Category Archives: Uncategorized

Julie Dash: IU Celebrates The 25th Anniversary of “Daughters of The Dust.”

Julie Dash’s rich filmography explores the spectrum of Black women’s experience across wide swaths of geography and time. The year 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, along with a selection of early short films from her time as part of the UCLA-based Black cinema revolution known today as the L.A. Rebellion.

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In the late 1960s, Black students at the UCLA film school began to explore themes beyond the canon. Dash created her earliest short films then, each of which explores different but intersecting aspects of Black womanhood. Four Women (1975) experiments with music, dance and identity; The Diary of an African Nun (1977) contemplates complexities within spiritual relationships; and Illusions (1982) tells the story of a Black woman who passes for white to pursue a career in 1940s Hollywood.

Daughters of the Dust (1991), the first feature film directed by an African American woman to receive theatrical distribution in the U.S., engrosses the viewer in early 20th-century Gullah life. The film follows three generations of Peazant Family women as they prepare to leave the island their ancestors were brought to as slaves over a century earlier for opportunities up north. The lyrical magic-realist qualities of the film meld with historic truths to create a sense of uncommon understanding.(2K DCP Presentation) Director Julie Dash is scheduled to be present at this screening and all other screening events mentioned in the above poster.

For more information regarding this event series, please visit the IU Cinema website.

This series 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 IU Cinema.


Black Panthers at 50: Anniversary Celebrations in Bloomington and Beyond

In addition to the BFC/A’s Black Panther Film Festival (October 17-October 22, 2016) the Black Panther Party’s 50th anniversary has been commemorated from coast to coast. The Maysles Documentary Center of New York City and the Oakland Museum of California are among two venues that have highlighted The Black Panther Party’s rise to prominence 50 years ago.

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The Maysles Documentary Center of New York City’s 2016 Black Panther Party Film Festival Poster

The Maysles Documentary Center of New York City just concluded its program, 7th Annual Black Panther Party Film Festival—The Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution, which was produced by the Black Panther Commemoration Committee of New York. This program featured two films Freeman Brothers (2015) and Stanley Nelson’s The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015). Freeman Brothers highlights the stories of recently departed brothers Ronald and Roland Freeman who were two of the few original members of the Southern California chapter of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in 1967 and were involved in the shootout on Dec. 8, 1969 involving over 300 LAPD officers and the SWAT team.

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Image of Black Panther Party Member, Elder Ronald Freeman

A groundbreaking film in its own right, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015) is the first feature length documentary to examine the Black Panther Party’s importance to American cultural, political consciousness, and take a critical look at Party’s shortcomings. Through the layering of archival footage and interviews with individuals who witnessed the different phases of the Black Panther Party, filmmaker Stanley Nelson creates a compelling narrative that showcases one of America’s most defining social, political, and historical moments. A Post-screening Q&A with producer Laurens Grant and original members of the Black Panther Party followed the screening.

The Oakland Museum of California (the city that boasts the title of the Black Panther Party’s birthplace) debuted its Black Panther Party exhibit in early October, 2016.

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The exhibit, which will be on display until February, 2017 takes a multimedia approach to its curation.

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Image of Emory Douglas iconic Black Panther Party artwork

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Original draft of Black Panther Party’s Ten-Point Program

Through the showcasing of a combination of historical artifacts, rare photographs, first-person accounts from former Panthers, scholars, and community members, film screenings and a contemporary art show, the exhibit serves to further evidence the Party’s cultural, artistic, and political influences, which transcend the limits of geography and time.

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Literature of and about the Black Panther Party

 

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The Traumanauts (2007) by David Huffman

To take part in the local commemoration of the Black Panther Party’s 50th Anniversary, please consider attending screenings of The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975 / Mayday at the Indiana University Cinema, which will take place on Saturday 0ctober 22, at 7 PM.

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Still from The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

 

 


Who is Danny Glover?

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Danny talking with Michael T. Martin

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

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

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

 

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“The writing was just amazing, wonderful”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

~Roosevelt T. Faulkner


An Interview with Dorothy Berry Pt. II

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

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

Dorothy Berry at the IU Cinema, November 2015

Dorothy Berry at the IU Cinema, November 2015

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

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

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

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Black Journal former Executive Producer, William Greaves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sculptures of the Children of the Whitney Plantation

 

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The Whitney Plantation, Wallace, LA.

