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Upcoming Bam Exhibition Celebrates Black Women’s Cinema

Daughters of the Dust”: Bam

Cinephiles, your February just became a whole lot busier. Brooklyn Academy of Music (Bam) recently announced its “One Way or Another: Black Women’s Cinema, 1970–1991” exhibition, which commemorates the theatrical and Blu-ray re-release of Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust” with screenings of films from black women directors. According to the exhibit’s website, this event was designed to honor the “black women directors who blazed the trail for that landmark film.”

“One Way or Another” features a variety of film (long-form, short-form, documentary, narrative, and animation) and explores a wide cross-section of topics, especially those specific to black women’s culture, including body image, identity, the role church plays, the complexities of black hair, colorism, representation in the media, Zora Neale Hurston’s work, and black feminism.

Screenings of “Daughters of the Dust” will kick-off the event on February 3. Other films to screen include Dash’s shorts (“Standing at the Scratch Line,” “Four Women,” “Illusions,” and “Praise House”), Debra J. Robinson’s “I Be Done Was Is,” Liz White’s “Othello,” Cheryl Chisholm’s “On Becoming a Woman,” Elena Featherstone’s “Visions of the Spirit: A Portrait of Alice Walker,” and Euzhan Palcy’s “Sugar Cane Alley.”

Below is the full list of films that will screen at “One Way or Another,” courtesy of Bam. Visit the Bam website to buy tickets or find out more. The exhibit will run from February 3–23.

Daughters of the Dust” — Directed By Julie Dash

Feb 3 — Feb 5, 2017

Julie Dash’s shimmering, dreamlike evocation of early-20th century Gullah life (which was a key influence on Beyoncé’s visual album “Lemonade”) is a sumptuous celebration of folk traditions and black womanhood.

Losing Ground” — Directed By Kathleen Collins

Feb 3 — Feb 5, 2017

A married couple experience 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.

“I Be Done Was Is ”— Directed By Debra J. Robinson

Feb 4 — Feb 9, 2017

Director Debra Robinson profiles four black female comedians, offering insight into what it means to be a sharp-witted woman navigating the male-dominated world of stand-up.

Julie Dash Shorts

Feb 5 — Feb 6, 2017

This program surveys Julie Dash’s (“Daughters of the Dust”) remarkable career from the 1970s to the present, including her breakthrough work, “Illusions,” which explores black representation in 1940s Hollywood.

“Standing at the Scratch Line”

A look at the history of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Four Women

A dance film set to the music of Nina Simone.


Explores African-American representation in 1940s Hollywood via the story of a black studio executive passing as white.

Praise House

A performance piece made with Urban Bush Women founder Jawole Willa Jo Zollar.

Camille Billops Program

Feb 6 — Feb 15, 2017

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”

A harrowing portrait of a woman processing her abusive father and her own drug addiction.

Finding Christa

An autobiographical record of the filmmaker’s reunion with the daughter she gave up for adoption.

Take Your Bags

Billops’ examination of slavery and cultural theft.

“Zora is My Name! ”— Directed By Neema Barnette

Feb 7, 2017

The great Ruby Dee scripted and stars in this tribute to visionary writer and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston.

Performers and Artists

Feb 7, 2017

This shorts program spotlights several extraordinary black women artists, including dancers Syvilla Fort and Thelma Hill; sculptor Valerie Maynard; and drag king and activist Stormé DeLarverie.

“Valerie” — Directed by Monica J Freeman

Monica J. Freeman’s 1975 portrait of sculptor Valerie Maynard.

“Water Ritual #1: An Urban Rite of Purification ”— Directed by Barbara McCullough

An experimental performance film by Barbara McCullough, inspired by Afro-diasporic ceremonies.

“Syvilla: They Dance to Her Drum” — Directed by Ayoka Chenzira

Ayoka Chenzira’s 1979 tribute to dancer-choreographer Syvilla Fort.

