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UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Hugh M. Hefner Classic American Film Program present

Bill Gunn's Personal Problems Restored

Personal Problems
June 8, 2018 - 7:30 pm

"Personal Problems is among those rare, quietly unassuming avant-garde works that takes the trouble to be genuinely entertaining while pushing formal and textual boundaries." —Film Comment

"With a Fassbinderian flair for color and a neorealist’s eye for composition... Gunn spins a potent ensemble drama from his modest domestic milieu."—Hollywood Reporter

A pioneering Black artist, Bill Gunn pursued a radical, idiosyncratic vision across multiple creative fields as an actor, playwright, novelist and filmmaker from the mid-1950s until his untimely death in 1989.  Best known for writing and directing the ever-astonishing vampire masterpiece Ganja & Hess (1973), Gunn helmed two other features, Stop (1970) and Personal Problems (1980), that have remained criminally unseen in their original forms for decades.  In the case of Personal Problems, that has thankfully been rectified by Kino Lorber, which has lovingly restored the full-length version of Gunn’s masterful ensemble drama.  UCLA Film & Television Archive is proud to present the film’s Los Angeles restoration premiere.

Los Angeles Restoration Premiere!

Personal Problems  (1980)

Originally intended to air on public television in 1980, Personal Problems emerged as a collaboration between director Bill Gunn and acclaimed writer Ishmael Reed who described it as “experimental soap opera.”  Reworking and reorienting the genre’s tropes, Gunn and Reed illuminate under-represented African American realities and critique the reductive banalities of television.  The saga of Johnnie Mae Brown, a professional nurse’s aid, leads us through the stresses of her professional and personal life, rendered with a penetrating irony.

DCP, color, 165 min.  Producer: Walter Cotton.  Director: Bill Gunn.  Screenwriter: Ishmael Reed, Walter Cotton.  Cinematographer: Roberto Polidori.  Editor: Bill Gunn.  Cast: Vertamae Grosvenor, Walter Cotton, Stacey Harris, Jim Wright, Thommie Blackwell.