Category Archives: Uncategorized

In Light Film Festival 2015 Begins Today at IU Cinema

In Light Film Festival will start this Thursday, March 5th, and run through Saturday, March 7th. Two filmmaker roundtables will be held on Friday, March 6th and Saturday, March 7th.  Featured among the films is 2012’s Call Me Kuchu, an essential complement to Roger Ross Williams’ documentary, God Loves Uganda, which screened at IU Cinema in September 2014.

David Kato in CALL ME KUCHU

David Kato in CALL ME KUCHU

 

“The In Light Film Festival is aimed at promoting and supporting the intersections of human rights and documentary film. Documentary films have long been used as effective teaching aids and as tools for public debate on contemporary socio-political issues. ILFF aims to facilitate dialogue between professionals in the field of human- rights documentaries and the general public.” ~IU Cinema Program

THURSDAY, MARCH 5

3 PM The Special Needdir. Carlo Zoratti/ 84 min./ 2013

5:30 PM Call Me Kuchudir. Katherine Fairfax Wright & Malika Zouhali-Worrall/ 87 min./ 2012

8:00 PM Sepideh – Reaching for the Starsdir. Berit Madsen/90 min./ 2015

FRIDAY, MARCH 6

2:30 PM Watchers of the Sky/ dir. Edet Belzberg/ 120 min./ 2014

5:30 PM The Return to Homsdir. Talal Derki/ 94 min./ 2013

8:00 PM Mala Mala/ dir. Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini/ 87 min./ 2014

SATURDAY, MARCH 7

2:30 PM The Case Against 8/ dir. Ben Cotner and Ryan White/ 109 min./ 2014

5:30 PM Slums: Cities of Tomorrow/ dir. Jean Nicolas Orhon/ 81 min./ 2015

8:00 PM Reporterodir. Bernardo Ruiz/ 71 min./ 2012

The March 6th and 7th roundtables will run from 12:00-2:00 PM, and will expand upon the films. Please encourage your students and classmates to attend the screenings and participate in the roundtables.

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All events are free and will be held at the IU Cinema. Space at the roundtables and film screenings are limited; please direct any group ticketing requests to ILFF@indiana.edu.

If you have any questions about the festival please feel free to visit the In Light Film Festival website or contact ILFF@indiana.edu.

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Archival Spotlight: Rediscovered Maya Angelou Series “Blacks, Blues,Black!”

In 2009, Alex Cherian of the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive found an unidentified 16mm  reel in a can simply labeled “Dr. Angelou.” His inspection of the film revealed stunning color footage of Maya Angelou touring the neighborhood of Watts and speaking with another woman, an activist and scholar, about the history of race riots. Though it was discovered in the KQED collection, nothing on the can or in the footage offered any information about the material’s source.

188781 MaryJaneHewitt

In a recent interview, Cherian said that he was curious about the identity of the other woman in the clip and eager to find out where the footage came from. After asking around about Angelou’s television appearances, some colleagues mentioned that they had memories of a public television series called “Blacks, Blues, Black!” that she had hosted in the late 1960s. Yet there was nothing with this title in the KQED collection, and he came up short in his many calls to universities and libraries in his search for the program. Calls to Dr. Angelou’s office revealed that they were also eager to recover the series, but  had no idea if it still existed. “At this point,” Cherian said, “I was wondering if it had been destroyed.”

Alex Cherian at work

In 2013, Alex placed a call to the Library of Congress and sure enough, a search located the title “Blacks, Blues, Black!” in the database, but there was a hitch. “The Library of Congress couldn’t tell me anything about it,” said Cherian. The collection was a deposit by WNET, meaning that it was not for public use. Contacts at WNET confirmed that they had deposited the 10-part 1968 series on two-inch videotapes, but as far as they knew, nothing had been done with them since. To complicate matters, they weren’t really sure who held the copyright. Cherian offered to have the television archive re-master the tapes, and perhaps the show’s credits would then give insight into the copyright holder. From there, the archive raised the funds needed for the transfer in under a year through licensing fees from local commercial work. Upon completion, NET agreed that KQED was most likely the holder of the copyright, and the digitization initiative moved forward.

