Third World Newsreel Panel
National Black Arts Festival
July 13, 1998
DOROTHY THIGPEN, Executive Director
The mission of Third World Newsreel is to create and distribute media and to train
emerging makers to create media that addresses social issues that affect people
of color and marginalized people: racism, class issues, gender, and other social
justice issues, and presents an alternative to the mass media. We allow people to
give voice to those who are being defined by mass media. I'm really honored and
privileged to be sitting up here.
I'm a little nervous, as you can tell, with so many incredible, gifted, talented
women. I'm going to let them talk, but first I'd like to show a clip of one of the
first works by Newsreel. It’s one of the most widely distributed and one of the
most popular pieces. The clip is from the film
Black Panther, done 30 years ago. After the clip, we'll begin the oral
history of the evolution of Third World Newsreel with Susan Robeson, Pearl Bowser,
and Ada Gay Griffin.
BLACK PANTHER CLIP
I also brought a clip with me from
Teach Our Children. This film actually got me hooked up with Newsreel.
The Newsreel was formed in 1967 in the aftermath of the March on the Pentagon, which
was a landmark moment in the anti-war movement. I was 14 and I was at that Pentagon
demonstration. I didn't know anything about Newsreel, but it was the first time
that there was civil disobedience within the anti-war movement. It marked a transition
in how the anti-war movement would function. And in the aftermath of it, the media
coverage was absurd. What happened, what people did, why they did it, and the whole
reason for fighting against the war was completely manipulated and distorted by
the mass media. So this group of filmmakers got together and decided that the only
way that was to tell their own story, and that is how Newsreel got started.
In 1970 I went down to Newsreel and got this film because they had all these films
on the Panthers and the Young Lords and all the stuff that was happening. I was
in New York and in high school at the time and I was the resident rabble-rouser
and organizer in my high school. And I remember going down and sitting in that Newsreel
office and screening a film. A couple of us from the school went –this is one of
the things that was an issue for us as we later were building the organization –
but in order to rent the film from them, you had to get someone from Newsreel to
come with the film to talk about it. And we didn't want these weird white guys coming
into our school and talking to us. We were trying to organize black students and
deal with what was happening to us and it was totally irrelevant. So we made a big
deal about that and we got the film without the guys.
So that experience kind of got me hooked on what Newsreel was about. There were
a couple of Third World people who had joined Newsreel and in the summer of '71.
A collective was formed within Newsreel called the Third World Collective. That
was how it was said then; if you were African American, Asian, Latin American, you
were Third World. This happened after people began to see that the early models
of radical filmmaking didn’t apply to us in our communities. For white filmmakers
to go out into our communities, interpret our reality for us, come back, make the
films, and then show them back to us that wasn't what we and the group of people
that had been gravitating to Newsreel wanted. So this Third World Collective was
born with the mission of dealing with that. And I came along, got bitten by the
bug and ended up joining Newsreel instead of going to college. I just sort of inserted
myself into the situation and became a part of this collective.
And so the major issue was that we needed to learn the skills in order to make films
in our communities and speak for ourselves. It was as simple as that. The Third
World Collective was about to make a film about the Attica prison rebellion. That
film became the lightning rod for a lot of the controversies and battles within
the organization. We said, "Okay. You guys need to teach us how do use this equipment
and we are gonna make this film about the Attica prison rebellion." They said, "Yeah,
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah," and we held them to it. The process of making this film
was the process of giving birth to Third World Newsreel as an organization. I was
18 at the time and
Teach Our Children was my first film, and I made it with Christine
Choy, the other original member. Together we built the first phase of Third World
Newsreel. I brought a clip that starts with a funeral in Harlem for the men who
were killed in Attica in 1971.
This is kind of funny because the footage that was shot inside Attica was guerrilla
filmmaking because we didn't shoot that footage. There was a brother, a young black
cameraman for one of the news stations at the time, and that's how we got it. When
he heard that we were making this film, he got in touch with us, and Chris and I
hopped on a bus – that's all we could afford – and went upstate and met with him.
He showed us all this stuff that he had sitting in a box. He just kept talking and
showing us all this stuff, and then he began to tell us how he was going to make
a film on Attica with all his material, but the station wouldn't let him. He made
that quite clear. Then, he got up and said, "Excuse me. I have to go to the bathroom,"
and he left Chris and I sitting there. So we look at each other and at least five
minutes went by, and then we got it. He wants us to take this film and use it. [Laughter]
So we did. And you know, otherwise, it would never have gotten out, and he knew
that. It was like by any means necessary, and we were on a mission.
