April 21–May 13
AFI Silver joins the National Gallery of Art to present a selection of films closely associated with the creative renaissance realized by a group of African and African-American students who entered the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television during the 1970s and ‘80s. Receptive to the legacies of black communities, the films in the series are remarkable not only for their evocations of everyday life and attitudes, but even more for the revelation of the diverse talent pool and political resolve they represent.
The series begins at the NGA March 3 with Charles Burnett’s MY BROTHER’S WEDDING, and continues through March 30, with films screening at both AFI Silver and the NGA. (For films screening at the NGA, click here.)
Presented in association with UCLA Film & Television Archive and supported in part by grants from the Getty Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The curators are Allyson Nadia Field, Jan-Christopher Horak, Shannon Kelley and Jacqueline Stewart.
All film notes and pictures courtesy of UCLA Film & Television Archive.
AFI Member passes will be accepted at all films in the L.A. Rebellion series.
New 35mm Print!
Originally released as BLACK SISTER’S REVENGE, the title EMMA MAE better captures the film’s status as a sympathetic portrait of a young black woman from the South and her difficult adjustment to life in the big city. After the death of her mother, Emma Mae travels by bus from Mississippi to Los Angeles, her rough country edges on full display. While Emma Mae’s proficiency in kicking ass echoes that of the super-mama heroines who populated other character-named films of this Blaxploitation era, she is not presented as an impossibly glamorous vixen. On the contrary, her plain looks and shy demeanor seem to necessitate her physical and emotional strength.
DIR/SCR/PROD Jamaa Fanaka. US, 1976, color, 100 min. NOT RATED
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF WILLIE FAUST, or DEATH ON THE INSTALLMENT PLAN
Jamaa Fanaka’s first project plays off the Blaxploitation’s genre conventions, an adaption of Goethe’s “Faust” presented with a non-synchronous soundtrack and superimposed over a remake of SUPER FLY (1972). Often out of focus with an overactive camera, the film immediately exudes nervous energy, but unlike Priest’s elegant cocaine consumption in SUPER FLY, Willie’s arm gushes blood as he injects heroin. A morality tale in two reels.
DIR/SCR/PROD Jamaa Fanaka. US, 1972, color, 20 min. Digital Presentation. NOT RATED
BLESS THEIR LITTLE HEARTS
New 35mm Restoration!
Chronicling the devastating effects of underemployment on a family in the same Los Angeles community depicted in KILLER OF SHEEP, this film pays witness to the ravages of time in the short years since its predecessor. Nate Hardman and Kaycee Moore deliver gut-wrenching performances as the couple whose family is torn apart by events beyond their control. If salvation remains, it’s in the sensitive depiction of everyday life, which persists throughout. Preservation funded by the National Film Preservation Foundation and the Packard Humanities Institute.
DIR/PROD Billy Woodberry; SCR Charles Burnett. US, 1984, b&w, 84 min. NOT RATED
In the course of a botched purse-snatching, a boy comes to question the path of his life. Billy Woodberry’s second film, and first completed in 16mm, adapts Langston Hughes’ short story, “Thank You, Ma’am,” and features music by Leadbelly, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. Preservation funded in part by a grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
DIR/SCR/PROD Billy Woodberry. US, 1980, b&w, 13 min. NOT RATED
Director Zeinabu irene Davis’ first feature depicts two Chicago love stories featuring a deaf woman and a hearing man, one set at the dawn of the 20th century and the other in contemporary times. Played by the same actors (Michelle A. Banks and John Earl Jelks), both couples face the specter of death when the man is diagnosed with tuberculosis in the early story, and the woman with AIDS in the contemporary one. One of the most striking aspects of the film is its unusual narrative approach. Upon casting deaf actress Banks, Davis and screenwriter Marc Arthur Chéry modified the film to incorporate sign language and title cards, making it accessible to both deaf and hearing audiences.
DIR/PROD Zeinabu irene Davis; SCR Marc Arthur Chéry. US, 1999, b&w, 95 min. NOT RATED
New 35mm Print!
Subjected to Jim Crow laws and an overtly racist white population that still sees blacks as property, an African-American family in the South sends its sons away to a better life. Visualizing the migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban, industrial North in sepia tones, Iverson White’s period film captures the atmosphere of early 20th century America.
