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Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986

Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads  (1983)
July 18, 2015 -
August 23, 2015

Two impactful moments bracket this landmark screening series, assembling milestones of Black, independent media culture in New York.  The 1968 emergence of Black newsmagazine programs such as Black Journal and Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant, largely in response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., fostered documentary production and numerous talents, with prolific producer-director William Greaves often at the center of the action.  The later, smash success of Spike Lee's invigorating She's Gotta Have It (1986) presaged an expansion of African American voices and stories in mass market, feature filmmaking.  These events encompass an 18-year history of remarkable productivity by a host of New York-based filmmakers, working individually and in concert, amassing a momentous legacy of Black, independent filmmaking.  The surprising emergence of Greaves' iconoclastic, experimental feature Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968), which lay dormant for decades awaiting its critical apotheosis, further certifies the fecundity of the era, though indeed, it is the totality of the rich, varied work of the time that demands acknowledgement as a monumental social and artistic achievement.  Studded by critically lauded works, this program includes numerous titles little seen since their creation, including Kathleen Collins' remarkable Losing Ground (1982), never theatrically released in its time. Filmmakers including St. Clair Bourne, Jessie Maple, Bill Gunn and Madeline Anderson, join with such luminaries of arts and letters as Amiri Baraka, Ayoka Chenzira and Pearl Bowser, responding with diversity, trenchant observation and formal virtuosity to contemporary life and politics.  Concerns over lingering social inequities, disillusionment with dubious promises of bourgeois attainment, and descriptions of social and ideological shifts within Black communities, infuse this body of work with passion and purpose.  Rich with cherished and rediscovered gems, the program is only a partial representation of the creativity of a time and place, whose history crucially informs the twin histories of Black and independent film, writ large. 

Note:  This series was drawn from the larger program, Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986, curated by Michelle Materre and Jake Perlin, and presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Special thanks to: Michelle Materre, Jake Perlin; Dennis Lim; Amy Heller, Dennis Doros—Milestone Films; Cassie Blake—Academy Film Archive; Brian Graney—Black Film Center/Archive, Indiana University Bloomington; Kevin Stayton, Angie Park—Brooklyn Museum; Liz Coffey, Mark Johnson--Harvard Film Archive; Anne Morra, Mary Keene—Museum of Modern Art; Elena Rossi-Snook, Archivist, Reserve Film and Video Collection, New York Public Library.

Past Programs & Events

Title Date and Time Location
I Remember Harlem (1981)

I Remember Harlem

Sunday, August 23, 2015 - 7:00 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Will (1981)

Will  /  Personal Problems

Friday, August 21, 2015 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Teach Our Children (1972)

Selected Shorts

Sunday, August 16, 2015 - 7:00 pm Billy Wilder Theater
The Long Night (1976)

The Long Night

Thursday, August 13, 2015 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983)

She's Gotta Have It  /  Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads

Saturday, August 8, 2015 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant

Statues Hardly Ever Smile  /  The Black G.I.  /  Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant

Sunday, August 2, 2015 - 7:00 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968)

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One

Saturday, July 25, 2015 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Ganja & Hess (1973)

Ganja & Hess  /  Namibia: Independence Now!

Friday, July 24, 2015 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Voices of the Gods  (1985)

Voices of the Gods  /  Let the Church Say Amen!

Sunday, July 19, 2015 - 7:00 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Losing Ground  (1982)

Losing Ground  /  Suzanne Suzanne

Saturday, July 18, 2015 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater