The Film Society of Lincoln Center

Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York 1968-1986
February 6-19, 2015

This festival includes major works by some of the great filmmakers of this era in cinema. During this time, activist New York–based black independent filmmakers created an exciting body of work despite lack of support and frequent suppression of minority film production.

Dennis Lim, the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Director of Programming said, “This is a landmark program that sheds overdue light on an incredibly rich, varied, and undertold chapter of American film history. There are many groundbreaking works here by many singular figures, and we’re proud to present this essential series here at the Film Society.”

Black Journal Program
USA, 1968, digital projection, approx. 70m
Wednesday, February 11, 6:00pm
(Q&A with Charles Hobson, Louise Greaves, Kent Garrett, and Madeline Anderson)

The first nationally broadcast black newsmagazine, produced by William Greaves and hosted by Wali Saddiq and Greaves, was home to a who’s who of producers, directors, editors and cinematographers—Madeline Anderson, Kent Garrett, St. Clair Bourne, Charles Hobson, to name only a few—working in a diversity of styles: interviews, skits, commentary, and investigative reporting.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy
Kathleen Collins
, USA, 1980, DCP, 50m
Friday, February 6, 6:30pm
(Introduction by Nina Collins and Ronald K. Gray)
Wednesday, February 11, 3:00pm

Kathleen Collins’s first film is an adaptation of a series of short stories by Henry H. Roth about three young Puerto Rican men whose lives are watched over by their father’s ghost. New York’s Rockland County serves as the setting for the magic that the urban-born trio encounters when they meet Miss Malloy, an elderly widow who owns a house in need of some tender loving care. Never released theatrically, airing only once on cable TV, and then disappearing from view, the film has been rescued and re-mastered by the filmmaker’s daughter, Nina and Milestone Films. Screening with a video interview with Kathleen Collins. A Milestone Films Release.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

A Dream is What You Wake Up From
Larry Bullard
& Carolyn Johnson, USA, 1978, 16mm, 50m
Thursday, February 19, 5:30pm
(Q&A with JT Takagi, Third World Newsreel and Elena Rossi-Snook, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts)

Three black families, observed in their daily lives, their thoughts, values, and aspirations expressed on the soundtrack, and their different approaches to the struggle for survival in contemporary society and their methods of coping with the contradictory stresses placed on the individual in the family environment.

Screening with:
Black Faces
Young Filmmakers Foundation
, USA, 1970, 16mm, 1m

A montage of faces from the Harlem community. Black Faces is courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, preserved with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

 • • • •

An Evening with Jessie Maple
A trailblazer and pioneer, Jessie Maple was the first African-American woman to gain entry in New York’s camera operators union, taking the case to court to fight discrimination after she was a member, and writing an invaluable book about her life and experience, How to Become a Union Camerawoman. After directing the film Will, and in need of a venue to premiere it, she and her husband Leroy Patton (also a cinematographer) built and founded the independent cinema 20 West in Harlem.

 

Will
Jessie Maple, USA, 1981, 16mm, 70m
Monday, February 16, 6:30pm
(Q&A with Jessie Maple)

“I wanted to show the neighborhood—that everything was there, right in the neighborhood,” so says Jessie Maple in describing her feature debut. This is the story of Will, a basketball coach fighting demons, a full picture of dealing with modern urban life—uptown—is revealed. “No matter how low you are you can come back up. That’s what Will is. People can’t count themselves out that quick.” Preserved by New York Women in Film and Television’s Women’s Film Preservation Fund. Print courtesy of Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

 • • • •

Twice as Nice
Monday, February 16, 8:45pm
(Introduction by Jessie Maple)
Jessie Maple, USA, 1989, 70m

 

Maple’s second narrative feature uses an intimate story—the relationship of twin college basketball players—to examine the nature of sisterhood, competition, and friendship. As with her documentary work, Maple looks at everyday events and ponders the visible but especially the invisible.