Two weeks before Dr. Angelou’s death, Cherian once again contacted her office assistant Mrs. Patricia Casey, who relayed the message that Angelou was “over the moon” about the rediscovery of her series.

Cherian discovered that the woman speaking with Dr. Angelou in the first fragment (which turned out to be from episode 9) was Mary Jane Hewitt of UCLA. He hopes that Dr. Hewitt will have a chance to revisit her conversation with Dr. Angelou.

Blacks, Blues, Black! is a fascinating document of a brief period of time, following the assassination of Dr. King, when a politicized black perspective found a place on the public airways. Its rediscovery places it in conversation with other shows from the same period like Soul! And Black Journal; programs that Devorah Heitner noted in her recent book Black Power TV, “created both local and national ‘black public squares’ on the air” (15).

In the series introduction, Dr. Angelou explains that much of American culture and society—ranging from music and literature to gesture and affectation—is rooted in, or has been taken from, African Culture. The program’s focus is uplift and education through Afrocentrism and a “Black is Beautiful” outlook, cultural movements associated with this late-1960s moment. At the same time, Angelou and Hewitt’s historically-situated discussion of the complexities of racial oppression and rioting continues to resonate (#fergusonsyllabus).

The full series is available through the Bay Area TV Archive’s digital collections.

For more on the rediscovery of the series, see the SF State News coverage: “Classic African American culture series rediscovered”

If you have any information regarding “Blacks, Blues, Black!” contact Alex Cherian at acherian@sfsu.edu. All information will be added to the series record within the Bay Area TV Archive.

~Noelle Griffis


Visiting Filmmaker Zeinabu irene Davis Kicks Off The “Black Silence” Film Series on Friday 2/20

Zeinabu irene Davis, a filmmaker and professor at UCSD, will be in Bloomington to present her 1999 feature film, Compensation, at the IU Cinema on Friday, February 20, at 6:30 PM.  This screening is free but ticketed.

Spirits-of-RebellionEarlier on Friday at 1:00 PM, Davis will be at the BFC/A in Wells Library 044 to present and discuss clips from her documentary work-in-progress, Spirits of Rebellion: Black Film at UCLA, and her 2010 documentary short, Momentum: A Conversation with Black Women on Achieving Advanced Degrees. If interested in attending the 1PM event, please RSVP to bfca@indiana.edu as seating is limited.

 Also during her visit, Davis will meet with students in CMCL instructor Russell Sheaffer’s class, C335: Production as Criticism: DIY Filmmaking, and with student leaders of campus diversity organizations.

compensation_front Compensation, Davis’s first feature, presents two unique African American love stories between a deaf woman and a hearing man, both set in Chicago a century apart.  Inventive use of sign language and intertitles makes the film accessible for deaf and hearing audiences.

Davis’ visit will commence the two-part series “Black Silence: Films by Zeinabu irene Davis and Charles Lane” at the IU Cinema. Decades before The Artist sparked an international silent revival, two independent features—Charles Lane’s Sidewalk Stories and Zeinabu irene Davis’ Compensation—bookended the heyday of the Black New Wave with bold formal experiments incorporating markers of silent cinema into contemporary explorations of friendship, social inequality, and Black experience. Davis and Lane’s films, which both evoke the silent era by choice, will each be paired with a short film that is silent by technological necessity.

Davis began her filmmaking career as a member of the L.A. Rebellion—the first group of African American filmmakers to graduate from UCLA’s film school. The first films made by artists in the group, known as their “Project One” films, were silent 8mm or 16mm shorts. These films made use of the limitations and possibilities of silent, small-gauge filmmaking to explore issues and everyday realities relevant to African American audiences.  Compensation will follow Daydream Therapy (1977), the “Project One” film directed by fellow L.A. Rebellion filmmaker Bernard Nicolas. Filmed in Burton Chace Park in Marina del Rey, this short film poetically envisions the fantasy life of a hotel worker whose daydreams provide an escape from workplace indignities, set to Nina Simone’s “Pirate Jenny.”

