Tag Archives: BFC/A

Fall Preview: BFC/A and IU Cinema Showcase Ava DuVernay + AFFRM

This September, the BFC/A will kick off our fall 2013 program with a seven-film series at the IU Cinema and other venues, featuring the work of Ava DuVernay and her pioneering theatrical distribution partnership AFFRM (African American Film Festival Releasing Movement).  Named as one of Indiewire’s inaugural group of 40 Influencers, DuVernay is scheduled to attend the series and to give a lecture and masterclass.  BFC/A director Michael Martin will also conduct an extensive interview with DuVernay for later publication in the journal, Black Camera.

BFC/A extends special thanks to the Indiana University Women’s Philanthropy Council, which selected this program for funding through their WPC Fund grant program.  (Find the WPC press release here.)  Other series sponsors include: IU Cinema, the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, Department of American Studies, Department of Communication and Culture, and the Film and Media Studies program at Indiana University.

The series is planned to include five of DuVernay’s productions, which illustrate her dedication to telling compelling stories about black women:

Venus VS (2013)

venus vs still

(courtesy ESPN Films)

Middle of Nowhere (2012)

middle of nowhere still

I Will Follow (2011)

(courtesy AFFRM)

(courtesy AFFRM)

My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth About Women in Hip-hop (2010) — Available in full from BET here

My Mic Sounds Nice

(BET Networks)

This Is the Life (2008)

this is the life still

DuVernay’s short film, The Door, exemplifies this devotion to the diversity of black women and their stories.  You can watch it here in its entirety:

Two recent AFFRM releases will round out the program:  Storm Saulter’s Caribbean thriller/romance Better Mus’ Comeand Neil Drumming’s Big Words.  The final schedule will be released later this summer.

Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for more on the BFC/A’s other exciting fall events.

~Nzingha Kendall

The Lost Films of Kathleen Collins: U.S. Theatrical Premiere at the IU Cinema

To mark the recent restoration of Kathleen Collins’s rarely seen feature films, the Black Film Center/Archive is co-sponsoring a special screening of Losing Ground and The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy; this is the U.S. theatrical premiere of both restorations.  The double header will show tonight, Thursday, March 21 at 7:00 pm at the IU Cinema.  Prof. LaMonda Horton-Stallings, who wrote a critical essay on Losing Ground for Black Camera in 2011, will lead a Q+A session at the conclusion of the screening.

losing ground still

Sara (played by Seret Scott) in Losing Ground (1982)

Collins was a truly multi-talented woman.  In addition to independently producing, writing and directing films, she also had extensive experience as a film editor.   Moreover, Collins wrote plays, helped to create the film studies program at City College of New York, studied literature, film and philosophy in Paris at the Sorbonne, and translated for Cahiers du Cinéma.  Sadly, in 1988 she passed away from cancer at the relatively young age of 46.

BFC/A founder Phyllis Klotman invited Collins to IU a few times in the early 1980s.  Collins presented Losing Ground in 1983, and later returned to campus to teach a seminar on film production and film aesthetics.  In a fascinating interview conducted by Klotman, Collins revealed her fiercely independent spirit, seen here in her reasoning for turning down a lucrative job as a producer at a major TV network:

…I did consciously turn that job down.  I did say that I don’t really feel that whatever creative work that is going to come out of me will come out successfully if I have to work off other people’s formulas…[E]ven if I made that decision [to accept the TV network job], I might presumably be producing…television drama, [but] I don’t think I would have ever gotten the chance to direct at all; I would have never gotten the chance to write my own scripts.  I don’t think that other avenues would have been open to do any of the films I’ve done at all.  I don’t think anyone would have bought those ideas and said, “This is terrific!”  And so to that degree I consider it a necessity that I do it independently.  And I can’t imagine ever veering from that.*

In addition to the aforementioned interview, the BFC/A holds a number of significant research and archival materials related to Collins, including a 16mm print of Losing Ground and a video-recording of Collins interviewed by a local Indiana PBS show.  Of particular note is the John Williams collection.  Williams, film scholar and former publicist for the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, recently donated copies of Collins’s written work (essays, scripts and translations), reviews and film festival program notes–amongst other research materials.

“The Lost Films of Kathleen Collins” is part of the “New Restorations from Milestone Films” series at the IU Cinema.  Friday evening will feature the newly-restored print of Shirley Clarke’s Portrait of Jason at 6:30 pm.  Dennis Doros, president of Milestone Films, will give the Jorgensen Lecture earlier on Friday afternoon at 3:00 pm.

Losing Ground

The entire series is sponsored by the BFC/A, the Department of Communication and Culture, UNDERGROUND Film Series, IU Libraries Film Archives and IU Cinema.

