Curator Greg de Cuir Jr.: Research notes pt. 4

Visiting Curator Greg de Cuir Jr. is in Bloomington for a week-long research residency at the Black Film Center/Archive and a series of programs concluding with his Show & Tell Workshop at the Auxiliary Library Facility on Friday, Jan. 26. Throughout the week, de Cuir will share notes and photos from his residency with our readers on the BFC/A blog. [Post #1 | Post #2 | Post #3]


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Today was a full day of screening film prints on a brand spanking new flatbed that was easy enough even for me to learn to use. Began with two shorts by Julie Dash. “Four Women” is a breathtaking melange of dance, color, and the haunting melodies of Nina Simone. “Illusions” was a revelation. A story of a mixed race woman with an executive level job in wartime Hollywood. The film shows off a superb level of craft and makes one even more angry that Dash has not had the studio career that she deserves. One of the final lines spoken in the film by the determined woman exec is that “History is what people see on the silver screen.” Rhymes nicely with the quote that ends Cheryl Dunye’s “Watermelon Woman”: “Sometimes you have to make your own history.”

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Finally watched “Killer of Sheep”, but the way I always wanted to — the proper way, on film. Quite simply some of the best combinations of sound and image by a black film artist in the history of American cinema. Who is making work like this today? Does Burnett have no peers or anyone who would lay claim to his legacy? Maybe that question will be answered as I continue my research.

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~Greg de Cuir, Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Greg de Cuir Jr. is the selector for Alternative Film/Video and Beldocs (both in Belgrade, Serbia). As an independent moving image curator, he has organized programs for the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London; the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw; Los Angeles Filmforum; goEast Wiesbaden; Experiments in Cinema in Albuquerque; and other institutions. He is the managing editor of NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies and has published writing in Cineaste, Jump Cut, Festivalists, Art Margins, La Furia Umana, Politika, and other journals and volumes. De Cuir received his DPhil from the Faculty of Dramatic Arts at University of Arts Belgrade.

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Curator Greg de Cuir Jr.: Research notes pt. 3

Visiting Curator Greg de Cuir Jr. is in Bloomington for a week-long research residency at the Black Film Center/Archive and a series of programs concluding with his Show & Tell Workshop at the Auxiliary Library Facility on Friday, Jan. 26. Throughout the week, de Cuir will share notes and photos from his residency with our readers on the BFC/A blog. [Post #1 | Post #2]


Spent the past two days immersing myself in the cinema of Cheryl Dunye, who I did not previously know anything of. Sort of a revelation for me. Love her use of Brechtian devices, love her affinity for low-fi video, love her fluidity with documentary tactics and techniques. Seems to be a real American pioneer. Hers is an intimate cinema, a very open and inviting cinema. We’re staying in the same hotel. Ran into her outside having a smoke. Got the chance to compliment her and discuss mutual interests. Perfect ending to the evening.

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Gave a talk today. A career talk. Sort of lapsed into narrating my life story. Is that even interesting?  Is my crazy collage of an existence even a worthwhile model? Hope I didn’t steer people the wrong way. Funny. No one asked me the one question everyone asks me, all day, every day, year after year: “Why do you live in … ??”

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Starting my research proper today. Surveying the history of the journal Black Camera. So many great topics, so much interesting writing. I think someone needs to edit an anthology. In some ways the entire lineage of black cinema studies is present in these pages. But, as is the case far too often, and unfortunately, no time for extensive reading. Tomorrow I continue with film-viewing. Ready to fill more gaps in my knowledge. Ready to be amazed by more brilliance hiding in plain sight.

~Greg de Cuir, Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Greg de Cuir Jr. is the selector for Alternative Film/Video and Beldocs (both in Belgrade, Serbia). As an independent moving image curator, he has organized programs for the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London; the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw; Los Angeles Filmforum; goEast Wiesbaden; Experiments in Cinema in Albuquerque; and other institutions. He is the managing editor of NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies and has published writing in Cineaste, Jump Cut, Festivalists, Art Margins, La Furia Umana, Politika, and other journals and volumes. De Cuir received his DPhil from the Faculty of Dramatic Arts at University of Arts Belgrade.

