Black Women Behind the Lens
In 1976, an extraordinary group of Black feminist artists and activists organized the first ever Black women’s film festival: the Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts. Films by Michelle Parkerson, Ayoka Chenzira, Edie Lynch, and Madeline Anderson, among others, were screened. The festival was simultaneously a celebration of the emerging world of Black women’s filmmaking as well as a radical call for the kinds of socio-political and institutional changes necessary for a Black women’s film culture to thrive. Four decades later, the Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts, 2023 commemorates the 1976 festival with a nine-week screening series, held in conjunction with Professor Allyson Nadia Field’s winter 2023 course “Creating a Different Image: Black Women's Filmmaking of the 1970s-90s,” and a two-day symposium about the original festival and the tradition of Black feminist filmmaking. For more information, visit voices.uchicago.edu/sojourner
“Creating a Different Image: Black Women’s Filmmaking of the 1970s-90s,” opens with a showcase of the multifaceted work of Black women filmmakers from the mid-twentieth-century to the present. We begin with an excerpt from Yvonne Welbon’s award-winning documentary Sisters in Cinema (2003), which examines the careers of Black women filmmakers, including many of the filmmakers in our 2023 festival. We then turn to early work by pioneering filmmakers Hortense “Tee” Beveridge, Madeline Anderson, Pearl Bowser, Louise Fleming, and Monica Freeman. Beveridge, a talented film editor who worked in public television as well as on feature films, experiments with the expressive possibilities of editing in Editing Exercises (1950s) and her later film Morris (1971), made in collaboration with Brownsville Youth Center. Anderson’s Integration Report 1 (1960) examines the struggle for racial equality across the United States, and her later film Being Me (1975) explores the power of arts education and how children conceptualize their personal, family, and cultural identities. Bowser, best known as a film curator and historian, experiments with the horror genre in her short film, The Guest (1977). Fleming’s Just Briefly (1975) features a young Black woman’s reflections on a fleeting, ill-fated romance. And we conclude with Freeman’s Valerie: A Woman, an Artist, a Philosophy of Life (1975), a portrait of sculptor Valerie Maynard which also explores, more broadly, what it means to be a Black woman and an artist. (16mm and digital video, 97 min.)
Editing Exercises, Morris, and The Guest courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, gift of Pearl Bowser. Integration Report 1 courtesy of Icarus. Valerie: A Woman, an Artist, a Philosophy of Life courtesy, Black Film Center & Archive, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Just Briefly and Being Me courtesy of Medgar Evers College (CUNY) Library Archives.
Presented by the Film Studies Center, Sisters in Cinema, and South Side Projections, and co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture.