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The Story of L.A. Rebellion

Ashes & Embers (1982)

In the late 1960s, in the aftermath of the Watts Uprising and against the backdrop of the continuing Civil Rights Movement and the escalating Vietnam War, a group of African and African American students entered the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, as part of an Ethno-Communications initiative designed to be responsive to communities of color (also including Asian, Chicano and Native American communities). Now referred to as the "L.A. Rebellion," these mostly unheralded artists created a unique cinematic landscape, as—over the course of two decades—students arrived, mentored one another and passed the torch to the next group.

Some aspects of the story have been told before, in articles and in panel discussions, and at retrospective screenings of key films.  Now, UCLA Film & Television Archive has undertaken its L.A. Rebellion initiative to help illuminate previously unknown aspects of the story, the artists and the work, and facilitate a greater understanding of the whole.

The Archive’s initiative began with a desire to participate in the Getty Foundation funded Pacific Standard Time exhibition of post World War II Art in Los Angeles.  Three years later, dozens of filmmakers have been identified as part of the L.A. Rebellion movement and the initiative has grown into a massive effort by all departments of the Archive to bring to light the contributions of these first generations of Black UCLA film students.

Completed endeavors of the L.A. Rebellion initiative include:
  •  The groundbreaking Los Angeles film exhibition, L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema, which screened October 7 – December 17, 2011  
  •  The publication of an exhibition catalog (PDF)
  •  A multi-discipline symposium that featured scholars from around the country on November 12, 2011
  •  A film exhibition tour that visited major cities throughout North America from September 2012 – November 2013

Ongoing endeavors of the L.A. Rebellion initiative include:
  •  Collecting, cataloging, restoring and protecting a wide variety of film, video and digital works
  •  Recording the stories, experiences and interpretations of L.A. Rebellion by the filmmakers and others through an ongoing oral history project  
  •  Hosting a L.A. Rebellion blog featuring lively conversation about the work and its context
  •  Posting early student works from the filmmakers online, with the goal of posting many more films in the future

Future plans for the L.A. Rebellion initiative include:
  •  Discovering, preserving and restoring additional L.A. Rebellion work
  •  Loaning prints of L.A. Rebellion works to film festivals and other venues around the globe
  •  Editing a book of critical essays to be published by UC Press in 2015. 

Beyond the work itself, what makes the L.A. Rebellion movement a discovery worthy of a place in film history is the vitality of its filmmakers, their utopian vision of a better society, their sensitivity to children and gender issues, their willingness to question any and all received wisdom, their identification with the liberation movements in the Third World, and their expression of Black pride and dignity.

L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema is part of Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980. This unprecedented collaboration, initiated by the Getty, brings together more than 60 cultural institutions from across Southern California for six months beginning October 2011 to tell the story of the birth of the L.A. art scene.

UCLA Film & Television Archive is grateful to its generous sponsors who have contributed to making L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema possible, including The Getty FoundationThe Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Artsthe National Endowment for the Arts, the California Council for the Humanities and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Thanks to: Getty Research Institute; Ann Philbin, Hammer Museum; Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum; Black Film Center/Archive, Indiana University; Charles Silver, Museum of Modern Art; Ayuko Babu, Pan African Film Festival; Grover Crisp, Sony Pictures Entertainment; Debra Zimmerman, Women Make Movies; Dennis Doros, Amy Heller, Milestone Films; Harris Tulchin; Larry Dodge; Cauleen Smith and the filmmakers of the L.A. Rebellion.