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Sidewalk Stories tells the story of a modern day “tramp” and his unlikely friendship with a lost child. Lane pairs the playful, comedic charm of Chaplin with the often harrowing social realism of Lionel Rogosin to explore class relations and homelessness in late 1980s New York City. Lane remains faithful to silent cinema style, while exploring themes of race and social inequalities that were largely absent throughout the American film cannon. 220px-Natural_Born_Gambler

Lane’s film will follow early comic star Bert Williams’ A Natural Born Gambler (1916). The rare silent era film to be produced and directed by an African American will provide a point of comparison, as well as a striking point of departure to Lane’s feature. Williams’ performance reflects his vaudeville persona, which made use of stereotypes that appealed to mostly white audiences (cheating, trickery, buffoonery, and heavy minstrel dialect); at the same time, Williams’ comic gifts and leading role (both on screen and behind the camera as writer and director) made him a beloved and impressive figure during a time when African Americans were denied such recognition.

The print for A Natural Born Gambler is preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with support from The Lillian Gish Trust for Film Preservation. Thank you to the Museum of Modern Art Film Preservation Center for the generous loan of their 35mm print. Live piano accompaniment will be provided by IU Jacobs School of Music student Shawn McGowan.

postcard_backThanks to Zenabu irene Davis for the use of her personal 16mm print of Compensation as held in trust by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. The Digibeta of Daydream Therapy is also being provided by the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Additional Details on the IU Cinema website and the BFC/A website.

 


Casting Natural Light: A Discussion with Spike Lee’s Cinematographer Daniel Patterson

The BFC/A blog welcomes guest contributor, Terri Francis.  Professor Francis is a scholar of cinemas in the black diaspora, particularly independent black film, Caribbean film and Afrosurrealism. She will offer her course Spike Lee’s Filmworks in the spring 2016 semester through the IU Media School. Meanwhile see her Pinterest archive for Spike Lee’s Filmworks here.

Casting Natural Light: A Discussion with Spike Lee’s Cinematographer Daniel Patterson 

Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

By Terri Francis

Daniel Patterson’s work is on television every night of the week on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, because he photographed the Spike Lee-directed opening sequence. But do we really see the cinematographer’s craft?

Naturally, we see the cinematographer’s work the entire time we are watching a movie but we tend to attribute the images to the director or else we look right through them.

Let’s talk with Patterson about the work that directors of photography do, how he approaches his craft, and the look that he brought to Spike Lee’s “newest hottest” Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014).

Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

EARLY INFLUENCES

Terri Francis (TF): When or how did you first become aware of and fascinated by photographs? 

Daniel Patterson (DP): I grew up watching and loving movies. My first memory of being aware of the specific craft of photography, I cannot say I actually remember. It had to have been a Spike Lee joint, probably School Daze: the music, the color, the movement, choreography, and production design. I had no idea at the time, but my visual appetite and sensibility were being activated.

TF: Was there a particular moment when you become taken with cinematography? 

DP: My first film experience did it. On 25th Hour, I watched the DP and Spike make decisions. At the time, I thought Rodrigo [Prieto] was some kind of mad scientist genius. My first feature film experience made me want to demystify the process of filmmaking and cinematography, for myself, and anyone else who I could teach.

TF: For our students, what exactly is the role of the cinematographer as you see it? What do you try to bring to this role?

DP: The cinematographer helps bring the director’s vision to life using the moving image. [This includes] the choice of camera, choice of lenses, camera angles, camera movement, choreography within the frame, [and] color palette choices. We help the director visually construct what is in his or her head. Cinematographers are technicians and creative, essentially utilizing all of our knowledge and experience to make the dream a “reality.”

Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

CRAFT

TF: Now that I’ve seen your work in Out in the Night, Gun Hill Road, Evolution of a Criminal, Newlyweeds and now Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, I’m really curious about how you apply your take on cinematography in your features, and how it differs from your work in documentaries: Do you approach documentary differently from fiction? What about in a doc like Evolution of a Criminal, which includes dramatized sequences as well as the interviews?  You talked about this a little bit in your Shadow and Act interview so maybe you could expand on that?