“Remembering Thelma” — Directed by Kathe Sandler

Kathe Sandler’s 1981 portrait of dancer Thelma Hill, a founding member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

“Storme: The Lady of the Jewel Box” — Directed by Michelle Parkerson

Michelle Parkerson’s 1987 profile of Stormé DeLarverie, a drag king, gay rights activist, and heroine of the Stonewall uprising.

“Visions of the Spirit: A Portrait of Alice Walker ”— Directed By Elena Featherstone

Feb 8, 2017

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.

Twice as Nice + A Minor Altercation

Feb 8, 2017

Jackie Shearer’s 1977 docudrama, about two girls during the desegregation of Boston’s public schools, screens alongside Jessie Maple’s portrait of twin college basketball players.

“Twice as Nice” — Directed by Jessie Maple

Jessie Maple, who made history as the first black woman admitted to New York’s camera operators union, explores the bond between twin college basketball players, scripted by S. Pearl Sharp.

“A Minor Altercation ”— Directed by Jackie Shearer

Jackie Shearer’s docudrama catching the tensions between two girls — one black, one white — during the desegregation of Boston’s public schools.

A Different Image + Perfect Image?

Feb 9, 2017

Two shorts, by Alile Sharon Larkin and Maureen Blackwood, about black women grappling with questions of identity, beauty, and societal norms.

A Different Image” — Directed by Alile Sharon Larkin

An art student sets out to reclaim her body and self-worth from Western patriarchal norms.

“Perfect Image?” — Directed by Maureen Blackwood

Two actresses, one light skinned, one dark skinned, in a series of freewheeling, sometimes musical, sketches exploring black beauty standards

Othello” — Directed By Liz White

Feb 13, 2017

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.

Grey Area + 2 By Fronza Woods

Feb 13, 2017

These psychologically rich films are fully realized portraits of black female consciousness, offering unusually complex depictions of the experiences and inner-thoughts of African-American women.

Grey Area” — Directed by Monona Wali

The film revolves around an African-American woman reporter for a local television station who must seemingly compromise her political principles to keep her job, just as a former Black Panther Party member gets out of prison, only to realize that the old comrades in the struggle have moved on with their lives. It is also a plea for community development in Watts and other black L.A. neighborhoods, a concern that connects many of the L.A. Rebellion projects.

“Killing Time” — Directed by Fronza Woods

An offbeat, wryly humorous look at the dilemma of a would-be suicide unable to find the right outfit to die in, examines the personal habits, socialization, and complexities of life that keep us going.

“Fannie’s Film ”— Directed by Fronza Woods

A 65-year-old cleaning woman for a professional dancers’ exercise studio performs her job while telling us in voiceover about her life, hopes, goals, and feelings. A challenge to mainstream media’s ongoing stereotypes of women of color who earn their living as domestic workers, this seemingly simple documentary achieves a quiet revolution: the expressive portrait of a fully realized individual.

Sky Captain

Feb 15, 2017

Two heartrending portraits of black childhood: a hip-hop-infused South Bronx fantasy about teen suicide and a young girl’s perspective on her struggling single mother.

Sky Captain ”— Directed by Neema Barnette

Neema Barnette’s hip-hop-infused South Bronx fantasy that tackles the issue of teen suicide with a surplus of cinematic imagination.

“Your Children Come Back to You” — Directed by Alile Sharon Larkin

Alile Sharon Larkin’s first film is a contemporary allegory about values and assimilation. The film literalizes the meaning of a “mother country” by means of the story of a young girl, Tovi, torn between two surrogate mothers: one comfortably bourgeois, the other nationalist.

Cycles + On Becoming a Woman

Feb 16, 2017

Two films exploring the relationships of black women to their bodies: a woman performs Caribbean folk rituals in Zeinabu Irene Davis’ “Cycles” and Cheryl Chisholm addresses reproductive rights in “Becoming A Woman.”