• • • •

Ganja and Hess
Saturday, February 75:00pm
(Post-screening discussion with film scholar Pearl Bowser and Sam Waymon)
Sunday, February 8, 8:00pm
Bill Gunn, USA, 1973, 35mm, 113m

Screened at Cannes in 1973 before being recut against the filmmaker’s wishes for its U.S. release, Ganja and Hess was first made available years later in its intended version by independent distributor Pearl Bowser, and, now restored, is considered a classic. Conceived as a vampire tale, Gunn’s film is a formally radical and deeply philosophical inquiry into passion and history. “A film that was ahead of its time in 1973, and quite frankly, is still very much so today… maybe the rest of world will eventually catch up.” – Tambay A. Obenson. With Marlene Clarke, Duane Jones, and music by Sam Waymon. Preserved by the Museum of Modern Art with support from the Film Foundation.

• • • •

I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Thursday, February 12, 4:00 & 9:00pm
(Q&A with Pat Hartley and Rich Blint at the 4:00pm show)
Dick Fontaine
& Pat Hartley, USA,1982, 16mm, 95m

James Baldwin retraces his time in the South during the Civil Rights Movement, reflecting with his trademark brilliance and insight on the passage of 20 years. From Selma and Birmingham, to the battleground beaches of St. Augustine, Florida, with Chinua Achebe, and back north for a visit to Newark with Amiri Baraka.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

I Remember Harlem
Saturday, February 14, 4:00pm
William Miles, USA, 1981, 16mm, 240m

“What really made Harlem ‘Harlem’” is what renowned visual historian William Miles, set out to explore when he produced and directed this epic work. Harlem has since become an intersection of cultures, classes, and colors that still maintains a distinctive sense of identity, which Miles lovingly illustrates with his personal connection and commitment to this epicenter of African-American cultural life. We lost this great voice in May 2013 when Miles passed away at the age of 82. Courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, preserved with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

 • • • •

In Motion: Amiri Baraka and The New-Ark
Amiri Baraka
Tuesday, February 17, 9:00pm
St. Clair Bourne,
USA, 1983, digital projection, 60m

This video portrait, filmed in the days leading up to Amiri Baraka’s appeal of his punitive 90-day sentence for resisting arrest following an argument in his car outside the 8th Street Playhouse movie theater, documents Baraka at his radio show, at home with his wife and children, and performing at readings. It is a delicate vision of a revolutionary who has grown quieter—though never at rest, and as sage as ever.
Screening with a performance by Leroi Jones’s Young Spirit House Movers, broadcast on Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant (USA, 1968, digital projection, 10m).

Screening with:
The New-Ark
Tuesday, February 17, 9:00pm
Amiri Baraka
, USA, 1968, digital projection, 25m

Produced by Harlem Audio-Visual and part of the collection of cameraman and producer James E. Hinton at the Harvard Film Archive, this film, previously believed to be lost, depicts the activism, educational programs, and art taking place at the Spirit House community center in Newark, NJ. Digital preservation by Anthology Film Archives. From the James Hinton Collection at the Harvard Film Archives.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant Program
Sunday, February 8, 3:00pm
(Q&A with Charles Hobson)
USA, 1968-1971, digital projection, approx. 70m

Produced by Charles Hobson and aired on WNEW (better known as Channel 5), this weekly show was originally conceived by Robert F. Kennedy’s organization and community boosters to counter images of black neighborhoods as presented in the mainstream news. It is considered the first African American–produced television series in the USA. Hosted by Roxie Roker and Jim Lowry, the program reflected the home of 400,000 people as it transitioned into a new era, featuring open and unscripted dialogues with residents, guest celebrities, and, most notably, a powerful public forum with Harry Belafonte. This program will feature a selection of episodes, presented by Charles Hobson.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads
Thursday, February 19, 7:15pm
Spike Lee, USA, 1983, 16mm, 60m

Spike Lee’s NYU Masters program thesis (and the first student feature film ever selected for New Directors/New Films) is a precocious work from a major artist, irrefutable evidence that its maker would go on to become one of the greats.

Screening with:
A Place in Time
Charles Lane, USA, 1977, 16mm, 34m

Courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, preserved with funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

Kent Garrett Program
Two docs made for Black Journal, examining the perennial outsider status accorded to those ostensibly on the inside. In Central Harlem, at the height of the Black Power movement, a policeman discusses his role in and out of the uniform, contrasted with the experiences of a colleague in the LAPD. For African-American soldiers in Vietnam, the contradiction of being expected to defend liberties not granted at home is evident. Courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

The Black GI
Friday, February 13, 8:30pm
(Q&A with Kent Garrett and Kazembe Balagun
Kent Garrett, USA, 1971, 16mm, 54m