DP: I do not know what I said to Shadow and Act. What I can say now is this: Documentaries are narrative. Fictional features are narrative. Two different types of storytelling, but it is still all storytelling. In both instances I must talk with a director about visuals. How do we want each beat to feel, each scene to feel, each moment to feel? The design/visual language differs, depending on the style. I try to approach each film like, “how do we tell this story.” The reality is, in documentary, you get limited takes–generally one take. My improvisational skills are used a lot more while shooting documentary [and] I get to be production designer of sorts, as well DP, 1st AC, camera operator, media manager/downloader. A lot of the docs I’ve done have been crews ranging from 2-5 people. Everyone wears more hats while in production. In fiction, you can have an actor die as many takes as you need. All in all, similar ingredients go into telling a story, you just tend to have less time and takes, essentially making it for less equipment and crew. [Speaking] from my indie world experience. I am non-union.

TF: Would you say your cinematography is a kind of authorship, where your stamp is on the movie, or are you more facilitating the director’s vision? Or maybe the screenwriter’s or actors’? 

DP: DPs should support the vision of the director. We should also always have creative input. Both. Both should be there always. Filmmaking is like cooking. You need the right ingredients at the right temperature for the right amount of time. Each dish we prepare is different and always is subject to the desired affects. Who is our audience? What flavors do they enjoy, or what might they enjoy that they have not tasted?

TF: What’s your relationship to editors? Do you watch daily rushes or do you focus on capturing the image and taking day by day?

DP: I do not edit. I watch dailies every day on a feature film. We try to. Sometimes time does not allow. After the editor does his job, I love putting the finishing touches in the colorgrade. Colorgrading happens after the edit.

Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

DA SWEET BLOOD OF JESUS

TF: Spike has worked with some terrific cinematographers like Ernest Dickerson and Arthur Jafa in close collaborations. How did you connect with Spike? How would you describe your collaboration? 

DP: My first film set was a Spike joint. I also went to NYU graduate film school, and Spike Lee is a professor there and he is artistic director for the grad film program.

I took on his plans with Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus. Spike is amazing because he knows what he wants… after we get the “necessities,” we play. His creative collaborative openness as a director, after all these exceptional filmmaking years, is awesome. I appreciate it a lot because I often work with young new directors who are no-Spike-Lee.

TF: How much did you talk about the movie before you got the job? And how did you discuss the film? How did Spike communicate what he wanted—or did he? Could you give us an idea of how that all happened?

DP: We talked a lot…a lot of conversations. Spike also told me some films to check out.

He called me late on a Friday night and asked me to DP. I said yes. I thought I was dreaming.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

ADAPTATION

TF: Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is more like a literary adaptation than a literal remake. How much did you as the cinematographer look at or think about Bill Gunn’s Ganja and Hess? Were there certain must-haves? Anything that inspired you? Or things that you really wanted to avoid?

DP: Sadly, I have never seen Ganja and Hess…though it is on my list of movies to watch. My professor at NYU, Charles Blackwell was a camera operator on Ganja and Hess. I like to approach films open, and truth is that time did not allow for me to watch many films before we started. We shot the film in 16 days, i.e. we did everything FAST.

TF: I’m surprised seeing Ganja and Hess wasn’t part of the process. Makes sense though! It gives you more freedom to elaborate and imagine from Spike’s script. And you can respond to the two environments where the movie is set. Am I on the right track?

DP: Seeing Ganja and Hess was 100% on the list of films the director gave me to see in pre-production. The unfortunate fact that I was unable to see it was supplemented by the freedom to imagine from the script.

TF: I noticed that the red blood isn’t that red–like a bright red, which is more naturalistic. Right? Was that a decision on your part? And if so what was the thinking there?

DP: I love naturalism. The blood not being poppy was for the reasons you stated. That was part was me. Yes I was thinking dark and naturalistic regarding the blood.

Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

TF: How would you describe the overall color palate for the film?

DP: Color: naturalism, naturalistic. More colorful and lush on Martha’s Vineyard.

We added grain/grit to NYC. Also we made it less saturated in NYC. The opening NYC sequence was meant to be special, no grain, not so heavy with the de-saturated colors

Those decisions had to do with Dr. Hess and where he is mentally and emotionally, scene to scene, location to location, beat to beat.