Cycles” — Directed by Zeinabu Irene Davis

Rasheeda Allen is waiting for her period, a state of anticipation familiar to all women. Drawing on Caribbean folklore, this exuberant experimental drama uses animation and live action to discover a film language unique to African American women. The multilayered soundtrack combines a chorus of women’s voices with the music of Africa and the diaspora — including Miriam Makeba, acappella singers from Haiti, and trumpetiste Clora Bryant.

“On Becoming a Woman ”— Directed by Cheryl Chisholm

This documentary provides rare insights into some important health issues for African American women. Filmed primarily during the National Black Women’s Health Project workshop sessions, this historic film also demonstrates models for trust and communication between mothers and daughters.

I Am Somebody + The Maids

Feb 16, 2017

This program mines the complicated relationship between black women, capitalism, and the workplace as documented by a 1969 hospital workers’ strike in Charleston and the history of domestic service.

I Am Somebody” — Directed by Madeline Anderson With Coretta Scott King

This civil rights documentary tells the story of black female hospital workers going on strike to demand union recognition and a wage increase.

“The Maids” — Directed by Muriel Jackson

Offering a sophisticated analysis of the racial and sexual division of labor in this country, this intriguing and articulate documentary looks at the history of domestic work since slavery and the ambivalence felt by African American women towards it.

“One Way or Another (De Cierta Manera)” — Directed By Sara Gómez

Feb 18, 2017

Pioneering Afro-Cuban filmmaker Sara Gómez’s radical narrative-documentary hybrid delivers a complex critique of regressive machismo in a post-revolutionary Cuba.

A Dream is What You Wake Up From

Feb 18, 2017

This program of films about black families, neighborhoods, and home life in the 1970s includes portraits of African-American communities in Harlem and Hamilton Heights.

“A Dream is What You Wake Up From”— Directed by Larry Bullard and Carolyn Johnson

The everyday lives of three Black families with different approaches to their struggle for survival in the United States are represented through a mix of fiction and documentary scenes, a docudrama style inspired by the work of Cuban filmmaker Sara Gómez. Filmmakers Larry Bullard and Carolyn Y. Johnson relied on a mix of documentary and drama to record families engaged in their day to day activities at home, at work and in school.

“A Sense of Pride: Hamilton Heights”— Directed by Monica J. Freeman

Monica J. Freeman’s serene portrait of Hamilton Heights at the peak of its brownstone revival is a testament to the cohesion and spirit of an African-American middle class fighting hard for its place in a depressed city, and, in the process, returning a grand old neighborhood to its rightful splendor.

“Black Faces ”— Directed by Young Filmmakers Foundation

A montage of faces from the Harlem community in early the 1970s.

Animation Program

Feb 19, 2017

The contributions of black women to the art of animation are celebrated in this program of shorts about African-American hair, identity, love, and more.

“Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People”— Directed by Ayoka Chenzira

A musical satire on the politically charged subject of African-American hair.

“Zajota and the Boogie Spirit”— Directed by Ayoka Chenzira

A rhythmic celebration of African dance with a score by Mino Cinelu.

Picking Tribes” — Directed by S. Pearl Sharp

A young girl navigates her identity as a black Native American.

A Powerful Thang”— Directed by Zeinabu irene Davis

An inventive mix of live-action and animation exploring sex, love, and relationships.

“Namibia: Independence Now!”— Directed By Pearl Bowser and Christine Choy

Feb 20, 2017

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.

The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy — Directed By Kathleen Collins

Feb 21, 2017

This lost treasure from Kathleen Collins, whose 1982 film “Losing Ground” was one of the major rediscoveries of 2015, is a magical realist tale of three Puerto Rican brothers and their father’s ghost.

Sugar Cane Alley”— Directed By Euzhan Palcy

Feb 23, 2017

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.

Upcoming Bam Exhibition Celebrates Black Women’s Cinema was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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