One Way or Another: Black Women’s Cinema, 1970-1991
Feb. 3 through Feb. 23
Of last year’s top 250 highest grossing films, only seven-percent were directed by women. That’s a two-percent decline from the year before. Female filmmakers have always had a hard time breaking into the business, to say nothing of women of color. But if these valuable voices haven’t always been heard, they’ve been out there.
Just look at the two dozen-or-so titles in BAM’s series “One Way or Another: Black Women’s Cinema, 1970-1991.” Only one has had anything in the way of mainstream appeal. That would be Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust,” a surprise art house cash cow in 1991 that was revived last year. A loose and dreamy hang among a black enclave in the early 1900s, it was hard to see for years, though its images weren’t entirely lost: No less than Beyonce paid homage in “Lemonade,” nicking its idea of women in long white dresses lounging beside the sea. (Dash’s earlier work is also included, among them her acclaimed 1982 short “Illusions,” a succinct and honest look at black actresses trying to break into Hollywood.)
The remaining many titles in BAM’s series never entered the mainstream. Kathleen Collins’ acclaimed 1982 feature “Losing Ground,” for instance, only received a theatrical release in 2015. Time has a way of correcting the past, so now’s your chance to see diamonds you didn’t even know were in the rough. These range from Debra J. Robinson’s “I Be Done Was Is,” a profile of four African-American female comedians from 1984, Liz White’s all-black “Othello” from 1980 and — one of many examples of non-American work — Sara Gomez’s 1974 fiction-doc hybrid “One Way or Another,” the first Cuban feature made by not only a woman but an Afro-Cuban.