A University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) film series, titled “L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema,” is making the last stop of its North American tour in Atlanta due to a collaboration between Emory, Georgia State University and the Atlanta Film Festival.
Comprised of 36 films, the series opened this past Friday at the Plaza Theatre. The remaining screenings will be shown each weekend in White Hall 205.
According to the UCLA Film and Television Archive’s website, the L.A. Rebellion is a black independent cinema movement that began in the late 1960s with African and African-American students in UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. Alessandra Raengo, associate professor of communication at Georgia State, said the tour seeks to bring greater awareness to independent black cinema.
“Many people are unaware that there even was a black independent film movement,” Raengo said. “They think Spike Lee is the first one.”
Matthew Bernstein, the chair of the Film and Media Studies department, said the UCLA Film and Television Archive contacted him about showcasing the L.A. Rebellion series in Atlanta. He said he initially planned to partner with multiple universities across Atlanta, but ultimately, only Georgia State was able to do so.
“Ninety-five percent of the films we are showing, you can’t see any other way,” Bernstein said. “They’re not available on DVD; they’re not streaming. We’re very excited to bring something to the community that is that rare and important.”
Bernstein said the film series offered an alternative depiction of African Americans in American film.
“[The filmmakers] wanted to really humanize them and show them as being multidimensional, rather than being restricted to being a sidekick or a source of comedy or music,” Bernstein said.
Filmmaker Zeinabu Davis, who has two films featured on the tour, said the L.A. Rebellion series expands the traditional American cinema genre by highlighting the works of filmmakers of color.
“Their stories are not included in the history of American cinema, and my goal is to try to broaden that so people understand that these films need to be looked at,” Davis said. “They should not be invisible.”
The films featured in L.A. Rebellion series are challenging and different from traditional Hollywood films, Davis said. She said that because these films focus more on everyday interactions, they use a slower pace to “inscribe the beauty of the character.” Raengo called the films “erudite,” citing complex cultural and cinematic influences. She said the experimental techniques employed in the films make them less accessible to the average viewer but added that the series celebrates the bold moves made by artists who did not want to compromise their artistic vision in order to work in film.
“They demand either a very patient viewer or a knowledgeable viewer,” Raengo said. “They need a viewer that interacts with art, not just cinema.”
The L.A. Rebellion series holds particular significance for college students, Bernstein said, because many of the series’ films were created by UCLA students. He said the series offers an opportunity to see how filmmakers of a different generation were approaching their thesis films.
– By Harmeet Kaur