Tag Archives: Milestone Films

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

‘Shirley Clarke’s Cool World’ at the IU Cinema

Shirley Clarke’s Cool World, a series celebrating the filmmaking of Shirley Clarke, will screen three of the prodigious filmmaker’s features and host a lecture by Milestone Film’s Dennis Doros on Clarke’s contributions to independent cinema.

The Connection (1962) will screen on Thursday, November 1st at 7:00pm, with Ornette: Made in America and Robert Frost: A Lover’s Quarrel with The World screening on Friday, November 2nd at 6:30pm and 9:30pm, respectively.  Dennis Doros’ lecture – ‘Where’s Shirley?’ – will also be on Friday, November 2nd at 3:00pm at the IU Cinema.  All screenings and the lecture are free and open to the public.

Clarke, the only woman to sign the New American Cinema Manifesto (in either 1961 or 1962; there are different claims), has received an amount of acclaim as an independent filmmaker (including an Academy Award nomination for Skyscraper), though the New York Times called her “one of the great undertold stories of American independent cinema.”  A bit more, as a way of introduction to Clarke, from the Times piece, which goes on to focus on The Shirley Clarke Project:

A woman working in a predominantly male world, a white director who turned her camera on black subjects, she was a Park Avenue rich girl who willed herself to become a dancer and a filmmaker, ran away to bohemia, hung out with the Beats and held to her own vision in triumph and defeat. She helped inspire a new film movement and made urgently vibrant work that blurs fiction and nonfiction, only to be marginalized, written out of histories and dismissed as a dilettante.

A screenshot from Ornette: Made in America

Dennis Doros and Amy Heller, the husband and wife team who co-founded Milestone Films, have spearheaded The Shirley Clarke Project (sometimes referred to as Project Shirley) to protect and preserve the films of Clarke.  Milestone’s contributions to black and independent cinema have been great; for example, we have them to thank for the restoration and redistribution of Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep.  So far, the project has preserved the three films featured in Shirley Clarke’s Cool World, and Milestone Films is keen to continue the effort.

Next up for The Shirley Clarke Project is a restoration of Portrait of Jason, recorded on one 12 hour night with Manhattan hustler Jason Holiday, “about his life, his loves, his work and his beliefs.” The film is slated to be restored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles, with assistance from Milestone, who have launched a Kickstarter campaign for the restoration (please circulate – it’s a wonderful restoration effort).  Here is a short clip from Portrait of Jason:

Shirley Clarke’s Cool World takes its name from Clarke’s 1964 The Cool World (which the BFC/A has an original print of in its poster collection), and is sponsored by the Department of Communication and Culture, Black Film Center/Archive, Indiana University Film and Media Studies, and the IU Cinema.

For those with a further interest in Clarke, here is a pretty fascinating hour-long interview with Clarke, with a style that evokes Portrait of Jason, and here is an extensive presskit on The Connection and its restoration effort.

~Jonathan Jenner

Charles Burnett: The Power to Endure April 6–25, 2011

The Museum of Modern Art will feature the films of Charles Burnett throughout the month of April.

Burnett has long borne the dubious distinction of being, as critic Armond White observed, “the least well-known great American filmmaker.” In Charles Burnett: Interviews (University Press of Mississippi, 2011), Burnett cites the phrase “the power to endure” as a motif his films share with William Faulkner’s novels; the phrase applies equally well to the indomitable characters who inhabit Burnett’s cinema, and to Burnett’s own struggle to get his films made in accordance with his vision.

Each of Burnett’s films can be seen to chronicle some aspect of the black experience in America, offering black and white audiences alike a moving representation and triumphant appreciation of African American culture, with a strong emphasis on both the rewards and burdens of family. It should be evident from the films presented inthis retrospective that Burnett is a talent deserving of a much larger audience.

Click here for a schedule of film screenings at the MoMA.

Charles Burnett on the set of The Glass Shield. 1994.
USA. Written and directed by Charles Burnett
Organized by Charles Silver, Curator, Department of Film, and Professor Robert Kapsis, Department of Sociology and Film Studies, Queens College (CUNY). Special thanks to Charles Burnett, Cinema Libre, Milestone Films, UCLA Film & Television Archive, Carolyn Schroeder, Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, Kathy Coblentz, Paul Alan Smith, Sony Pictures, Showtime, Miramax, The Hallmark Channel, The Walt Disney Company, American Sterling, Billy Woodberry, Dennis Doros and Amy Heller, California Newsreel, Vulcan productions, ABC Films, Swank Motion Pictures, Ross Lipman, Richard Pena, Carl Lumbly, and Cotty Chubb.

The exhibition is made possible by The Friends of Education of The Museum of Modern Art.