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
In this collection of shorts, filmmakers meditate on the indelible complexity of family dynamics. Suzanne, Suzanne (1982), one of the many films that Camille Billops and James Hatch made about Billops’s family, is a moving portrait of Billops’s niece and the abuse she suffered that led to a struggle with drug use. The film serves as a means of confronting and reckoning with the devastating impact of abuse. African Woman, USA (1980) by Nigerian filmmaker Omah Diegu (née Ijeoma Iloputaife) focuses on an African woman studying dance in the United States while supporting her family back home. Jacqueline Frazier’s Shipley Street (1981) poignantly examines the experience of a young Black girl with racism—both overt and in the form of microaggressions–in school. Carolyn Johnson and Larry Bullard’s A Dream Is What You Wake Up From (1978) is an intimate exploration of the role of Black families in America through a portrait of three families and their differing approaches to survival. (digital video and 16mm, 130 min.)
Suzanne, Suzanne and A Dream Is What You Wake Up From courtesy of Third World Newsreel. African Woman, USA and Shipley Street digital preservation courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
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.