More about Kathleen Collins:

Black Film Review’s special tribute to Collins

John Williams’s Cineaste essay on Collins and Julie Dash

New York Times obituary

* This quote is taken from a transcribed interview between Kathleen Collins and Phyllis Klotman that is part of the BFC/A’s research materials on Collins.

~ Nzingha Kendall

‘Confronting the Other’ with Claire Denis at Indiana University

Confronting the Other, an exploration of Claire Denis’s work as a filmmaker to engage with various manifestations of Otherness, will be hosted at Indiana University and will feature a visit and conversation with Claire Denis, seven film screenings, and a poster exhibition at the BFC/A featuring posters of Denis’s films.

Chocolat, I Can’t Sleep, Nenette and Boni, The Intruder, Beau Travail, Trouble Every Day, and  White Material will all be screened between November 3rd and 11th at the IU Cinema (full schedule and details here).  “An Evening with Claire Denis” – a conversation with the filmmaker – will take place on Saturday, November 10th at 7:00pm, and Denis will be present for the screenings of Beau Travail, Trouble Every Day, and White Material.

Denis has become well known for her style of unapologetically tackling the implications the Self/Other binaries, particularly in the context of postcolonialism.  From the abstract of “Claire Denis’ Films and the Post-colonial Body” by Susan Hayward:

Claire Denis is one of the few major French contemporary filmmakers whose films to date represent an attempt to forefront the effects of colonialism and post-colonialism on the psyche of both the colonised and coloniser. Her films reflect the complexities of addressing these effects not least because there is no essential colonial or post-colonial body. Rather, in her work, she reveals the multiplicities of the colonial and post-colonial body.

The poster exhibit for Confronting the Other – running from November 5th to December 14th at the BFC/A – will “foreground the organizing thematic” of Denis’s work.  Below are the film posters for Chocolat and White Material, followed by some comments and queries by BFC/A director Michael Martin:

Enigmatic, like that of Chocolat, [the poster for White Material] is, too, unsettling,intimating displacement, although seemingly of a different kind, inviting audiences—western? White? Female? Metropolitan?—to consider why?  In the background, devoid of people beneath the forest canopy and expanse, the protagonist in the foreground whose distress is palpable, is pictured at the epicenter of the frame for which we have no identifiable signs to ponder her circumstance, indeed fate. Yet, like the poster of Chocolat, it evokes the image of “a stranger in a strange land”. Is the female character in Chocolat the same character—fast forward—in White Material?  Is the autobiographical the subtext of this film as it is in Chocolat? And is the character fixed or transient in time and space?

Here, the posters for 35 Rhums (35 Shots of Rum), and for Beau Travail (Good Work):

Confronting the Other is sponsored by the BFC/A, the Department of Communication and Culture, Department of French and Italian, and IU Cinema, with thanks to Institut français, Unifrance, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Jean François Rochard and Delhpnie Selles.

While Denis is on campus, Martin will also interview her; the interview will appear in an upcoming issue of Black Camera.

For now, if you’d like more Denis, here’s a great profile by Andrew Hussey for The Observer, along with a short clip of Denis discussing White Material along with clips from the film.

~ Jonathan Jenner

Into the Archive: Exploring the Jessie Maple Collection

Not enough people, it seems, are aware of Jessie Maple, given her contributions to black cinema.  So for those who aren’t familiar, and introduction from Diane Tucker:

Jessie Maple is included in nearly every who’s who of film except the Registry. Will is the first post civil rights feature-length film produced by an African-American woman. (Hollywood guilds are more than 80% white.) Maple’s film received the Special Merit Award at the Athens International Film Festival.

And there’s much more.

In 1974, she became the first black woman to join the International Photographers of Motion Picture & Television Union (except that ‘became’ is a tame verb to use, given the trials and obstacles to joining the union, including lawsuits against major New York TV stations, pushback from the industry, and the weightiness of ‘being the first’).  She recorded the experience in her book How to Become a Union Camerawoman (more on that below).

In 1982, she founded 20 West, Home of Black Cinema in Harlem as a venue to show films by independent and black filmmakers to the public.

All the while, she was producing content, often with her husband Leroy Patton, with whom she founded LJ Productions in 1974.  She produced two feature length films (Twice as Nice was her second in 1988), and several documentaries (Methadone: Wonder Drug or Evil Spirit and Black Economic Power: Reality or Fantasy among her selections).

New York Women in Film and Television called Maple’s work “a forerunner of the independent, minority filmmaking that would cultivate directors like Spike Lee, Charles Burnett, Leslie Harris and Lee Daniels.”

In 2005, Maple donated her personal collection to the BFC/A, and we maintain an extensive collection of her films and logbooks, photos and news clippings, correspondences and more. We’ve gathered a sampling below to try and share some of Jessie Maple and her story.

