Independent. Avant-Garde. Cult. Underground. Sticks and stones.

Black cinema for college courses/libraries

If you are teaching film or video at a college, whether history or theory or production, here is some Black cinema beyond the mainstream. This is a starter list to get things going. Once you begin the research, you’ll find a whole universe.

Indie and avant cinema - films and videos, shorts and features and art projects. Most of these are educational sale prices, of course colleges are going through tough budget times, but these filmmakers are worth the extra effort. Many should be on Kanopy too.

Info on the L.A. Rebellion filmmakers, starting in the 60s and 70s, including Charles Burnett, Larry Clark, Julie Dash, Zeinabu Irene Davis, Haile Gerima, Billy Woodberry and more:

Milestone Films
Bless Their Little Hearts (Woodberry)
Killer of Sheep (Burnett)
My Brother’s Wedding (Burnett)
Losing Ground (Kathleen Collins, recently rediscovered by audiences)

Julie Dash
Praise House (short)
Daughters of the Dust

Zeinabu Irene Davis
Her doc on the LA Rebellion film scene:

Haile Gerima’s bookstore and cafe with DVDs available

some distributors =

Grasshopper Film 
Khalik Allah 
Black Mother

Kevin Jerome Everson

Akosua Adoma Owusu
Multiple shorts

Leilah Weinraub

Billy Woodberry
And When I Die I Won’t Stay Dead

more from Grasshopper on African-American studies

Video Databank
Ephraim Asili
multiple films

Kevin Jerome Everson
multiple films

First Run Features
Cheryl Dunye
The Watermelon Woman
multiple shorts

Thomas Allen Harris
Through A Lens, Darkly

And more filmmakers

Rodney Evans
multiple films

William Greaves

Wendell B. Harris Jr.
Chameleon Street is getting restored now, new release announcement soon

Kahlil Joseph

Kalup Linzy
multiple films

Terence Nance
An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty

Marlon Riggs
Tongues Untied and more

Dee Rees

RaMell Ross
Hale County This Morning, This Evening


BAM series on Black female directors

Black Cinema has always been here

The Dennis Friend

As FilmStruck is shutting down tonite - probably due to a multi-corporation merger - I sat down to watch something before it closes at midnight.

What film made sense? So many big names on the site, but also so many lost classics and under-appreciated filmmakers. Almost went with a Zatoichi film, which is all of those things: famous yet underseen and mythic in how many they made and how consistently good they all are.

But had to go with THE AMERICAN FRIEND, directed by Wim Wenders and starring Dennis Hopper. And in classic Criterion format, listen to the audio commentary with it. I've seen it a few times, but every time you notice more stuff and I never heard the commentary.

Wenders is on it, explaining the things you really want to hear - how the film came to be, what it was like making it, what the people onscreen in front of you were like, why are all the bad guys played by real film directors, how he wanted Hamberg to look like New York to look like Paris, what he hoped the film would be and what made him happy or sad about it.

Wenders keeps saying "when Dennis" did this, and "Dennis told me" and so on - except Dennis is right there. Then Dennis would laugh and start talking back and forth to Wenders, who keeps doing it like he's talking to a ghost and they both realize it.

This is a loaded pick - thanks to working at CineVegas I got to know Dennis Hopper a bit. He worked with us as a figurehead, helping to bring in interesting actors and directors to get awards. From 2003-2009 he came to every fest, every day, hung out and saw a lot of newer films too. He just loved movies and people who make movies and talked about them like film lovers do. He wanted you to see his films and he hoped you liked them. But he would watch your movie, too.

So because of my small world connection to Dennis, this commentary was all the more haunting and beautiful. I wish I could still talk to him about movies, about coming up with ideas on the spot, about how bad of a time it was for him back then, as he would wake up literally with a lampshade on his head. He can laugh about it now. How he could even remember the 70s doesn't make sense.

Anyway Filmstruck was fantastic for a couple of years and I have very little faith in the world of movies on the internet as data and money are considered more important than art and emotion and more important that just plain fun, it's ridiculous. Its starting to make many important films hard to see. (I miss video stores.) Criterion does have plans to start another site with their movies and hoping it works out and inspires other companies to celebrate movies without needing to take over the world.

Side note: I recently helped some friends release Dennis's second film as director, and one he really loved, called THE LAST MOVIE. Check it out:

Image of The Last Movie - Poster

podcast #26: Brakhage and Reggio Talk to Students

Stan Brakhage and Godfrey Reggio Talk to High School Students:

I found an old cassette tape of an interview I made for the print issue Cinemad #2. Avant masters Stan Brakhage and Godfrey Reggio met for the first time at the Telluride Film Festival in 1999 while speaking with high school students attending the fest. I was working there as a projectionist and asked Brakhage for an interview, he suggested I sit in and record this. I turned it into an article but its more interesting as a rediscovered time capsule. Brakhage showed three brand new hand-painted shorts (part of his Persian Series) and Reggio had some of his film clips show with a Phillip Glass tribute. Both were yearly attendees with regular fans, but the kids did not know their work - making for an even better discussion, exploring what their films are and their thoughts on the world at large. The sound quality is ok but raw from the cassette. If you are a static addict, this will sound beautiful. The students asked the questions. Reggio's voice is lower. Stan's is higher pitched and he speaks first.

Cinemad podcasts are available on IBlameSociety.comSoundCloud and on the iTunes.
Photo by Mike Plante. Telluride, 1999.

podcast #25: English Professors

To learn more about films about English Professors, I interviewed my friend Sean who is a college English Professor. Originally from Florida, now teaching in the middle of California, he skates, surfs, writes poetry and novels, runs the indie Gorsky Press, and is a Thomas Pynchon scholar. 

We talk about the English Professor character in movies, real life awkward interactions, when and why books make good films, and get to hear some great secrets about professors that could make better films. Sean also reminds me about the power of movies on the public and political views, and how films might be harming our view of higher education.

Sean's new book = "a collection of short stories about my favorite authors and their metaphysical ukuleles. Each story is an homage to a specific author. Most are based upon true events in the authors’ lives. All of them include a ukulele."

Sean's author page
Gorsky Press

Cinemad podcasts are available on, SoundCloud and on the iTunes.

clip from "Animal House"
clip from "Inherent Vice" trailer
which happens to use a song that's in Animal House

list of authors we spoke about and the books that Sean recommends:
Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Chester Himes, If He Hollers Let Him Go
Toni Cade Bambara, Gorilla My Love
Flannery O'Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find
Steph Cha, Beware Beware
Philippe Garnier, Goddis: A Life in Black and White
David Goodis, Nightfall

podcast #24: Apiachatpong Weerasethakul

Apichatpong Weerasethakul is incredibly modest. From his first feature MYSTERIOUS OBJECT AT NOON (2000) to the popular SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY (2006) and UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES (2010), his films and installations play around the world in art houses and museums with huge critical praise, he’s won the big film festivals, become a darling of the art world too. His surreal style feels honest and convincing….even with all the praise, if you talk with Apichatpong he’s just a huge movie fan that notices the magic of the world surrounding him.

Cinemad podcasts are available on, SoundCloud and on the iTunes.

"Smiling Beat Of Life" by The Coneheads
"The End of the Film Era" by Lonnie Holley
all photos from his website

above: poster by Chris Ware

below: photos from installation "Unknown Forces"