The Black Cop
Kent Garrett, USA, 1969, 16mm, 15m

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

The Long Night
Thursday, February 12, 6:30pm
(Q&A with Woodie King, Jr.)
Woodie King, Jr.
, USA, 1976, 35mm, 85m

One night in the life of a young boy on the street, encountering the denizens of mid-1970s Harlem, while commenting on Vietnam, marital discord, paternal relationships, substance abuse, schooling, and unemployment—in short, the life of an American family.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

Losing Ground
Friday, February 6, 1:00pm, 2:45pm, 4:30pm & 8:30pm (Q&A with Nina Collins, Ronald K. Gray
and Seret Scott at 8:30pm show)

Saturday, February 7, 3:15pm
Sunday, February 8, 1:00pm
*Monday, February 9, 1:00pm
*Tuesday, February 10, 3:30pm
*Wednesday, February 11, 1:00pm
*Thursday, February 12, 2:00pm
Kathleen Collins, USA, 1982, DCP, 86m

Finally receiving a long-overdue theatrical run, Losing Ground, one of the first feature films written and directed by a black woman, is a groundbreaking romance exploring women’s sexuality, modern marriage, and the life of artists and scholars. But most of all, it is a great film, one that firmly belongs in the canon of American independent cinema in the 1980s. Sara (Seret Scott) is a philosophy professor and her husband Victor (Bill Gunn) is a painter. With their personal and professional lives at a crossroads, they leave the city for the country, experiencing a reawakening, both together and separately. Also featuring Duane Jones (Night of the Living Dead), the film is honest, funny, and wise. Losing Ground is a testament to the remarkable playwright, professor, and filmmaker Kathleen Collins, and a reminder of the immense talent that was lost when she passed away in 1988 at age 46. A Milestone Films release.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

Madeline Anderson Program
Madeline Anderson’s classic documentary I Am Somebody depicts the strength of, and the hardships endured by, a striking group of African-American women in Charleston, South Carolina. The program also features Anderson’s first documentary, as well as work from Black Journal. “I was determined to do what I was going to do at any cost. I kept plugging away. Whatever I had to do, I did it,” she said of her career. I Am Somebody is screening courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of the New York Public Library for Performing Arts, preserved with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

I Am Somebody
Wednesday, February 11, 8:30pm
(Q&A with Madeline Anderson)
Madeline Anderson, USA, 1970, 16mm, 30m

Integration Report #1
Madeline Anderson, USA, 1960, digital projection, 20m

 A Tribute to Malcolm X
Madeline Anderson, USA, 1967, digital projection, 14m

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

Namibia: Independence Now!
Tuesday, February 17, 5:00pm
(Q&A with Pearl Bowser, Christine Choy, Al Santana, and JT Takagi)
Pearl Bowser
& Christine Choy, USA, 1985, 16mm, 55m

A revolutionary political moment is captured firsthand by two independent women filmmakers shooting inside refugee settlements in Zambia and Angola in 1985. Depicting the significant role of women in this struggle for independence, this film explores the lives of exiled women workers attempting to free their country from illegal exploitation.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

One Last Look
Tuesday, February 17, 7:00pm
(Q&A with Charles Hobson)
Charles Hobson, USA, 1969, digital projection, 60m

This rare film of Steve Carter’s play features many of the leading actors of the era before they went on to achieve international fame, was shown on WABC in New York, and has not been seen since. An emotionally charged drama of family, friends, and former lovers confronting the ghost of the family patriarch at his funeral.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

Personal Problems
Saturday, February 7, 8:00pm
(Q&A with Ishmael Reed, Dr. Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, and Sam Waymon)
Tuesday, February 10, 1:00pm
Bill Gunn, USA, 1980, digital projection, approx. 110m

“What happens when a group of unbankable individuals tell their own stories? Actors who have final say over their speaking parts? A director found ‘too difficult’ for Hollywood? Two producers, who, having no experience, had the audacity to organize a production with the amount of money Hollywood spends on catering. Maybe less.” These questions by writer Ishmael Reed lead to the conception of this “meta soap opera,” the story of a Harlem couple, and their friends, made without “the middleman.”

