Chauncey -Theater 1 Tue, Apr 11, 2023 7:00 PM
Series Info
Series:Out of the Archive: Black Women Behind the Lens
Reel Representation
Film Info
Rating:Not Rated
Runtime:88 minutes
Year Released:1975
Production Country:USA


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Presented as part of the Out of the Archive: Black Women Behind the Lens series.

Join us for a pre-show reception catered by Oasis starting at 6:15pm!

Screening followed by a Q&A with Monica Freeman in person.

Featuring early work from pioneering artists, this program of shorts is a treasure trove of brilliant work ready for (re)discovery.

Valerie: A Woman, an Artist, a Philosophy of Life (1975, USA, 15 minutes) Dir. Monica Freeman

A cinematic portrait of Valerie Maynard (1937-2022), a New York-based printmaker and sculptor who served Artist-in-Residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Maynard’s art practice was deeply concerned with issues of civil rights and social justice. In her film about Maynard, Freeman also explores, more broadly, what it means to be a Black woman and an artist. A filmmaker and a film programmer, Freeman co-organized the 1976 Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts, believed to be the first Black women’s film festival in the United States.

Diary of an African Nun (1977, USA, 15 minutes) Dir. Julie Dash

A nun in Uganda is consumed by fear and doubt about her decision to take the solemn vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Her anguish intensifies night after night as she lies on a hard bed in her small room at the convent and listens to the rhythmic, beckoning drums of her village. Adapted from a short story by Alice Walker, the DIARY OF AN AFRICAN NUN was a deliberate first move by director Julie Dash toward narrative filmmaking, The work precedes and anticipates her acclaimed film Daughters of the Dust.

Unspoken Conversation (1987, USA, 24 minutes) Dir. Iman Uqdah Hameen

Unspoken Conversation follows protagonist Shanti as she returns to college to pursue filmmaking professionally, navigating the demands of higher education and those of home life as a wife and mother raising two children. Shanti’s aspirations are left unrecognized by a husband who values his artistic pursuit over her own. The film, which mirrors the life of Hameen, was made as a thesis film under the mentorship of Kathleen Collins. Unspoken Conversation recognizes the challenges and sacrifices made by many Black women and the creative potential of women whose work is often overlooked and underappreciated. The film is a tribute to Black women who face the weight of gendered expectations and, as a result, leave their own desires for an undetermined future.

Suzanne Suzanne (1982, USA, 25 minutes) Dir. Camille Billops

Made in 1982, Suzanne, Suzanne is the first of three films in Camille Billops and James Hatch’s acclaimed Family Trilogy—which also includes Finding Crista (1991) and String of Pearls (2002). Described by bell hooks as “one of the most powerful documentaries of domestic life,” the film focuses on Billops’s niece Suzanne and her mother Billie whose relationship had been strained and accordingly mediated by their shared, but largely unspoken experience of abuse at the hands of the late family patriarch, Brownie. Suzanne, a recovering heroin addict, details the emotional and physical trauma of her childhood as part of the keys to understanding her own self-destruction. Undergirded by the devastating insights of Suzanne’s own self-reflection, what remains particularly striking about Billops’s directorial gaze is that it seeks not to pathologize her family’s story, but instead expose how their struggle emerged from and was sustained by a broader network of inherited trauma and lack of care—as experienced both within the contained family system and through interactions with broader social institutions. In Billops’s own words, their “films say it like it is; rather than how people want it to be,” and in doing so, help to pattern an alternative, prismatic portrait of Black kinship and family life.

Killing Time (1979, USA, 9 minutes) Dir. Fronza Woods

Killing Time is Fronza Woods’s debut film and also features a performance by Woods under the name Sage Brush. Inspired by a friend who joked that Woods wouldn’t be able to commit suicide because she wouldn’t know what to wear, the darkly humorous film follows its character’s inability to create the perfect circumstances for a would-be suicide. The film offers a layered examination of ego, vanity, and the habits that help us get through the day.

Featured photo taken from Diary of an African Nun.