TF: The image that has stayed with me is a shot of the first woman Hess picks up where she has lipstick on her teeth. I guess echoing blood. Also the character was great!

DP: Great character! That shot stays with me too.

TF: Is there anything you want to say that I didn’t ask?

DP: I just want to say that we are in the midst of exciting times in filmmaking. New and more affordable quality technology allows stories to be told by people who may not have had this opportunity without it. I look forward to the audience experiencing all the new cinematic flavors and cinematic languages that are to come. Thank you.


Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is available online via Vimeo ahead of its theatrical release on February 13, 2015. The new Spike Lee Joint revisits the late Bill Gunn’s Ganja and Hess as a literary source but it is not a shot-for-shot remake of the 1973 indie gothic film. Set on Martha’s Vineyard and in Red Hook, Brooklyn Da Sweet Blood of Jesus seems to connect with Red Hook Summer, perhaps beginning where the 2013 film ended. Planned Super 8, a format featured prominently in Red Hook Summer, did not make the cut for Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.

Some of Da Sweet Blood of Jesus’s most memorable moments emphasize naturalistic lighting and Patterson seems particularly skilled at framing intimate scenes with an improvised feel that reveal a character’s vulnerability and introspection.

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, (re)introduces a cast of rare middle-class black diaspora characters into contemporary American cinema while exploring various addictions including lust, lies, greed, social status, and religious belief.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

Through Lee’s Kickstarter campaign to fund Da Sweet Blood of Jesus he not only brought the public into the filmmaking process, but he also opened up the usually hidden inner-workings of how movies get made and get seen. If Spike Lee, award-winning director of over 30 groundbreaking films in multiple genres, has to crowdfund then what is going on in Hollywood? In this film and in its paratextual materials, Lee elevates entertainment media to platforms of critical discussion about film and culture.

Patterson says he enjoys the collaborative process between a director and a cinematographer as he works to adapt and learn how to work with that particular director. A visual craftsman, he is drawn to a story by the narrative: “I read the script and if I feel the story, if it’s something I’m interested in seeing I say let’s talk. I talk to the director about his or her vision and we can take it from there.” See Patterson’s interview in Studio A, a film colloquium at George Mason University here.

Patterson and his NYU peers have cultivated their network through continuing to collaborate after graduation. Filmmaker and former classmate Darius Clark Monroe (who visited IU Cinema in fall 2014) said of Patterson, “I’ve had the great pleasure of collaborating with DP on 5 projects (Shorts: Testify, Midway, Train, and Dirt; Feature: Evolution of a Criminal), spanning the last decade. Beyond his technical expertise, and this may sound strange, but I love the fact that Daniel is a great observer of human behavior and the human condition. He’s a people watcher and a great listener. Daniel has traveled all over the world, observing, shooting and processing the phenomenon that is this universe and the miracle that we call life. His spirit and perspective are invaluable to our creative process.” Patterson and Monroe’s next collaboration is a feature called Year of our Lord – about a Brooklyn couple whose son may or may not be the second coming of Christ. Train and Evolution of a Criminal feature naturalistic lighting and a willingness to explore moral ambiguity and human frailty.


Tech Specs for Da Sweet Blood of Jesus

Camera: SonyF55 using Sony lenses.

Lighting: HMIs KinoFlos, various tungsten units, and sometimes 0% film lights.

Color Grading: Postproduction at Nice Dissolve

Features Filmography for Daniel Patterson

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, Spike Lee, 2014

Evolution of a Criminal, directed by Darius Clark Monroe, 2014

Out in the Night, directed by Blair Dorosh-Walther, 2014

Newlyweeds, directed by Shaka King, 2013

Gun Hill Road, directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green, 2011


Films by Pioneering Filmmaker Jessie Maple to Screen at MoMA and Lincoln Center This Month

In 1975, Jessie Maple won her hard fought battle to become the first African American woman to become a member of the union of International Photographers of Motion Picture & Television (IATSE) in New York.  Following several years of producing short documentaries with her husband Leroy Patton for their company LJ Film Productions, Maple directed her first narrative feature Will in 1981. The groundbreaking work will screen in New York twice this month during two innovative programming series at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Lincoln Center.  The 16mm print screening at both venues is courtesy of the Black Film Center/ Archive, where the film was recently preserved with support from NYWIFT’s Women’s Film Preservation Fund. Maple’s second feature, Twice as Nice (1989), will also screen during the Lincoln Center Program.