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

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Artist Kara Walker

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

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

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

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

 ~Yalie Kamara

 


BLACK CAMERA Vol. 7, No. 1 Now Available

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

Fall2015

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

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

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

 


Ja’Tovia Gary and Stefani Saintonge Bring “New Negress” Short Films to IU Cinema on Sept. 4

Filmmakers Ja’Tovia Gary and Stefani Saintonge will visit Indiana University on Friday, September 4, for a free film screening event at the IU Cinema. The award-winning directors are members of the New Negress Film Society, a self-described “collective of black woman filmmakers whose priority is to create community and spaces for support, exhibition and consciousness-raising.” Their visit will include a public conversation moderated by IU Professor Terri Francis, who is currently teaching a course in The Media School called Black Women Make Movies: Race, Gender and Representation.

New Negress Film Society

The New Negress Film Society was formed after the success of a 2013 film screening in Brooklyn entitled I Am A Negress of Noteworthy Talent, the first show organized by the artists who would become the bedrock of this daring collective. (The name of the event, along with the group’s eventual moniker, was inspired by the work of contemporary artist Kara Walker and Alain Locke’s 1925 essay, “The New Negro.”) Since then, The New Negress Film Society has added new members to aid in its mission to showcase bold and compelling films by black women.

The New Negress Film Society Short Film Program at IU Cinema will include screenings of the following works:

Afronauts (2014, 14 min.) dir. Frances Bodomo
You Cannot Haunt Your House at Will (2014, 12 min.) dir. Dyani Douze
Cakes Da Killa: NO HOMO (2013, 13 min.) dir. Ja’Tovia Gary
An Ecstatic Experience (2015, 6 min.) dir. Ja’Tovia Gary
Savage (2012, 16 min.) dir. Kumi James
Seventh Grade (2014, 12 min.) dir. Stefani Saintonge
La Tierra de los Adioses (2013, 27 min.) dir. Stefani Saintonge

Savage by Kumi James

Savage by Kumi James

Afronauts by Frances Bodomo

Afronauts by Frances Bodomo

Cakes Da Killa: NO HOMO by Ja'Tovia Gary

Cakes Da Killa: NO HOMO by Ja’Tovia Gary

Ja’Tovia Gary’s documentary short, Cakes Da Killa: NO HOMO, won the Audience Award at the 52nd Ann Arbor Film Festival. The film is a portrait of a young, openly gay rapper from New Jersey whose lyrics and performances mobilize queer identity politics and challenge dominant ideas about black masculinity. (Gary also directed and edited the striking music video for Cakes Da Killa’s 2013 single, “Goodie Goodies.”) Gary holds an MFA in Social Documentary Filmmaking from NYU’s School of Visual Arts and is currently in production on her first feature, The Evidence of Things Not Seen, “which uses non-linear filmmaking techniques to interrogate notions of the self, Black American religious traditions, family, nostalgia, ritual, psychoanalysis, and memory.”

Stefani Saintonge recently won the ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Discovery Award for her narrative short film, Seventh Grade. It tells the story of a young girl’s coming-of-age in a thoughtful and troubling examination of adolescent sexuality. (“I wanted to explore what [it’s] like for women to deal with your body becoming a sex object,” she told ESSENCE.)  Her documentary, La Tierra de los Adioses, was named Best Latin American Short Documentary at the Festival Internacional de Cine en el Desierto. Saintonge—who is a producer on the forthcoming short film, Macho—earned her MFA in Documentary Film Studies and Production at Hofstra University.

Dyani Douze is also expected to be present for the screening and corresponding Q&A. Her 2014 documentary short, You Cannot Haunt Your House at Will, meditates on architect Pierre Chareau’s Mason de Verre (“House of Glass”) in Paris, France. Other films rounding out the program include Frances Bodomo’s Afronautsa visually stunning work about the Zambia Space Academy—along with Kumi James’ Savage, a short narrative film about the complex relationship between a white school teacher and a troubled student in a predominantly black Brooklyn high school.

In anticipation of their upcoming visit, the BFC/A spoke with directors Stefani Saintonge and Ja’Tovia Gary about their work and involvement with The New Negress Film Society.

Stefani Saintonge (left) and Ja'Tovia Gary (right)

Stefani Saintonge                                                      Ja’Tovia Gary

BFC/A: First, I would like to hear from each of you about how you came to belong to the New Negress Film Society. Can you talk about what being a part of this collective means to you, and how your work relates to its mission?

JG: The idea for the collective sprang from a screening exhibition organized by Kumi James in the summer of 2013. The program featured works by Black women filmmakers including Nikyatu Jusu, Nevline Nnaji, Frances Bodomo, Kumi James and myself. We titled the event I Am a Negress of Noteworthy Talent, which is a nod to fine artist Kara Walker who mounted an exhibition / multimedia project of the same name. The screening itself was an incredibly affirming and validating experience, and to have the community come out and support really thoughtful, creative and non-traditional works by Black women filmmakers was extraordinary.  Kumi and I were definitely interested in sustaining that moment and creating something lasting from that experience so we began to think about forming a collective. We met that same weekend with a few other filmmakers from our community and began to sort of plot out this project. Nevline Nnaji, Frances Bodomo, Kumi and myself went on to become the founding members of the New Negress Film Society. Since then we’ve welcomed Dyani Douze and Stefani Saintonge, two incredibly talented filmmakers and multimedia artists.