DIR/SCR Iverson White. US, 1985, b&w, 28 min. NOT RATED
AS ABOVE, SO BELOW and Short Films
Director Ben Caldwell’s film, a collage piece made on an animation stand and edited entirely in the camera, combines live action and rapidly edited still images of Africans and African-Americans which function like flashes of history that the unborn child will inherit. Caldwell invokes Amiri Baraka’s poem “Part of the Doctrine” in this experimental meditation on art history, black imagery, identity and heritage.
DIR/SCR/PROD Ben Caldwell; SCR Leroy Jones. US, 1973, color, 7 min. Digital Presentation. NOT RATED
I & I: AN AFRICAN ALLEGORY
New 16mm Print!
Director Ben Caldwell designed this film as a “résumé piece” to showcase his skills in experimental filmmaking, dramatic filmmaking and documentary. Drawing from Ayi Kwei Armah’s novel, “Two Thousand Seasons,” Caldwell meditates on reciprocity and on the concept of “I and I” which postulates no division between people, whereas the splitting of “you” from “I” is an invention of the devil designed to brew trouble in the world. Preservation funded in part by a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
DIR/SCR/PROD Ben Caldwell. US, 1979, color, 32 min. NOT RATED
UJAMII UHURU SCHULE COMMUNITY FREEDOM SCHOOL
A day-in-the-life portrait of an Afrocentric primary learning academy located in South Los Angeles. Focusing on the virtues of the three Rs—Respect, Righteousness and Revolution—the curriculum also teaches the importance of cultural values and self-defense. Shot in high contrast to emulate the color spectrum of the Pan-African flag, Don Amis punctuates the documentary with African chants, syncopated drums and poignant narration by the school’s faculty. Learn, baby, learn.
DIR/PROD Don Amis. US, 1974, color, 9 min. Digital Presentation. NOT RATED
AS ABOVE, SO BELOW
New 16mm Print!
A rediscovered masterpiece, director Larry Clark’s film comprises a powerful political and social critique in its portrayal of black insurgency. The film opens in 1945 with a young boy playing in his Chicago neighborhood and then follows the adult Jita-Hadi as a returning Marine with heightened political consciousness. Like THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR, this film imagines a post-Watts rebellion state of siege and an organized black underground plotting revolution.
DIR/SCR/PROD Larry Clark. US, 1973, color, 52 min. NOT RATED
A DIFFERENT IMAGE and Short Films
A DIFFERENT IMAGE
An African-American woman living in Los Angeles away from her family yearns to be recognized for more than her physical attributes. In cultivating the friendship of a male office mate, she aspires to a relationship where romance is not a factor, seeking someone who can "see her as she is," rather than see only what he wants to see.
DIR/SCR Alile Sharon Larkin; PROD Claudine Mitchell, Dankwa Khan. US, 1982, color, 51 min. NOT RATED
As a woman anxiously awaits her overdue period, she performs African-based rituals of purification. She cleans house and body, and calls on the spirits (Orishas in the Yoruba tradition), receiving much-needed inspiration and assurance in a dream. The film combines beautifully intimate still and moving images of the woman’s body and home space, along with playful stop-motion sequences.
DIR/PROD Zeinabu irene Davis; SCR Doris-Owanda Johnson. US, 1989, b&w, 17 min. NOT RATED
WATER RITUAL #1: AN URBAN RITE OF PURIFICATION
New 35mm Restoration!
Made in collaboration with performer Yolanda Vidato, this film examines black women’s ongoing struggle for spiritual and psychological space through improvisational, symbolic acts. Shot in 16mm black-and-white, the film was made in an area of Watts that had been cleared to make way for the I-105 freeway, but was ultimately abandoned. Structured as a ritual for Barbara McCullough’s “participant-viewers,” this film honors black/Third World women’s beauty and self-possession, and has been recognized as a pioneering work in black and feminist and experimental filmmaking. Funded with a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation’s Avant-Garde Masters Grant Program funded by The Film Foundation.
DIR/SCR/PROD Barbara McCullough. US, 1979, b&w, 6 min. NOT RATED
New 16mm Print!
The title of this film refers to the spaces of compromise that seemingly have to be made to survive in white society. The story revolves around an African-American woman reporter for a local television station who must seemingly compromise her political principles to keep her job, just as a former Black Panther Party member gets out of prison, only to realize that his old comrades in the struggle have moved on with their lives. It is also a plea for community development in Watts and other black L.A. neighborhoods, a concern that connects many of the L.A. Rebellion projects. New print funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Getty Foundation.
DIR/SCR Monona Wali; SCR Thomas G. Musca. US, 1982, b&w, 38 min. NOT RATED