How Black filmmakers have made their own space

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Film still from "So Pretty." Photo courtesy of WUTI.

Hollywood talks a lot about diversifying, and it usually stops there. Just look at the Emmys. This year, there were only 24 nominations for people of color. But where Hollywood institutions have failed on inclusivity, others have picked up the torch. 

Women Under the Influence, or WUTI, is hosting an event this weekend to celebrate the contributions of women in film. The festival is paying homage to a film movement known as the “LA Rebellion,” where young African and Black filmmakers who studied at UCLA created an alternative to classic Hollywood cinema. 

“The whole idea was to be representative in a true sense, and not just do the normal. And what was normal at the time was unfortunately was blaxploitation,” says Barbara McCullough, one of the first Black women at UCLA’s film school. “We all had different ideas, but one main theme of all the works that were being done is to show the reflection of the African-American community.”

McCullough was not necessarily interested in narrative. She made her work more experimental. She traveled with her films to Cannes in the early 1980s, giving her work international exposure. This also paved the way for filmmakers who came after. Her work influenced the new generation by introducing the pursuit of creating outside of commercially viable work. 

Mandy Harris Williams, a writer and multimedia conceptual artist, uses her hashtag #brownupyourfeed to challenge stereotypes of people of color. 

“I hope to see with social media ... that similar responsibility to respond to the movement and the political framework within which we find ourselves,” Harris Williams says. “That it's not just #BlackLivesMatter ... but here are ways in which I'm really kind of taking off a new corner of cultural analysis.” 

WUTI goes IdyllWILD runs September 20-22, 2019.

Credits

Host:
Larry Perel

Producer:
Cerise Castle