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BAMcinématek presents One Way or Another: Black Women’s Cinema, 1970-1991


Dec 19, 2016/Brooklyn, NY—From Friday, February 3 to Thursday, February 23

One Way or Another: Black Women’s Cinema, 1970-1991

On the occasion of the recent restoration and re-release of Julie Dash’s 1991 masterpiece Daughters of the Dust, BAMcinématek celebrates the black women directors who blazed the trail for this landmark film. The filmmakers represented in this series all worked far outside the mainstream, often with limited resources, overcoming a historically hostile system in order to tell their stories on screen. Taken together, their work represents a rich history of long-undervalued independent filmmaking.

DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (1991) Dir. Julie Dash. With Cora Lee Day, Alva Rogers, Barbara-O. Julie Dash’s gorgeous evocation of early-20th century Gullah life chronicles three generations of women in the Peazant family—descendants of slaves living on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina—as several prepare to leave home to migrate north. Steeped in the language, culture, and customs of the Gullah people, Daughters of the Dust is a dreamy, at times mystic, celebration of folk traditions and black womanhood. Its sumptuous images (which were a key influence on Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade) shimmer anew in this ravishing restoration. DCP. 112min. Fri, Feb 3 at 2, 7pm; Feb 4 & 5 at 4:30, 9:30pm

LOSING GROUND (1982) Dir. Kathleen Collins. A married couple experiences a reawakening on a summer idyll in upstate New York. This revelatory comedic drama is one of the first films to explore sexuality from the perspective of a black female director. DCP. 86min. Fri, Feb 3 at 4:30pm & Feb 4-5 at 2pm

I BE DONE BEEN WAS IS (1983) Dir. Debra Robinson. With Alice Arthur, Jane Galvin Lewis, Rhonda Hansome, Marsha Warfield. Profiles of four black female comedians, offering insight into what it means to be a sharp-witted woman navigating the male-dominated world of stand-up. 16mm. 60min. Sat, Feb 4 at 7:10pm & Thu, Feb 9 at 9:15pm

JULIE DASH SHORTS A survey of Julie Dash’s (Daughters of the Dust) remarkable career from the 1970s to the present: Four Women (1975), a dance film set to the music of Nina Simone; her breakthrough work, Illusions (1982), which explores African-American representation in 1940s Hollywood via the story of a black studio executive passing as white; Praise House (1991), a performance piece made with Urban Bush Women founder Jawole Willa Jo Zollar; and Standing at the Scratch Line (2016), a look at the history of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. 75min. Sun, Feb 5 at 7pm & Mon, Feb 6 at 9:45pm

CAMILLE BILLOPS PROGRAM The films of Camille Billops are heartrending, fearlessly personal meditations on a range of emotionally charged subjects. This program brings together a cross section of Billops’ documentary work: Suzanne, Suzanne (1982), a harrowing portrait of a woman processing her abusive father and her own drug addiction; Finding Christa (1991), an autobiographical record of the filmmaker’s reunion with the daughter she gave up for adoption; and Take Your Bags (1998), Billops’ examination of slavery and cultural theft. 92min. Mon, Feb 6 at 7pm (*Curator’s Choice screening) & Wed, Feb 15 at 9:45pm

PERFORMERS AND ARTISTS This shorts program spotlights several extraordinary black women artists: Valerie, Monica J. Freeman’s 1975 portrait of sculptor Valerie Maynard; Syvilla: They Dance to Her Drum, Ayoka Chenzira’s 1979 tribute to dancer-choreographer Syvilla Fort; Water Ritual #1: An Urban Rite of Purification, an experimental performance film by Barbara McCullough, inspired by Afro-diasporic ceremonies; Remembering Thelma, Kathe Sandler’s 1981 portrait of dancer Thelma Hill, a founding member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; and Stormé: The Lady of the Jewel Box, Michelle Parkerson’s 1987 profile of Stormé DeLarverie, a drag king, gay rights activist, and heroine of the Stonewall uprising. 77min. Tue, Feb 7 at 7pm

ZORA IS MY NAME! (1990) Dir. Neema Barnette. With Ruby Dee, Louis Gossett Jr., Roger E. Mosley. The great Ruby Dee scripted and stars in this tribute to visionary writer and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston, produced for PBS’ American Playhouse. 90min. Tue, Feb 7 at 9:30pm

TWICE AS NICE + A MINOR ALTERCATION Two explorations of the complex relationships between women. Jackie Shearer’s 1977 docudrama A Minor Altercation captures the tensions between two girls—one black, one white—during the desegregation of Boston’s public schools. Jessie Maple, the first black woman admitted to New York’s camera operators union, explores the bond between twin college basketball players in her 1989 film Twice as Nice, scripted by poet S. Pearl Sharp. 100min. Wed, Feb 8 at 8:45pm

VISIONS OF THE SPIRIT: A PORTRAIT OF ALICE WALKER (1989) Dir. Elena Featherston. This revealing portrait of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Walker offers essential insight into the experiences that shaped her perspective as an outspoken black feminist. 58min. Wed, Feb 8 at 7pm

PERFECT IMAGE? + A DIFFERENT IMAGE In LA Rebellion filmmaker Alile Sharon Larkin’s A Different Image (1982), an art student sets out to reclaim her body and self-worth from Western patriarchal norms. Maureen Blackwood’s Perfect Image? (1988) casts two actresses, one light skinned, one dark skinned, in a series of sketches exploring black beauty standards. 82min. Thu, Feb 9 at 7pm

GREY AREA + 2 BY FRONZA WOODS These psychologically rich films are fully realized portraits of black female consciousness. Monona Wali’s Grey Area (1981) depicts a news reporter’s political awakening in early-1980s Los Angeles. Killing Time (1979) and Fannie’s Film (1979), both directed by Fronza Woods, offer insights into the black female psyche rarely depicted in film. 65min. Mon, Feb 13 at 7pm

OTHELLO (1980) Dir. Liz White. With Yaphet Kotto, Audrey Dixon, Richard Dixon. Created by an entirely black cast and crew, including Yaphet Kotto in the title role, Liz White’s rarely screened adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy offers incisive commentary on the play’s racial dimensions. 115min. Mon, Feb 13 at 8:45pm

SKY CAPTAIN Two heartrending portraits of black childhood: Neema Barnette’s Sky Captain (1985), a hip-hop-infused South Bronx fantasy that tackles the issue of teen suicide, and Alile Sharon Larkin’s Your Children Come Back to You (1979), the story of a struggling single mother from the point of view of her young daughter. 92min. Wed, Feb 15 at 7pm

THE MAIDS + I AM SOMEBODY This program mines the complicated relationship between black women, capitalism, and the workplace as documented by a 1969 hospital workers’ strike in Charleston in Madeline Anderson’s I Am Somebody (1970) and the history of domestic service in Muriel Jackson’s The Maids (1985). 56min. Thu, Feb 16 at 7pm

CYCLES + ON BECOMING A WOMAN A woman performs Caribbean folk rituals in Zeinabu irene Davis’ Cycles and Cheryl Chisholm addresses reproductive rights in On Becoming A Woman. 107min. Thu, Feb 16 at 9:15pm

A DREAM IS WHAT YOU WAKE UP FROM Three films about black families, neighborhoods, and home life. In A Dream is What You Wake Up From (1978), directors Larry Bullard and Carolyn Johnson mix documentary and drama to illustrate the day-to-day struggles of three black families. In A Sense of Pride: Hamilton Heights (1977), Monica J. Freeman chronicles the transformation of the northern Manhattan neighborhood by upwardly mobile black residents. And Black Faces (1970), a project of the Young Filmmakers Foundation, presents portraits of the community in early 1970s Harlem. 66min. Sat, Feb 18 at 2pm

ONE WAY OR ANOTHER (DE CIERTA MANERA) (1974) Dir. Sara Gómez. With Mario Balmaseda, Yolanda Cuéllar, Mario Limonta. Pioneering Afro-Cuban filmmaker Sara Gómez’s radical narrative-documentary hybrid delivers a complex critique of regressive machismo in a post-revolutionary Cuba, in the first feature directed by a Cuban woman. 78min. Sat, Feb 18 at 4:30pm

ANIMATION PROGRAM This program spotlights the contributions of black women to the art of animation: Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People (Ayoka Chenzira, 1984), a musical satire on the politically charged subject of African-American hair; Zajota and the Boogie Spirit (Ayoka Chenzira, 1990), a rhythmic celebration of African dance with a score by Mino Cinelu; Picking Tribes (S. Pearl Sharp, 1988), about a young girl navigating her identity as a black Native American; and A Powerful Thang (Zeinabu irene Davis, 1991), an inventive mix of live-action and animation exploring sex, love, and relationships. 94min. Sun, Feb 19 at 4:30pm

NAMIBIA: INDEPENDENCE NOW! (1985) Dirs. Pearl Bowser & Christine Choy. This urgent, eye-opening documentary, shot inside refugee camps in Zambia and Angola, is an essential record of the role that women played in the struggle for South-West African liberation. 55min. Mon, Feb 20 at 7pm

THE CRUZ BROTHERS AND MISS MALLOY (1980) Dir. Kathleen Collins. With Randy Ruiz, Jose Machado, Lionel Pina. This recently restored lost treasure from Kathleen Collins is a magical realist tale of three Puerto Rican brothers and their father’s ghost. 54min. Tue, Feb 21 at 7pm

SUGAR CANE ALLEY (1983) Dir. Euzhan Palcy. With Garry Cadenat, Darling Légitimus, Douta Seck. Set in a small village in the early 1930s, a teenage orphan sets out to make something of himself in acclaimed director Euzhan Palcy’s gorgeous vision of black life in French colonial Martinique. 104min. Thu, Feb 23 at 7pm