For me the existence of these sorts of spaces is integral, particularly for artists who belong to communities that have been historically and continue to be marginalized and silenced. These gatherings, this coming together is foundational to the creative process for a number of reasons. They allow for discursive moments to grapple with ideas and concepts, opportunities for collaboration and enrichment; and provide sustentation during times of experimentation and even failure. As I get older and grow more in my practice, the need for support, not simply material support but an infrastructure and community, becomes more and more vital. The collaborative nature of filmmakers necessitates this need, so I’m very glad we are able to continue to come together despite geographical distance and in some instances ideological differences and find commonality in our creative pursuits and personal strivings.

SS: I met Ja’Tovia when both of our shorts screened at New Voices in Black Cinema last year, and we’ve been friends ever since. Through that friendship, I came to know more and more about the New Negresses. Ja’Tovia and Kumi [James] finally asked me to join a few months ago.

I had been looking to join or start a collective since I started filmmaking, because you realize early on film is collaborative. There’s no way around it. You need a network, which is the disadvantage facing blacks and particularly black women in this field. Having a collective organizes the support and allows us to pledge to each other as fellow talented creators.

New Negress is all about concrete support and exhibition. It’s invaluable to have these women who I admire as artists working to ensure each other’s success. It’s important to note our politics as well. We’re not simply talented black women filmmakers, we’re radical talented black women filmmakers and our work reflects as such. Mainstream black cinema has been lacking in radical thought as of late, which makes our work even more imperative.

BFC/A: Ja’Tovia, I’m interested in the route that brought you to explore the politics of gender and sexuality in hip hop culture. Is this something you had been thinking about for some time before starting work on NO HOMO, or did it come more directly from your exposure to the music of Cakes Da Killa? (For those who haven’t yet seen the film, I am hoping you might also speak here about how you understand Cakes as an exploder of heteronormative power structures.)

JG: It’s funny because I didn’t initially set out to explore those particular points of tension in hip-hop. I was originally drawn to Cakes as a person and a dynamic performer. I reached out to him after I encountered one of his music videos, CUNTROVERSY, on Tumblr, and was immediately transfixed by his undeniable skill as well as the way he sort of effortlessly traversed the gender spectrum. His style and delivery are very 90s era New York City hip hop, very gritty, almost hyper masculine, yet his content was unapologetically homoerotic. His performance skills are that of a seasoned veteran. So he magnetized me almost instantly. His way of being felt like a really radical gesture, a subverting of this very rigid gendered landscape that hip-hop precipitates.

In many ways I’m ambivalent about hip-hop. My relationship to it is very complicated and I think this has a lot to do with my position in society as a Black queer woman. So, I’m drawn to this very rich and expansive expression, yet repelled by it. At the same time, I find the music and the culture a non-stop source of inspiration. I still see hip hop as this sort of usurping of power or a creative way of asserting and affirming the self and community, so it is still rife with generative and inspiring elements, even I find it debasing at times. Which is why I’m glad I got the opportunity to complicate some of the more problematic elements of the culture in making Cakes Da Killa: NO HOMO. And why I think artists like Cakes, who whether they are intentionally or overtly political or not, are opting to radically disrupt the status quo. Not just in terms of gender performance or sexuality, but also in regards to content, style and art making in general.

BFC/A: This question is for Stefani. You take us to two very different places in La Tierra de los Adioses and Seventh Grade — from rural Mexico to an American middle school, respectively. But while the settings vary, both films engage issues related to adolescence and community among girls and women of color. Can you tell me about how you see these two films interacting with each other? Are there a set of critical questions you bring to bear on your subjects, regardless of genre or geography?

SS: Community and women interact with each other in strange ways. Women form the foundation of community. They do most of the grunt work, but for them the rules are strict and the benefits less. With La Tierra de los Adioses, I managed find a community of mostly indigenous women who, despite the lack of men and total absence of white people, the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy as bell hooks calls it is smothering them. But they rebel in small ways. In Zapotitlán Palmas, where La Tierra de los Adioses is set, the women weave bags, sow fields and cut palms gaining some semblance of independence from their husbands abroad. There’s a part toward the end of the film when the two girls, Lupita and Belen, say “I’d rather go to school than marry some good for nothing bum. And all day sweep and cook. Or watching over a crying baby. ‘Oh I’m pregnant again!’” I understand their frustration with the trajectory for women in the town, but I do think their mothers deserve more credit for running a community, raising their families and supplementing their income all on their own.