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Curator Greg de Cuir Jr.: Research notes pt. 2

Visiting Curator Greg de Cuir Jr. is in Bloomington for a week-long research residency at the Black Film Center/Archive and a series of programs including today’s Q&A on Curating Film. Throughout the week, de Cuir will share notes and photos from his residency with our readers on the BFC/A blog. [Post #1 here]


 

Presented Avant-Noir, Volume 2 at IU Cinema. My second time traveling this series after Zagreb last year. Good audience. As good as any I’ve had recently for programs of alternative forms of cinema. Professor Michael Gillespie served as discussant. We had a nice rapport. Covered lots of ground in a short amount of time. Plenty of great questions from the public. Felt sad when the conversation had to stop, but happy it spilled out into the cinema foyer and continued.

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School of Fine Arts. Wells Library. Both have rows and rows of lockers that give me flashbacks to my high school days. Saw a Rally’s burger stand today when a colleague drove me around the city. More flashbacks, this time to my college days. Bloomington is growing on me. Will see how Indianapolis does this weekend.

~Greg de Cuir, Saturday, January 20, 2018


Greg de Cuir Jr. is the selector for Alternative Film/Video and Beldocs (both in Belgrade, Serbia). As an independent moving image curator, he has organized programs for the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London; the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw; Los Angeles Filmforum; goEast Wiesbaden; Experiments in Cinema in Albuquerque; and other institutions. He is the managing editor of NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies and has published writing in Cineaste, Jump Cut, Festivalists, Art Margins, La Furia Umana, Politika, and other journals and volumes. De Cuir received his DPhil from the Faculty of Dramatic Arts at University of Arts Belgrade.

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Curator Greg de Cuir Jr.: Research notes from the BFC/A

Visiting Curator Greg de Cuir Jr. arrived in Bloomington yesterday for a week-long research residency at the Black Film Center/Archive and a series of programs beginning with the Avant-Noir screening tonight at the IU Cinema. Throughout the week, de Cuir will share notes and photos from his residency with our readers on the BFC/A blog. 


 

Research residency begins right away at the Black Film Center/Archive, on arrival. Watched the animated short “Glucose” by Jeron Braxton, a former Indiana University student. Premiered at SXSW, playing next at Sundance. Shows talent, plus a sensibility for the political. Will mark him as one for further research.

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Looks like I am assigned a conference room to carry out my research. Very comfortable. Love the big flatscreen. Love even more an oil portrait of a supporting actress from Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” hanging next to it. Arrived as part of the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Collection. Provenance unknown, artist unknown. The label on the frame reads “Madame Sul-Te-Wan“. She reminds me of my Grandmother.

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Saw Anthony Mann’s “Man of the West” in glorious 35mm at the even more glorious IU Cinema. Love Mann, mostly for his masterful classic noirs. What an odd, dark Western. Very honest in its brazen excuse to be an extended set-up for a violent confrontation.

~Greg de Cuir, Friday, January 19, 2018


 

Greg de Cuir Jr. is the selector for Alternative Film/Video and Beldocs (both in Belgrade, Serbia). As an independent moving image curator, he has organized programs for the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London; the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw; Los Angeles Filmforum; goEast Wiesbaden; Experiments in Cinema in Albuquerque; and other institutions. He is the managing editor of NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies and has published writing in Cineaste, Jump Cut, Festivalists, Art Margins, La Furia Umana, Politika, and other journals and volumes. De Cuir received his DPhil from the Faculty of Dramatic Arts at University of Arts Belgrade.

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Black Film Center/Archive Visiting Research Fellowships

The Black Film Center/Archive in The Media School at Indiana University-Bloomington is pleased to announce 2018 Black Film Center/Archive Visiting Research Fellowships to support research toward a dissertation, thesis, publication, presentation, or production. These competitive fellowships for visiting researchers residing outside the Bloomington area are intended to advance the study of black film and media and to promote research in the collections at the BFC/A by filmmakers, graduate students, independent scholars, and faculty members at any rank. Scholars and filmmakers currently working or studying at an HBCU are strongly encouraged to apply.

About the BFC/A

Established in 1981, the Black Film Center/Archive is the first archival repository dedicated to collecting, preserving, and making available historically and culturally significant films by and about people of African descent around the world as well as recognizing forgotten creators and re-discovering overlooked works and documents.

BFCA Location

 

Location

The BFC/A is located in Bloomington, Indiana.  Bloomington is within a day’s drive of cities including Chicago, IL (196 mi.), Detroit, MI (335 mi.), St. Louis, MO (227 mi.), Nashville, TN (270 mi.), Louisville, KY (105 mi.), Columbus, OH (225 mi.) and more.  For access by air travel, convenient flights are available into the Indianapolis International Airport, located 45 mi. north of Bloomington.

Collections

The resources of the BFC/A include print, graphic, manuscript, and audiovisual research materials.  Collections include the papers of early race film producer and distributor Richard E. Norman; the archives of the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, Inc.; research papers from creatives, collectors, and scholars including Camille Billops, James Hatch, J. Ronald Green, and Josef Gugler; original film and video elements from artists including Jessie Maple, Alile Sharon Larkin, Bridgett M. Davis, S. Torriano Berry, and others.  More information about the BFC/A’s collections is available online at http://www.indiana.edu/~bfca/collections/.

Awards

Individual fellowship awards of up to $1500 each will be presented in support of travel, local accommodations, and/or research expenses. Awards must be used within one year of the award date and recipients must conduct research on-site at the archives in Bloomington during the period of their awards.

How to Apply

Applicants are asked to submit a brief research proposal, not to exceed three pages (double-spaced) with a cover page indicating basic information such as name, affiliation, title of the project, and amount requested. Project proposals should demonstrate that the BFC/A’s resources are integral to proposed research topics and creative endeavors. Candidates are encouraged to inquire with BFC/A staff about the feasibility of a proposed topic and research plan before applying.

The proposal should (a) emphasize the relationship of the BFC/A collections to the project, (b) include the length and preferred dates of the visit, which may include the summer months and (c) detail a budget specific to this research proposal which includes travel costs, living and research expenses, and any other source of financial support for this research trip. Applicants are also asked to submit a résumé or CV; for graduate students or other researchers whose résumés do not include a list of publications in their fields of research, two confidential letters of recommendation are also required.

Application Deadline: February 15, 2018

Awards Announced: March 15, 2018

Send applications for the Black Film Center/Archive Visiting Research Fellowship to:

Terri Francis, Director
Black Film Center/Archive
1320 E 10th Street, Wells Library 044
Bloomington IN 47405
bfca@indiana.edu (Visiting Research Fellowships in the subject line)
Phone: (812) 855-6041
Fax: (812) 856-5832


Dan Burley and Phil Moore’s Bebop Christmas Classic, “Blink before Christmas”

As a Hollywood composer, versatile musician, and vocal coach for the stars, Phil Moore had an extensive social network that included film celebrities like Lena Horne and Marilyn Monroe, legendary producers such as Quincy Jones, and many other top-notch talents.

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Early in his career, Moore made the acquaintance of Dan Burley. Burley was a barrelhouse pianist and journalist who edited various African American publications throughout his career including New York Age, Amsterdam News, Ebony, Jet, and Duke. In addition to writing film reviews (including scathing critiques of Gone with the Wind and Gang War), Burley appeared in several musical films, among them Jivin’ in Be-Bop (1946) and the short Oop Boop Sh’Bam (1947). He also released several records with Dan Burley & His Skiffle Boys and performed with jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Leonard Feather, and Ella Fitzgerald.

One of Burley’s most popular publications in the 1940s was a work capturing the Harlem jive dialect in writing. Under the encouragement of Langston Hughes, Burley created The Harlem Handbook of Jive. Burley’s handbook explains and provides examples of jive talk in the form of poems and stories. First published in 1941 and reprinted in 1944, the handbook sold more than 100,000 copies and was translated into French, Italian, Spanish and Norwegian.

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Two works in Burley’s handbook stand out in connection to the Phil Moore collection: “The Jive Night before Xmas” and “The Night Before Christmas (Another Hipped Version).” The second Christmas poem makes a reappearance in Phil Moore’s personal papers under the title “A Visit from St. Nicholas (Apologies to Clement Moore).” Burley refers to having written many versions of the poem, but that this early one from 1939 is cleaner and therefore more appropriate for recording. He states that the music should be “cool, racy with good rhythm.”