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

Let the Church Say Amen!
St. Clair Bourne, USA, 1973, 16mm, 67m

Voices of the Gods
Sunday, February 15, 7:00pm
(Q&A with Al Santana)
Tuesday, February 17, 2:00pm
Al Santana, USA, 1985, 16mm, 60m

A program on religion and ritual, highlighting two opposite ends of the spectrum in the role of religion in the black community. These modern classics represent two examples of the influential function and position that religious observation occupies as an essential part of African-American culture.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

She’s Gotta Have It
Thursday, February 19, 9:30pm
Spike Lee
, USA, 1986, 35mm, 84m

The one that changed the entire landscape of independent film and announced a genuine director-as-superstar, and the defining film of a new generation of American directors. But most significantly, She’s Gotta Have It possesses a confidence, vision, and grandeur of style that is almost as absent from the current independent film scene as the New York City where it takes place, only existing on film, and in memory.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

St. Clair Bourne Program
Producing or directing more than 40 films in a 36-year career, St. Clair Bourne is inarguably the most prolific black documentarian of his time. Bourne authentically documented critical aspects of the black community—its culture, resistance, and activism—images of which would have been lost if not for his chronicling. If comparisons are necessary to understand the significance of Bourne’s work upon the broader landscape of independent film, think D.A. Pennebaker, the Maysles, and Jean Rouch. The films in this program find Bourne documenting black and Irish solidarity, representation in the Brooklyn Museum, and the options granted to high school students who want to attend college. St. Clair Bourne passed away at the age of 64; he would have been 73 this February. Something to Build On is screening courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

The Black and the Green
Sunday, February 8, 5:15pm
(Q&A with Pearl Bowser, Crystal Emery and Sam Pollard)
St. Clair Bourne, USA, 1983, digital projection, 45m

Something to Build On
St. Clair Bourne, USA, 1971, 16mm, 29m

Statues Hardly Ever Smile
Stan Lathan, USA, 1971, digital projection, 21m

 

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One
Saturday, February 7, 1:00pm
(Q&A with Louise Greaves and Special Guests)
William Greaves, USA, 1968, 35mm, 75m

A docufiction, a narrative experiment, a film about making a film, a crew without a director, a time capsule of New York, a barometer of the culture: process, form, and personality collide in Greaves’s classic, about which no superlatives can be overused and whose influence cannot be overstated.

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

 Video Program – Free Amphitheater Event!
A program of video-based works that used television technology to bring public attention to Black American identity, through intervention, documentation, and parody, as in Anthony Ramos’s About Media, in which the artist uses his Portapak camera to turn a news crew’s visit to his home into media critique. Co-programmed by Rebecca Cleman and presented by Rebecca Cleman and Chris Hill.

Queen Mother Moore Speech at Greenhaven Prison

People’s Communications Network, USA, 1973, digital projection, 17m

About Media
Sunday, February 15, 4:30pm

(Post-screening discussion with Rebecca Cleman and Chris Hill)
Anthony Ramos, USA, 1977, digital projection, 25m

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

William Greaves Program
One of Greaves’s greatest, From These Roots is a crash-course in Harlem history, told entirely through the use of still images—rarely has so much information been condensed so gracefully. Paired with two early, rare Greaves docs, showing the incredible range of his work. A tribute to the Harlem-born teacher, mentor, and filmmaker, who passed away in August 2014.

From These Roots
Saturday, February 14, 8:30pm
(Q&A with Louise Greaves)
William Greaves, USA, 1974, 16mm, 28m

Emergency Ward
William Greaves, USA, 1959, 16mm, 30m

Wealth of a Nation
William Greaves, USA, 1964, digital projection, 25m

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

• • • •

Women’s Work Program
A program from exemplary women filmmakers who were an integral part of the independent film industry during the period covered by this survey. The content of these women’s films are culturally and community-specific, and they tell stories of universal human interest, with social commentary at their core, effectively bringing to light the remarkable contributions of female storytellers and their image-making prowess.

Teach Our Children
Friday, February 13, 6:00pm
(Q&A with Christine Choy, Susan Robeson,Camille Billops and Neema Barnette)
Christine Choy & Susan Robeson, USA, 1972, digital projection, 35m

Hairpiece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People
Ayoka Chenzira, USA, 1985, 16mm, 10m

Syvilla
Ayoka Chenzira

Suzanne Suzanne
Camille Billops & James Hatch, USA, 1982, 16mm, 30m

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center • 144 West 65th Street

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