There aren’t a ton of film programs dedicated to the black experience during Black History Month. That doesn’t mean that those that are slated to run aren’t rewarding. Here are a handful of film and even TV programs dedicated to showing life among African Americans and among the African Diaspora.
Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986
Film at Lincoln Center
Feb. 6 through Feb. 19
Spike Lee’s 1986 feature debut “She’s Gotta Have It” helped launch a new era of black American filmmaking, but he was building off two decades of thrilling, underseen, independent work. That era comes back with Lincoln Center’s series, which projects films by Kathleen Collins — one of the too few black female film voices of the time — and Bill Gunn, whose vampire saga “Ganja and Hess” was loosely remade by Lee via the forthcoming “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.”
It’s not just movies: episodes of “Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant Program,” thought to be the first black-produced TV series, will be shown, as will portraits of Amiri Baraka and James Baldwin. The series also highlights William Greaves, who went from training at The Actor’s Studio with Brando to, having become fed up with America’s racism, heading up to Canada, where he trained as a filmmaker. When he came back he made 1968’s “Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One,” a meta-documentary so radical, playful and dizzying that it took three decades for it to be recognized as the forward-thinking classic it is.
Films at the Schomburg
Schomburg Center for Research
The Harlem wing of the New York Public Library is host to a number of Black History Month events through February, including a few screenings. “Invisible Heroes” (Feb. 4) looks into the 85 African Americans who joined up in support of the Spanish Republic during the nation’s Civil War. Meanwhile, the web series “An African City” (Feb. 19) follows the lives of women who’ve returned to Ghana after making it overseas, and has garnered inevitable comparisons to “Sex and the City.”
‘The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution’
Museum of Modern Art
Though not technically part of a Black History Month program — it belongs to MoMA’s latest documentary series — this doc is still an essential part of February’s celebrations. Assembled by Stanley Nelson (“Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple”), it takes an exhaustive, comprehensive look at a sometimes misunderstood movement that requires much record-straightening. MoMA’s series will also screen “Stories of Our Lives,” five shorts culled from tales of LGBT members from Kenya (Feb. 17).
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