In Seventh Grade the rebellion is much more overt. The community is clear and the rules these young women have violated—even though they’re new to the girls—are ones we’re all familiar with. That’s why I think Seventh Grade resonated with people. It features adolescent girls, who are usually portrayed as powerless if at all, cleverly resisting patriarchy.

So both films focus on women’s roles in community, and I tried to be critical of those roles by showcasing women who find ways to resist.

BFC/A: Ja’Tovia, I understand that you are interested in doing some research at the Black Film Center/Archive during your visit to IU. What materials or collections are you looking to work with while you’re here?

JG: Yes, I’ve actually been excited about visiting Black Film Center/ Archive ever since I found out about the space a few years ago. Stefani and I will be quite busy during our short time here, so I fear that I might be too ambitious with my research and viewing goals. But that just means I have to plan a return trip in the near future.

I’m really interested in screening Jessie Maples’s Will and Julie Dash’s Four Women also The Fullness of Time and Drylongso by Cauleen Smith. There’s also Zeinabu Irene Davis whose work I’m interested in viewing and learning more about. Additionally, anything and everything by William Greaves, Madeline Anderson, and St. Clair Bourne are on my list. Greaves is a bit of a guru for me, so I’m on a mission to view all of his films.

Collective or collaborative movements like the work from filmmakers involved in the LA Film Rebellion and the Black Audio Film Collective are also points for interest for me. Like I said, its quite an ambitious list, there’s a lot I’d like to explore. Ousmane Sembene, Isaac Julien, Menelik Shabazz the list is really endless. A lot of these works are difficult to access, so for me, entering a space like this is really overwhelming, in a good way.

BFC/A: Finally, I am hoping to get a sense of how the New Negress Film Society has evolved since its inception after that first screening event in Brooklyn. How has the collective developed in terms of mission, strategy and scope in recent years, and where do you see it headed in the future?

JG: Moving forward we are really focused on collectively supporting the films of the individual members as well as coming together and collaborating on shared projects. We want to continue to remain productive and get our work out. So recently we’ve been combining our efforts to bring individual works to fruition. Kumi and Stefani are helping me produce my feature documentary, The Evidence of Things Not Seen, and I will be serving as editor on an upcoming short film that Stefani is directing. Exhibiting and highlighting the work of Black women filmmakers also remains central, so we are excited about future programming opportunities in Brooklyn and beyond. Keep an eye out for the Negresses. We’re very excited about what lies ahead.

SS: I’m a recent member, but from what I understand, we’re moving toward supporting each other’s work directly. Kumi and I are helping Ja’Tovia with her feature documentary, The Evidence of Things Not Seen. I’m doing a short for ESSENCE Magazine and Ja’Tovia will edit. So we’re heading toward more direct and creative collaboration rather than just exhibition.

BFC/A: Thanks to both of you for taking the time to answer these questions. We’re all tremendously excited about your visit and the New Negress Short Film Program.

JG: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to share the work in this setting and to be in conversation with you.

SS: Thank you for having us and for all you’ve done to organize this thus far. It’ll be interesting to see how our work is absorbed in an academic setting. These questions alone have already challenged me go deeper with my art. I appreciate it.

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Ja’Tovia Gary and Stefani Saintonge will be speaking as part of IU Cinema’s Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecture Series at 3:00 PM on Friday, September 4. The screening will begin at 6:30 PM, followed by a Q&A with Gary, Saintonge and Dyani Douze. (Both events are free, but the film program is ticketed.) Gary and Saintonge’s visit is made possible by a generous grant to the IU Cinema from the IU Women’s Philanthropy Council. The event is part of the cinema’s Directed by Women programming, which encourages cinemas and audiences “to appreciate the richness and variety of what women filmmakers bring into the world, become aware of the enormous outpouring of motion picture creativity by women on the planet, and expand global opportunities for screening and streaming films directed by women.”


Wealth Comes in Many Forms: William Greaves’ USIA Films

Great post from NARA’s Criss Kovac on the USIA films of William Greaves, including 1964’s WEALTH OF A NATION streaming in full.

The Unwritten Record

This post was written by Criss Kovac. Criss is the supervisor of the National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Lab. 

I’m fortunate that my job allows me to make a difference every day. Most days it’s because I’ve preserved a piece of history, made something accessible for research, or contributed to the archival community. It’s rare, however, that I see how my work has made a difference in the life of a single person. This past spring I had that chance along with the opportunity to bring attention to two great films and the life of their multifaceted and talented director. A simple request from the Film Society of Lincoln Center for a 16mm theater print of William Greaves’Wealth of a Nation(1964) began it all.

NARA gets requests for theater prints on a regular basis, so I didn’t give much thought to it until, a couple of weeks…

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