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
Pivoting to animation and the avant-garde, this program celebrates Black women’s contributions to different forms of filmmaking. Produced between 1972 and 1981, Carol Munday Lawrence’s animated Nguzo Saba films illustrate the nguzo saba of Kwanzaa, or seven principles of unity. In Tiger and the Big Wind (1972), smaller animals work together to defeat a greedy tiger. In Mudope and the Flood (1975), a farmer sacrifices his own crops to save his village. In Finding the Green Stone (1980), based on a story by Alice Walker, a young girl learns the cost of dishonesty. And in Noel's Lemonade Stand (1982), a boy's sidewalk stand becomes a center for community development. Ayoka Chenzira’s Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy Headed People (1984) is an animated short that satirizes the notion of “good hair.” O.Funmilayo Makarah’s Define (1988) is a meditation on identity and the negotiation of “dominant culture.” And with L.A. in My Mind (2006), Makarah uses digital filmmaking to express the artist’s idea of Los Angeles. Zeinabu irene Davis’s video A Period Piece (1991) is a comedic interrogation of the false promises of feminine hygiene product advertisements. Alile Sharon Larkin creatively reimagines the children’s story with her animated Dreadlocks and the Three Bears (1991). Barbara McCullough’s groundbreaking Water Ritual #1: An Urban Rite of Purification (1979), made in collaboration with performer Yolanda Vidato, is an experimental filmic ritual and an experiment in film as ritual. With her experimental short films Aerial 1975, American Pie, Performer's Dressing Room, The Bump, and Trip or I'm Late I'm Late (c.1976), Zora Lathan captures the delight and whimsy of the mundane, including her daily commute to the University of Illinois-Chicago campus. (16mm, 35mm, and digital video, 113 min.)
Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy Headed People courtesy of Milestone Films and Kino Lorber. L.A. in My Mind and Define digital presentation courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Zora Lathan films courtesy of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Water Ritual #1: An Urban Rite of Purification courtesy of Third World Newsreel. Nguzo Saba films courtesy of Chicago Film 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.