[click ‘Continue Reading’ after the first item to see the rest; click on each photo for a larger image).

The February 1976 Ebony magazine (newstand price:$1) includes a feature on Jessie Maple.  It tells the story of Maple’s struggles to break into the Cinematrogphers Union and of her courtship with her husband, Leroy Patton.  The article is written 5 years before the release of Will, though it mentions the project. Between the timbre of a 1970s Ebony issue (“What Happened to the Black Revolutionaries?” asks one title piece, among ads for a range of products), the piece details Maple’s work and determination in a particular type of biographical voice:

Like other grown-ups among her four brothers and seven sisters, Jessie has spent all of her adult years in the north, but she retains a deceptively Southern manner.  And when though the quiet drawl, infectious giggle and unassuming air there appears a hard-nosed, ambitious professional, it can come as a surprise.

This issue, as well as other issues of Ebony and many other magazines, can be accessed here.

Continue reading

A Glimpse into the BFC/A’s FESPACO Poster Collection, Part 5 – Ghanian Canvas Posters

When I first started working here, I knew I would be working primarily with the FESPACO poster collection. I naively assumed that they would all be made out of some sort of paper product and likely be mass-produced. Well, that turned out to be quite wrong since the BFC/A also has a small collection of rare hand-painted posters from Ghana.

Police Protection 3– This is an example of a one-of-a-kind, hand painted poster on canvas that became fairly common in Ghana in the 1980s and 1990s. I had no idea such posters existed and found them fascinating. These posters were commissioned for traveling theaters or “video clubs”. The posters were often done on opened-up flour sacks and their bright and vivid imagery was important in drawing the local crowd to the theater. It’s also interesting to see how these posters can really tell a story through the artwork. Sadly, this is now a dead movement, but an important art form of the Ghanaian culture.

A Glimpse into the BFC/A’s FESPACO Poster Collection, Part 4 – It’s a Family Affair: The Ouedraogo Brothers of Burkina Faso

As in other industries, there are people who chose to work  in film because their family members have had successful careers as actors, directors, or producers. The United States has the Barrymore and Huston families; France the Depardieus; and Italy has the Rossellinis. Africa has its own version of a successful filmmaking family: the Ouedraogos.

Kini et Adams (Kini and Adams) by Idrissa Ouedraogo, Burkina Faso (1997) – Idrissa Ouedraogo is one of the most acclaimed directors from the African Diaspora, having won many prizes at various international film festivals such as Cannes and the Berlin International Film Festival.  He began his career in 1981 and directed his first feature, Yam Daabo, in 1986. Since then, he continues to be a prolific filmmaker. Kini et Adams is one of his award-winning films, having been nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. Kini et Adams is about two friends who have dreams of leaving their rural community for the big city; they struggle to fix up an old car so they can reach their goal. However, they face obstacles when new jobs pop up in their community, which drives a wedge between the friends.

Djanta by Tassere Tahirou Ouedraogo, Burkina Faso (2007) – The younger Ouedraogo also made a name for himself in the Burkinabe film industry. He started off with technical training in Paris, France before making his first directorial film, Le chauffer du depute, in 2000. Since then, Ouedraogo has made more shorts and features on a wide variety of topics in Burkina Faso. Djanta follows the tale of a young African woman, Djanta, who has returned home from university at the request of the pastor who raised her. When she arrives, she is surprised to find out that her family wants her to marry a man that they betrothed her to as a baby. Upset, Djanta runs back to her university and sets about freeing women from traditional constraints. This film touches on several important themes in contemporary Africa, especially forced marriage for women.

A Glimpse into the BFC/A’s FESPACO Poster Collection, Part 3 – FESPACO

Film festivals are important events for cinema since they bring exposure to filmmakers, support the local industry and community, and allow people in cinema to network with other professionals. There are a small number of film festivals in Africa such as those in Durban, Carthage, and Cairo. Part 3 will focus on the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO), one of the most important film festivals in the African Diaspora.

FESPACO 1997/2011 – FESPACO (Festival panafricain du cinéma et de la télévision de Ouagadougou), or Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou, is held every two years in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. It is the biggest film festival on the African continent. FESPACO began in 1969 and has evolved into an internationally recognized event that includes many countries from Africa and the rest of the world. FESPACO’s aim is to “contribute to the expansion and development of African cinema as means of expression, education and awareness-raising.”

FESPACO has four main focuses: highlighting African film and television, publicizing the local film industry, bringing non-profit screenings to rural villages, and promoting African cinema in the international community. The festival takes place in late February for about two weeks and gives out special prizes at the end of the event. The top prize is called the Étalon de Yenenga which has been awarded to several well-known films such as Tilai (1990) and Buud Yam (1997).