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Hope, Despair and Inspiration: The Filmmaker Panel

About the Author

Signature image for L.A. Rebellion is a still from Ashes & Embers (1982)
UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television

This is a group blog for Prof. Allyson Nadia Field's Fall 2011 graduate seminar, FTV 218: Culture, Media & Society: The "L.A. Rebellion" of Black Filmmakers, which looks at the films in the larger contexts of African American filmmaking, race in American cinema, and the social, political, and cultural environments of the films’ production.

At the panel on Sunday, there were three main issues expressed by the filmmakers of the L.A. Rebellion. Throughout much of their conversation the topics of hope, despair and inspiration were repeated in various contexts. These may seem like vague, abstract or even cliché terms, but they can be useful in considering the historical contexts of the work that was presented and the time period in which these films came together.

L.A. Rebellion Filmmaker Panel

For many of the filmmakers, there was a hope that their actions in the past changed something for future filmmakers to come. Each of these unique individuals had hope within them that they protected and nurtured to reach their accomplishments, even when it seemed unlikely that their films would come to fruition or find large distribution and viewership. Despair, as was specifically hit upon in an audience question, was also a large part of this discussion by those involved in the L.A. Rebellion. There was personal despair each artist faced that presented insurmountable barriers to creative production. There was also the despair collectively shared in negotiating the larger economics of the film industry and market trends, both in the United States and abroad, which ultimately influence production practices. 

L.A. Rebellion Filmmaker Panel

Towards the end of the conversation, the theme of inspiration became a focus of the panel. As another audience member commented during the Q&A, many of these filmmakers had already moved into larger productions by the time many students were beginning their own film careers at UCLA in the early 1990s. Overall, while the conversation between the filmmakers and audience struck many different points between many different voices, the invaluable legacy of these works became clear. 

Laura Paul

Comments

After the panel I was thinking about the lack of opportunities Black filmmakers face for further creative production - it came out as such a dominant theme and it really highlighted the gap between professional training received at the school, and the preparation (or complete lack thereof) of commercial arenas to receive and support this talent.  The university and studios are of course completely different institutions, but it's incredibly depressing to see clearly how the university's attempt to enable this work didn't, or couldn't, bridge into commercial production.

I can't recall who said this, but one of the panel members talked about filmmaking as an extension of her art practice more broadly, and that after she left the program she directed her practice into education.  I was really interested in this comment because it pointed out that while all of the panel members had been filmmakers at the school, filmmaking wasn't necessarily the only avenue for their art practice or intellectual pursuits, and that they found ways to do their work outside of commercial cinema.  Now of course, that's not by way of excuse for the commercial sector.  It's appalling that Black filmmakers, and other minority filmmakers, have so few opportunities in those institutions.  But I thought it really spoke to the strength and commitment of those who continued to find ways to do their work in other areas.  Even though the historical reality they faced was demoralizing, I found their determination really inspiring.