“Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986,” (UCLA Film & Television Archive)

UCLA Film & Television Archive presents the film series, “Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986,”which continues Saturday, August 8 – Sunday, August 23 at the Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood Village.

 Upcoming programs spotlight 18 years of remarkable work by a host of New York-based filmmakers, including:  Madeline AndersonAyoka ChenziraChristine ChoyBill GunnLeroi JonesSpike Lee, Jessie Maple and many others. 

TELL IT LIKE IT IS: BLACK INDEPENDENTS IN NEW YORK, 1968-1986  

Saturday, July 18 – Sunday, August 23

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. 

 

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, The New York Public Library.

 

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Saturday, August 8 at 7:30 PM

Print courtesy of the Harvard Film Archive.

SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT  (1986)

Producer: Shelton J. Lee.  Director: Spike Lee.  Screenwriter: Spike Lee.  Cinematographer: Ernest Dickerson.  Editor: Spike Lee.  With: Tracy Camilla-Johns, Tommy Redmond Hicks, John Canada Terrell, Spike Lee, Raye Dowell.

A signal feature of African American expression, and of American independent film, Spike Lee’s breakout hit depicted the relationship dynamics of Nola Darling, an independent woman balancing relationships with three men.  Edgy and idiosyncratic, the film made unprecedented incursions into the mainstream with its depiction of Black, urban characters not as victims or symptoms, but as subjects with voices and choices.

35mm, b/w, 84 min.

JOE’S BED-STUY BARBERSHOP: WE CUT HEADS  (1983)

Producer: Spike Lee.  Director: Spike Lee.  Screenwriter: Spike Lee.  Cinematographer: Ernest Dickerson.  Editor: Spike Lee. With: Monty Ross, Donna Bailey, Stuart Smith, Tommie Hicks, Horace Long.

Spike Lee’s thesis film for his master’s degree at NYU went on to win a student Academy Award.  The new owner of a barbershop is frustrated in his attempt to run a legitimate, traditional business by a scarcity of customers and the incursions of a gangster who wants to use the shop as a front for a numbers racket. 

16mm, b/w, 60 min.

Thursday, August 13 at 7:30 PM

THE LONG NIGHT  (1976)

Producer: Ed Pitt.  Director: Woodie King, Jr.  Screenwriter: Julian Mayfield, Woodie King, Jr.  Cinematographer: James Malloy.  Editor: Joe Staton.  With: Dick Anthony Williams, Peggy Kirkpatrick, W. Geoffrey King, Shauneille Perry, Woodie King, Jr.

Steely Brown, a young boy living in Harlem, wanders the streets of the city one night, reflecting on what led to the disappearance of his father.  Meeting the denizens of his neighborhood, he engages in conversations that begin to sketch the outlines of the enigma, invoking Vietnam, marital discord, paternal relationships, substance abuse, schooling and unemployment—in short, the life of an American family.

35mm, color/sepia, 85 min.

 

Preceded by:

From the James Hinton Collection at the Harvard Film Archive.  Digitization made possible by Anthology Film Archives.

THE NEW-ARK (1968)

Director: Leroi Jones.  Screenwriter: Leroi Jones.  Cinematographer: James Hinton.

Director Leroi Jones (a.k.a Amiri Baraka) makes a rare, onscreen appearance in this recently re-discovered film, a portrait of “Spirit House,” a Black nationalist community center in Newark, New Jersey, where urban theater and political consciousness-raising further the aims of Black education.

Digital video, color, 25 min.

 

Print courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, preserved with funding from the National Film Preservation Foundation.

A PLACE IN TIME (1977)

Producer: Charles Lane.  Director: Charles Lane.  Screenwriter: Charles Lane.  Cinematographer: Ron Fortunato.  Editor: Charles Lane.  With: Francine Piggot, George Riddick, Joseph Robinson, Ina Mayhew, Joseph Reid, Charles Lane.

A New York artist witnesses a crime and resolves to redeem his earlier inaction.  A silent film in pantomime, this early work by director Charles Lane brings a unique deftness and grace to its social realist narrative. 

16mm, b/w, 34 min.

 

Sunday, August 16 at 7 PM  

TEACH OUR CHILDREN (1972)

Director: Christine Choy, Susan Robeson.

Documenting the 1971 Attica prison rebellion with footage of the calamity and subsequent interviews with guards and prisoners, this penetrating documentary also critiques the systemic subjugation of people of color in America, and gives voice to those at Attica who organized to secure their rights under abject conditions.

Digital video, b/w, in English and Spanish with English subtitles, 35 min. 

 

FREE, WHITE & 21 (1980)

Director: Howardena Pindell.

