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Black 90s: A Turning Point in American Cinema
May 14 @ 7:30 pm
a nearly three week-long program of films, both low-budget art films and classic blockbusters, from an era of explosive creativity and newfound studio support for black filmmakers.
The 1990s witnessed a historic number of films made by African-American directors who blazed new aesthetic pathways and who created touchstone works that continue to inspire contemporary filmmakers. Bringing together popular hits and unsung gems, this expansive series surveys the rich variety of genres and styles—from indie drama to comedy to romance to noir to queer cinema—upon which black filmmakers left their mark, making crucial strides in a fight for more complex representation that continues today.
The series opens with a focus on the 1990s work of trailblazing filmmakers from the LA Rebellion, a generation of artists who studied at UCLA and created a black alternative to classical Hollywood. Opening night kicks off with Charles Burnett’s To Sleep with Anger (1990), a poetic realist masterpiece that weaves strains of black folklore, surrealism, and macabre comedy, with a mesmerizing performance by Danny Glover. It screens with a new 35mm print of Burnett’s short film When It Rains (1995), and will be followed by a Q&A with Burnett. Other films include Zeinabu Irene Davis’ innovative, century-spanning parallel romances in Compensation (1999); LA Rebellion leader Haile Gerima’s time-traveling portrait of the horrors of slavery and the power of revolt, Sankofa (1993); and Julie Dash’s dreamy evocation of early-20th-century Gullah life and black womanhood, Daughters of the Dust (1991).
The series continues with a new restoration of multimedia artist Cauleen Smith’s long-unseenDrylongso (1998), a black feminist murder mystery-buddy movie-romance, screening with the short Fragrance (Abel-Bey, 1991); Kasi Lemmons’ atmospheric Southern Gothic melodramaEve’s Bayou (1997), screening with Dreadlocks and the Three Bears (Larkin, 1991); Maya Angelou’s only film as a director, the portrait of black Southern family life, Down in the Delta(1998); and Leslie Harris’ indie cult classic Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (1992).
The series will also highlight queer classics of the era, including Stephen Winter’s searing satire of government apathy towards the AIDS crisis, Chocolate Babies (1997), screening with the fantasy short Anemone Me (1990), co-directed by Bruce Hainley and celebrated playwright Suzan-Lori Parks; The Watermelon Woman (1996), Cheryl Dunye’s watershed New Queer Cinema exploration of black lesbian identity and the history of black women in Hollywood; A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde (Griffin & Parkerson, 1995), a portrait of the remarkable feminist thinker, screening with the short Black Nations/Queer Nations? (Frilot, 1995); and Marlon Riggs’ final feature Black Is… Black Ain’t (1994) and his short Anthem(1991), both screening as part of an event co-presented with BAM Humanities, Essex Hemphill: Remembering and Reimagining.