This Black History Month, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza has been hosting the Pan African Film Festival.
From February 4 through the 15, Rave Cinema 15 is showing films from many different African American directors both independent and corporately sponsored. One of the films shown this year is the documentary Spirit of Rebellion: Black Film at UCLA by UCLA graduate Zeinabu Irene Davis.
This film tells the story of the Ethno-Communications program of UCLA and the students from it that took the film industry by storm with their Afrocentric inspired films. In the wake of the Watts riots of 1965 and the unrest caused by the 1969 shoot-out on the UCLA campus, students persuaded the university to launch an ethnographic studies program centered in communications responsive to local communities of color. The result was an era of films with the consciousness of anti-Vietnam, Black liberation and feminist struggles.
Under the instruction of Teshome Gabriel, students of this film program felt a strong responsibility to shine the light on racism and discrimination in their communities through their films. As artists of color, they felt it their duty to be the voice and eyes of their respective people.
Instead of the traditional film study that went on in the United States, the students of the LA Rebellion studied films from Latin America, Italian neo-realist films, European art films, and films from the emerging cinema of Africa. This influence helped shape a fresh and new take at American movie making that only seemed to be embraced by these students at the time. This new style of film, making along with the stories these young film makers decided to tell, birthed a new wave of awareness in not only the communities of color in this country but of movie goers all over. Many of the films by these directors became hits and helped to shape positive popular culture during a time where Blaxploitation films were promoting gang violence and drug use in large parts.
Films like Charles Burnett‘s Killer of Sheep or Haile Gerima‘s Bush Mama were among a few of the culturally influential films that helped bring awareness of Black issues in America in an artistic manner. Among Burnett and Gerima, other directors to spring from this program are: Melvonna Ballenger, Storme’ Bright, Ben Caldwell, Larry Clark, Julie Dash, Zeinabu Irene Davis (director of the documentary), Jamaa Fanaka, Jacqueline Fraizer, Alile Sharon Larkin, Barbara McCullough, Bernard Nicolas, Billy Woodberry. Some of the famous films from these directors include: Daughters of the Dust, Child of Resistance, Penitentiary, Passing Through and Bless Their Little Hearts.
The documentary itself follows the timeline of the LA Rebellion and interviews the students and some instructors of the program about their time as a Bruin and the successes they achieved as being a part of this historic group of students. The film is a true inspiration to any artist of color that wants to create anything of substance. Following the story of this program and seeing the footage of them creating and working in way that is intended to educate the community on prominent issues is an experience that can spark the dimmest revolutionary flame ablaze.
This film and others like it will be playing this weekend at Rave Cinema 15 in the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles through Monday. The experience offered by the Pan African Film Festival is one that should not be deprived of any artist or individual interested in art. If you’ve been missing out these past few days, you still have time to catch a flick or two by one of the amazing film makers participating.