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On February 3rd, MoMA will present Maple’s first feature about a former athlete who recovers from drug addiction with the help of a homeless boy. Shot on location, Will depicts early 1980s street-life in Harlem in all of its complexity, but without sensationalizing its people and places.  Will won an award at the Athens International Film Festival and was used as an educational film at many New York drug rehabilitation centers.

Will screens in the “New York, NY” program alongside Shirley Clarke’s Bridges-Go-Round (1958) and Elaine Summers’ Windows in the Kitchen (1977) as part of the series “Carte Blanche: Women’s Film Preservation Fund: Women Writing the Language of Cinema” that runs from Feb. 2-15, 2015. In 1995, New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) and The Museum of Modern Art established the Women’s Film Preservation Fund (WFPF) in order to preserve the cultural legacy of women in the film industry. In celebration of the program’s 20th anniversary, MoMA has invited the WFPF programming committee to select films that reflect the role of women in the development of cinema as art. Other screenings of note include Spencer Williams’ Dirtie Girtie from Harlem U.S.A. (1946), featuring Harlem dancer Francine Everett, which is programmed with Julie Dash’s recently preserved 1982 feature, Illusions.

On Monday, February 16th, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will present “An Evening with Jessie Maple,” featuring a screening of both of Maple’s feature films and a Q&A with the filmmaker, as part of their phenomenal February series,“Tell it Like it Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986″.

From the Film Society of Lincoln Center Press Release: “The series will feature key films, starting with William Greaves’s seminal  Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One and culminating with Spike Lee’s first feature, the independently produced She’s Gotta Have It which launched a new era of studio filmmaking by black directors. During this time, activist New York–based black independent filmmakers created an exciting body of work despite lack of support and frequent suppression of minority film production. Women filmmakers play a prominent role throughout the series, starting with the exclusive one-week theatrical premiere of Losing Ground, directed by the late Kathleen Collins, one of the first feature films written and directed by a black woman. Madeline Anderson will present her films, including the classic I Am Somebody, her first documentary, as well as work from Black Journal. Filmmakers Christine Choy, Susan Robeson, and Camille Billops will discuss their work screened in the Women’s Work Program, a selection of films bringing to light the remarkable contributions of female storytellers and their image-making prowess. Trailblazer Jessie Maple, will be in attendance on February 16 to present her films Will and Twice As Nice.”

Jessie Maple screening times:

Museum of Modern Art
Tuesday, February 3rd, 4:00 PM
Will (Maple, 1981) Full Details here.

Film Society of Lincoln Center
Monday, February 16th, 6:30 PM
“An Evening with Jessie Maple” featuring a Q&A following a screening of Will. Full Details here.

Film Society of Lincoln Center
Monday, February 16th, 8:45 PM
Twice as Nice (Maple, 1989) Introduction by Jessie Maple. Full Details here.  

Both screenings of Will to be presented on 16mm, courtesy of the Black Film Center/ Archive’s Jessie Maple Collection. For more on Jessie Maple, check out our 2012 “Into the Archive” spotlight post on the Maple collection: Exploring the Jessie Maple Collection

Read “Shadow and Act’s” 2013 review of Will following its restoration here.


Free from IU Press: “Conversations with Ava DuVernay”

The Fall 2014 Black Camera special feature on SELMA director Ava DuVernay is now available for free download at JSTOR, courtesy of the Indiana University Press: link

DuVernay and Martin

Ava DuVernay with BFC/A director Michael T. Martin, September 2013

“Conversations with Ava DuVernay – ‘A Call to Action': Organizing Principles of an Activist Cinematic Practice” is drawn from discussions between DuVernay and Black Film Center/Archive director Michael T. Martin during the filmmaker’s 2013 visit to the BFC/A and IU Cinema.

An excerpt:

MTM:You’re… an African American woman, in an industry dominated by men—primarily white men. How do you navigate this terrain?

