February 2 - 10
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Gordon Parks, who died March 7, 2006, was a pioneering talent - an accomplished art photographer, novelist, poet and composer, as well as an innovative filmmaker. The first African-American to direct for a major Hollywood studio with THE LEARNING TREE (1969), based on his own novel, Parks enjoyed enormous international success a few years later with SHAFT (1971), a landmark film and pop culture phenomenon. When his dream project, LEADBELLY (1976), failed at the box office, Parks became dissatisfied with feature filmmaking and concentrated on projects for public television throughout the 1980s. In 1998 he was the subject of a career-spanning retrospective here in Washington, DC, co-presented by the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the National Gallery of Art.
Films include THE LEARNING TREE and SHAFT.
Isaac Hayes's instantly recognizable, Oscar-winning song, Richard Roundtree's charisma and heaps of streetwise attitude have ensured SHAFT's status as an all-time cult classic. But Parks's SHAFT also signaled a rebirth of films made by and for African-Americans. This smart and stylish 1971 homage to the tradition of hardboiled detective fiction finds Roundtree as "the black private dick" John Shaft, hired by Harlem drug lord Moses Gunn to find his kidnapped daughter.
DIR Gordon Parks; SCR John D.F. Black and Ernest Tidyman, based on the novel by Ernest Tidyman; PROD Joel Freeman. US, 1971, color, 100 min. RATED R
Friday, February 2, 9:00
Saturday, February 3, 9:20
Friday, February 9, 9:00
Saturday, February 10, 10:30
THE LEARNING TREE
Parks's first feature film was also the first major studio production by a black director. Parks adapted the screenplay from his acclaimed 1963 autobiographical novel about growing up in rural Kansas in the 1920s. The story follows Newt (Kyle Johnson) as he struggles with love, death, justice and racial hatred. Superior period detail and cinematography highlight a story at once penetrating and profoundly nostalgic. (Note from the National Gallery of Art.)
DIR/SCR/PROD Gordon Parks. US, 1969, color, 107 min. RATED PG
Saturday, February 3, 3:15
Tuesday, February 6, 7:00