclusion of her unplanned coming-of-age trilogy, following her 2006 debut Water Lilies and 2011’s Tomboy. Sciamma’s films bear little relation to the easily digestible, feel-good dramadies often associated with the coming-of-age moniker; instead, they draw from the genre’s strength–juxtaposing universal experiences of love, friendship, fear, and struggle with the particularities of an individual’s development–to bring to light stories and perspectives that are often neglected, both in reality and onscreen. Sciamma’s first two films explore queer sexuality and gender identity; Girlhood follows the everyday lives of France’s lower-class women of color. As Sue Harris writes in her Sight & Sound review: “This is no quietly incremental coming-of-age narrative, but a brash, at times distressing series of snapshots of the life of undereducated black working-class girls on the bottom rung of every social and economic ladder.”

Karidja Touré as Marieme

Featuring non-professional actresses discovered at casting calls in the working class suburbs of Paris, the film follows a young teen named Marieme (Karidja Touré) as she transforms herself into “Vic” through her entry into a gang of teenage girls who commit petty crimes together but also watch out for one another, defending against the isolation and insecurity that stems from abusive personal relationships and their marginalized status in contemporary French society.

GIRLHOOD is playing at the Indiana University Cinema on May 28th and 29th at 7PM, and May 30th at 3PM. The Blu-ray edition of the film will also be available as part of the Black Film Center/ Archive’s permanent collection.

Roger Ross Williams’ GOD LOVES UGANDA at IU Cinema

“I thought about following the activists – brave and admirable men and women…But I was more curious about the people who, in effect, wanted to kill me.”

– Roger Ross Williams, Director/Producer, GOD LOVES UGANDA

Roger Ross Williams
Roger Ross Williams

On Sunday, September 7th, at 3:00 PM, the Indiana University Cinema will present a free screening of GOD LOVES UGANDA, the 2013 documentary produced and directed by Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams (MUSIC BY PRUDENCE).  Eric Love, Director, Office of Diversity Education, and Barbara Dennis, Associate Professor in the School of Education, will be present for a discussion after the film.  This event is sponsored by IU’s GLBT Student Support Services, the Office of Diversity Education (a unit of the Office of Diversity, Equity, & Multicultural Affairs), the Commission on Multicultural Understanding, the Black Film Center/Archive, and IU Cinema.

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo visiting a rural school in Uganda. Photo Credit: Crispin Buxton

From the film’s website:

As an American-influenced bill to make homosexuality punishable by death wins widespread support, tension in Uganda mounts and an atmosphere of murderous hatred takes hold. The film reveals the conflicting motives of faith and greed, ecstasy and egotism, among Ugandan ministers, American evangelical leaders and the foot soldiers of a theology that sees Uganda as ground zero in a battle for billions of souls.

Through verité, interviews, and hidden camera footage – and with unprecedented access – GOD LOVES UGANDA takes viewers inside the evangelical movement in both the US and Uganda.

For more information, please visit the IU Cinema website at