AV: There was a time when I was knocking on doors and concerned with being recognized in dominant culture. I’ve found a space where the terrain is different, where I’m embraced by people like me, and where I’m building new ways of doing things, as opposed to trying to insert myself in a place that might not be welcoming. So, I’m concerned with my own house. If people want to visit from other houses, that’s great. It was something about turning my back on those desires and concentrating on what was in front of me and what was really beautiful, and organic within my own community and culture that started to ignite interest from the outside in.

MTM:Any stories to tell when you knocked on those doors?

AV: I can tell you on what doors not to knock. I was a publicist for many years. I had an agency—the DuVernay Agency—specializing in marketing, publicity, studio product, TV, film. I would find myself sitting in rooms listening to all kinds of bizarre things about what black people do, and who we are, and how to reach us. I’d be like, “Wow, this is crazy.” When I started, I was very clear that either my films were going to end up with people in a room like that, or they would not be let into those rooms at all. Either way wasn’t good. So, I had to figure out, even before making them, what would be the fate of my films. And that’s what got me looking, as a black woman, to our own community. I started filmmaking from that place. I never took my films, reels under my arm, knocking on unwelcoming doors. And it was only because I had the knowledge of a publicist that I knew what that place was like. And that’s a unique experience because most new filmmakers have never been in those rooms listening to those conversations. So, there’s a sense of hope that your films are going to transcend preconceived notions of black people, or women, or what this film’s going to be, or should be. And having been in those rooms, I said “I’m not going to go that route, I’m going to carve out another place”.

Full interview available here: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/blackcamera.6.1.57

 

 

 

 


The Afrosurrealist Film Society presents Akosua Adoma Owusu, Monday, Nov. 10

Monday, November 10 – 11:00 a.m. – Brigance Library (800 E. 3rd St., 2nd FL) Akosua Adoma Owusu is an American experimental filmmaker of Ghanaian parentage. Owusu says “through my filmmaking, I hope to open audiences up to a new dialogue between the continents of Africa and America; one that incorporates more than just stereotypes, but includes both conventionalized and unconventionalized discourses of race in its service.” Owusu’s filmmaking practice involves appropriation of preexisting materials and creating original footage. Akosua Adoma Owusu will discuss her films following the 45-minute program along with IU cinema and media studies professor Terri Francis.8ef9333f3415d71f1e5af9baefb481cb

 

 

PROGRAM:

ME BRONI BA (MY WHITE BABY) 22 minutes |2009 | digital projection “Me Broni Ba” (“My White Baby”) is a lyrical portrait of hair salons in Kumasi, Ghana. The tangled legacy of European colonialism in Africa is evoked through images of women practicing hair braiding on discarded white baby dolls from the West. The film unfolds through a series of vignettes, set against a child’s story of migrating from Ghana to the United States. The film uncovers the meaning behind the Akan term of endearment, me broni ba, which means “my white baby.”

DREXCIYA 12 minutes |2010| digital projection A portrait of an abandoned public swimming facility located in Accra, Ghana. The Riviera was once known as Ghana’s first pleasure beach. A one-time extravagant Ambassador Hotel of post-colonial – early Kwame Nkrumah era, the Riviera Beach Club thrived until the mid-1970’s. The Olympic-sized pool, now in a dilapidated state, is used for locals for things other than swimming. Inspired by the myth of Detroit electronic bands, Drexciya & Underground Resistance.

SPLIT ENDS, I FEEL WONDERFUL 5 minutes | 2012| digital projection A woman attaches hair piece, black women in hair salons get their hair plaited; and a woman models on a yellow turban. Eccentric hairstyles reveal the roots of Afro hair in which activist, Angela Davis becomes involved. Manipulating and re-positioning found footage as subject matter, “Split Ends, I Feel Wonderful” observes the latest fad in hairstyles of 1975 among African-Americans in NYC. The film takes us to a time when Black was beautiful and a symbol of African pride.

This presentation of the Afrosurrealist Film Society is cosponsored by Cinema and Media Studies, the Black Film Center/Archive, American Studies, Cultural Studies, and the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies.


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