Moore doesn’t seem to have recorded “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” but in 1953 he released a two-sided Christmas disc with the Phil Moore Four (Marty Wilson, Jimmy Lyons, Milt Hinton, Johnny Letman) featuring “Blink before Christmas”—an abridged version of Burley’s “The Jive Night before Xmas.” The second side featured Moore’s musical adaptation of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol titled “Chincy Old Scrooge.”

Although reviewed as a rhythm and blues record by both Billboard and Cash Box on December 12, 1953, Billboard’s reviewer admitted that “Blink before Christmas” was “more for the hipsters than for the rhythm and blues market.” The Indianapolis Recorder from the same date refers to the record as Phil Moore’s debut on Victor:

On one side, the versatile artist narrates his version of that ‘Chincy Old Scrooge,’ in the modern jive idiom. Flip side, Moore does the ‘Night before Christmas’ in modern fashion. He entitled this one the ‘Blink before Christmas’ and Santa is described as a real ‘cat’ with a fleet of ‘trotters.’ This tale ends with everybody joining in to have a big party. These hilarious narrations receive the musical backing of the Phil Moore Four with Moore himself at the 88.

According to Jet, by December 24th, the record had caused two radio bans in the US. The Cleveland Board of Education felt that “Chincy Old Scrooge” was a “harmful influence” for children and radio officials in Pensacola Florida worried that Burley’s jive lyrics were naughty.

Today Moore and Burley’s disc has become a rare collectible and continues to resurface on jazz and novelty Christmas playlists.

Moore’s collection, including the 1939 version on Burley’s poem, was received as part of the BFC/A’s Mary Perry Smith Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Archives. Additional information on Moore and the collection finding aid are available at: http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/findingaids/view?brand=general&docId=VAD8293

~Ronda Sewald


BFC/A’s Josef Gugler Collection at Image Collections Online

Earlier this fall, IU Libraries and the BFC/A quietly launched the Josef Gugler African and Middle Eastern Film Collection on Image Collections Online (ICO). As of this posting, access-quality jpegs of approximately 785 posters and photographs (more than one-third of the visual items in the collection) are viewable at http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/images/splash.htm?scope=bfca/VAD9191.

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Josef Gugler is a professor emeritus for the University of Connecticut, editor of Ten Arab Filmmakers: Political Dissent and Social Critique (2015) and Film in the Middle East and North Africa: Creative Dissidence (2011), and author of African Film: Re-Imagining a Continent (2004). Gugler donated his collection to the BFC/A in the summer of 2015 (see press release). The material in his collection features over 500 unique films by approximately 350 filmmakers from Africa and the Middle East. Formats include film posters, press books, Japanese chirashi flyers, lobby and storefront cards, handbills, photographs, slides, and audiovisual recordings. Some of the countries most frequently represented in the collection include Algeria, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Mali, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia, and Turkey. Diasporic communities and exploitation films by Western filmmakers are also represented to a lesser degree. For a fuller description of the collection and a complete inventory, visit: http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/findingaids/bfca/VAD5484.

Although digitized versions of many items similar to those in Gugler’s collection are available to discover through resources such such as IMDb, Google image search, and various auction sites, one of the strengths of ICO is that it allows researchers to filter their search results by various facets. For instance, users can filter search results by release date, director name, geographic subject (i.e., the country featured in the film), topic, or the language used on the promotional item. This makes it possible for researchers to review imagery in the collection related to films by Ousmane Sembène, for instance, or that represent Burkinabe. Headings such as “Motion pictures—United States” also make it possible to view promotional items for films produced in a specific country.

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When possible, director names and topics have been selected from the Library of Congress’s Linked Data Service: Authorities and Vocabularies or the Thesaurus of Graphic Materials to ensure consistency across entries. In some cases, the authorized form may not be the most readily recognizable one (for example, the authorized entry for Youssef Chahine is “Shāhīn, Yūsuf”), but these thesauri provide a way to search on numerous variants of a term and often support searching in several scripts or languages.

Given the complexity of cataloging visual materials, particularly such a large number of promotional items covering a broad international corpus of work, we readily welcome feedback as to how we can improve the discoverability of the materials in this collection. Our staff is also more than happy to provide advice on search strategies.

The BFC/A staff will uploaded the remaining items in the Gugler collection over the upcoming months. Following the completion of this collection, future in-house digitization efforts will focus on materials from the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Archives followed by items in our other special collections.

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~Ronda Sewald