Howardena Pindell delivers a stark direct-camera monologue recounting incidents in which she was discriminated against for being an African American woman.  A blonde white woman (Pindell in disguise) injects a cynical rebuttal, claiming Pindell is just being paranoid.

Digital video, color, 12 min.

 

Print courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, preserved with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. 

I AM SOMEBODY (1970)

Producer: Madeline Anderson.  Director: Madeline Anderson.  Cinematographer: Don Hunstein, Roland Mitchell.  Editor: Madeline Anderson.

This inspiring documentary chronicles the struggles of underpaid female hospital workers in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1969, seeking to unionize as they heroically face down the National Guard and public opinion.

16mm, color, 30 min.  

 

A DREAM IS WHAT YOU WAKE UP FROM  (1978)

Director: Larry Bullard, Carolyn Johnson.  Cinematographer: Larry Bullard.  Editor: Allan Siegel.  With: Lauren Craig, Kym Fleming, Damian Hayes, Cheryl Daniels, Onaje Frank Ruffin.

An intimate portrait of members of three contemporary Black families, giving insight to the societal, economic, gendered and sometimes elusive forces that insidiously circumscribe and condition their everyday lives.  

16mm, color, 50 min.

 

Friday, August 21 at 7:30 PM

Print courtesy of the Black Film Center/Archive, Indiana University Bloomington.  Preserved with support from the Women's Film Preservation Fund.

WILL (1981)

Producer: Jessie Maple, Leroy Patton.  Director: Jessie Maple.  Screenwriter: Anthony Wisdom, Jessie Maple.  Based on an original story by Jessie Maple.  Cinematographer: Leroy Patton.  Editor: Willette Coleman.  With: Obaka Adedunyo, Loretta Devine, Robert Dean, Audrey Maple, Ellwoodson Williams.

Considered the first feature film directed by an African American woman, trailblazer Jessie Maple's first feature tells the story of a girls’ basketball coach and former athlete, battling heroin addiction as he and his spouse bring up a 12-year-old street kid, “Little Brother,” that they’ve taken in.  Maple’s unblinking but compassionate telling of their story renders a Harlem not without its troubles, but brimming with humanity. 

16mm, color, 70 min.

 

PERSONAL PROBLEMS (1980)

Producer: Walter Cotton.  Director: Bill Gunn.  Screenwriter: Ishmael Reed, Walter Cotton.  Cinematographer: Roberto Polidori.  Editor: Bill Gunn.  With: Verta Mae Grosvenor, Walter Cotton, Stacey Harris, Jim Wright, Thommie Blackwell.

Acclaimed writer Ishmael Reed, in collaboration with director Bill Gunn, reworks the soap opera genre to illuminate under-represented African American realities and critique the reductive banalities of television—soaps in particular.  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.

Digital video, color, 70 min.

 

Sunday, August 23 at 7 PM

Print courtesy of the Reserve Film and Video Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, preserved with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

I REMEMBER HARLEM (1981)

Producer: William Miles.  Directed by William Miles.  Screenwriter: Clayton Riley.  Cinematographer: Richard Adams.  Editor: Jonathan Weld, Richard Adams, John Zieman, John Godfrey.  With: Adolph Caesar (narrator). 

William Miles, acclaimed visual historian of Harlem, lovingly renders an epic telling of the community's 350-year history as the cultural hub of African American life.  Extending from the late 17th century to the early 1980s, the film registers the socioeconomic shifts and challenges of the late 20th century, also chronicling the momentous experiences of Civil Rights activism and the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance.

16mm, color, 240 min.

 

Preceded by:

Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.

SYVILLA: THEY DANCE TO HER DRUM  (1979)

Director: Ayoka Chenzira.  Cinematographer: Ayoka Chenzira, Mitch Heicklen.  Editor: Joseph Burton.

Filmmaker Ayoka Chenzira inscribes a moving and indelible portrait of Syvilla Fort, the esteemed dancer, choreographer and dance instructor, who passed away in 1975.

16mm, b/w, 12 min.

 

VENUE 

The Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood Village, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA  90024 (corner of Wilshire & Westwood Blvds., courtyard level of the Hammer Museum).

TICKETS  

Advance tickets are available online for $10.

Tickets are also available at the Billy Wilder Theater box office beginning one hour before showtime: $9, general admission; FREE to all UCLA students with valid ID; $8, other students, seniors and UCLA Alumni Association members with ID.

PARKING

At the Billy Wilder Theater for a $3 flat rate on weekdays after 6 p.m. and all day on Saturdays and Sundays.  Enter from Westwood Blvd., just north of Wilshire.

INFO | PROGRAM UPDATES

cinema.ucla.edu | 310-206-FILM (-3456)

 

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