All events are free and the public is cordially invited.
Unless otherwise indicated, events are scheduled for Sunday afternoons at 2 in the Bradford Auditorium—Room 125, in the Kirner-Johnson Building. Events run between one and three hours.
This series is made possible by the office of the Dean of the Faculty, by the generous support of the Kirkland Endowment, and by the Experimental Television Center re-grant program.
Unless otherwise indicated, events are scheduled for Sunday afternoons at 2:00 in the Bradford Auditorium—Room 125, in the Kirner-Johnson Building
In Focus: AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN FILM: Rarely Screened Landmarks
(each screening will be followed by a short break and, for those interested, discussion)
1/31: Nothing But a Man (1964), directed by Michael Roemer, starring Ivan Dickson and Abbey Lincoln, screenplay by Robert M. Young.
African-American rail worker Duff Anderson (Ivan Dixon) has left his 4-year old son with a nanny, and now drifts through life with little ambition. Duff's outlook on life changes when he meets schoolteacher Josie Dawson (Abbey Lincoln), a gentle preacher's daughter.
“One of the best black-oriented films of its era: a subtle, quietly intense study of a black man living in the South, refusing to kowtow and suffering the consequences of that refusal”—Donald Bogle. Selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1993.
2/7: Portrait of Jason (1967), directed by Shirley Clarke, starring Jason Holliday (née Aaron Payne).
A gay African-American hustler and aspiring cabaret performer, Jason is the sole on-screen presence in the film. He narrates his troubled life story to the camera, behind which Clarke and her partner at the time, actor Carl Lee, provoke Jason with increasing hostility as the film progresses. The film employs avant-garde and cinema-verite techniques to reach the tragedy underlying Jason's theatrical, exaggerated persona.
Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman called Portrait of Jason “the most extraordinary film I've seen in my life.” Selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2015.
2/14: Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1972) by William Greaves.
It’s 1968, and director William Greaves begins filming a scene in Central Park: an argument between a couple. At the same time, the crew is also filming themselves filming the movie and the surrounding scene. Does the director know what he’s doing? The cast and crew aren’t sure. The result is a head-spinning landmark of experimental film that playfully creates a liminal space between fiction and reality, art and artifice. Can the production of a film model utopia?
Steven Soderbergh: “I just thought it was one of the most amazing things I'd ever seen…. I couldn't believe how great it was and that it wasn't famous.” Selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2015.
2/21: Killer of Sheep (1977) by Charles Burnett
Among the most accomplished films to come out of the “LA Rebellion,” a two-decade flowering of African-American filmmaking in LA, Killer of Sheep is a glimpse at the life of a family in Watts, shot in neorealist style on a shoestring. It did not have a theatrical release for nearly 30 years—since Burnett couldn’t afford the rights to the music used in the film.
Chosen by the National Society of Film Critics as one of the 100 Essential Films, and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1990.
2/28: Losing Ground (1982), directed by Kathleen Collins, starring Seret Scott, Bill Gunn, and Duane Jones.
Collins, who had an MA in French literature, was a film professor at City College of New York. Her lone feature, Losing Ground, is about a middle-class couple, Sarah (Seret Scott), a young professor of philosophy who is writing a treatise on aesthetics; and her husband, Victor (Bill Gunn), an older artist who has just sold a painting to a major museum. The couple decides to spend the summer in a village in upstate New York, where Victor becomes fascinated by the landscape, the light, and the Puerto Rican women who live there.
“The movie is a nearly lost masterwork…. Had it screened widely in its time, it would have marked film history”—New Yorker critic, Richard Brody.
3/6: Film Scholar Jacqueline Stewart, will join us to explore the career of pioneer filmmaker Spencer Williams.
Dr. Stewart is a graduate of the University of Chicago where she now teaches film history with the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, serves as director of Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, and curates Black Cinema House. She is author of Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity (University of California Press, 2005) and co-author of LA Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema (University of California Press, 2015).
Spencer Williams had a long career in American media, from his bit part in Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1927) to his starring role as Andy in the TV show Amos ‘n Andy—though he is best known to cineastes for Blood of Jesus (1941), his lovely “race film” (a film with an all-Black cast distributed to the network of African-American theaters in the apartheid America of the 1920s-1940s).
4/10: Alfred Guzzetti, in person, with old and new work.
Guzzetti is Harvard University’s cine-sage. He has worked in many forms of filmmaking, making significant contributions to personal documentary, ethnographic film, and video art; and he has taught several generations of accomplished filmmakers, including Darren Aronofsky, Mira Nair, Marco Williams, and Joshua Oppenheimer. He’ll screen the breakthrough film Air (1971); his stunning landscape/cityscape film, Still Point (2009); Time Exposure (2012), the haiku of personal documentary; and Time Present (2013).
4/17: Erin Espelie, in person, with The Lanthanide Series (2014)
After years working as an editor of Natural History magazine (published by the American Museum of Natural History), Espelie turned to filmmaking and made a series of short films before completing her first feature, The Lanthanide Series, structured around the “rare earth” elements on the periodic table. The Lanthanide Series is equal parts science, poetry, history, cinema, and environmental politics—one of the most illuminating essay films of recent decades.
4/24: Music and Cinema, presented by F.I.L.M. director, Scott MacDonald
This program focuses on films that were premonitions, and sometimes inspirations, for what we now call the “music video.” Among the films to be screened: Black and Tan (1929) by Dudley Murphy, with Duke Ellington and Fredi Washington (selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2015); “Young and Healthy” from 42nd Street (1933); Komposition en Blau (1935) by Oskar Fischinger; Swinging the Lambeth Walk (1940) by Len Lye; Daybreak Express (1953) by D. A. Pennebaker; Cosmic Ray (1962) by Bruce Conner; Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965) by Kenneth Anger; and the trailer for Don’t Look Back (1967) by D. A. Pennebaker, with Bob Dylan.