In the course of making this film, the Third World Collective got stronger and stronger
because we learned how to make films, and we were doing it. And we shot this film
and we did the sound; we did the lighting; we did the editing. We did everything
from beginning to end from scratch, and for both of us it was our first film. As
we got stronger and a few other people came in, there was a Third World section
and a white section. There was a central committee where representatives of the
Third World section and the white section came together and that was the management
of the organization. We represented our interests; they represented their interests,
and then it was sort of managed by this central committee. As we got sort of clearer
and clearer, they got more confused. They didn't know what to do. It was really
weird. But it was in the context of everything else that was happening politically
and within organizations in every area at this time. Finally, there was a meeting
where we came forward and said, "We see ourselves as a separate entity, as our own
organization, and can see ourselves functioning like that. Can you?" And they went
off and caucused for 15 minutes and came back and said, "We're gonna disband." They
couldn't come up with a sense of identity or mission without us. It was actually
a very principled process where they decided to disband and we inherited everything:
the office, all the assets of Newsreel, all of the library of films, all the equipment,
everything. And they walked away.
The way Newsreel had supported itself was there was one woman who was rich; she
had a lot of money and she underwrote everything. So there was no sense of how to
sustain yourself as an organization financially. She paid people's rent. She bought
the food. She bought the film. She paid for everything. And so here we were, out
on our own, and we got a phone call the next week. She said, "Well, you know, I'm
willing to continue giving you money." We said, "We don't want your money," and,
I don't know if we ever came to regret it, but we sure hit rock bottom because we
had all this stuff and we didn't have any money.
Our first task, we decided, was to build a distribution base and make it coherent,
make it like a business. That was the way that we built Third World Newsreel. We
created a functioning distribution network where we put together catalogs of material.
We got a mailing list together and targeted mailings, and that was how we got it
going and paid our bills. There were four of us, I think, at the time. I can't remember
how much we got each month. I think it was $150, to tell you the truth. That was
our salary. Our basic principle was self-determination, which meant that we determined
how films get made in our own communities, and we’d speak for ourselves. We had
no titles. We tried to operate as a collective. We were sharing in all the responsibilities.
The other important ethic and model for how we worked was that in the making of
a film it was important to connect the film with the process of struggle that was
going on in the community we were trying to make a film about. We became an organic
part of the communities that we were working with, and we also found ways to involve
them in production.
So we got things going and then it was basically me and Chris and a brother named
Robert Zellner that became the core of Third World Newsreel, and the film was going
on through that whole process and was finished. So by the time it got to the end,
which was like the winter of '72, it was just the three of us. A year or so later
we finally entered a new phase of putting the vision out there and building and
sustaining what we had and really began growing. We got the distribution solid.
We began to see that the college market was getting glutted. There were other distributors
out there. So we tried to target stuff to community colleges and state colleges.
That kind of sustained things and we were able to generate new projects. We had
a distribution outlet in a limited way. We had films from Black America, the liberation
efforts in Africa, films from Cuba. We built up a film library to try to share this
resource. We started something called Higher Ground Cinema in a loft where we built
a small movie theater. We started working on other films and attracted young, emerging
black, Latino, Asian filmmakers, because at the time there was no place else to
go. Then we got the idea that we needed to be able to start teaching people. We
had the equipment so we started training classes, and it went on from there. By
'74-75-76 we kind of hit our stride. We were building all these programs and the
organization was growing. And that's where I moved on and other people moved in.
It's not accidental that I ended up at Newsreel. For nine years, beginning in the
late seventies, I had done some research and was involved in putting together a
film festival on the history of black feature filmmaking. That was a period when
Oscar Micheaux and others were beginning to surface, but very few people knew much
about that subject. I was working out of Chamba Educational Film Services. This
was an organization that was run by St. Clair Bourne, Tony Batten, Charles Hobson,
and other black filmmakers who had gotten together to create a production house
and a place where they could disseminate their films. My job at Chamba Educational
Film Services was basically to exhibit work, find work, and show it in the community
as an educational tool. At the same time we would be providing exposure and a kind
of distribution service for black work.
What I would do is to show the old and the new. So, for example, I would show a
St. Clair Bourne documentary, and an Oscar Micheaux film. And audiences would come
out because the the live filmmaker would be there talking about his work, talking
about how he made the work and so on. And they would also see somebody who had been
around much, much earlier and was doing pretty much the same thing, although the
older guy was making feature films and most of us at the time were making documentaries
and had not yet moved into feature filmmaking, although some were making, short
dramatic pieces. So I was also developing an area of expertise. I didn't call myself
an archivist, but in taking these films around the country, I began to acquire material.
People would give me their photographs. Some people even gave me a reel of film,
and I began to acquire material and to use it as a part of the exhibition and programming.
Then I was asked by Allan Siegel, who was then at Third World Newsreel, to come
in and run Higher Ground Cinema. I was very excited about joining this company because
they had all this old stuff, and I could see in my mind how to bring those two programs
together. Part of the task I was given was to develop programs and festivals, to
use material that Third World Newsreel had in its archive. But in order to make
the material kinda sexy, I thought, you know, "There are films out there that don't
really have exposure, and if we write a grant to do a program, and call it ‘Black
American Cinema’ then we can cull from from the archives at Third World Newsreel
as well as some of the more contemporary stuff they’re beginning to acquire.” But
the logical thing about the films coming from both areas and my participation was
that we were not only trying to build an audience for Third World filmmakers and
build distribution outlets for that work, but we also wanted to have a dialogue
with the audience. That dialogue could range anywhere from the political issues
of the moment to what happened in the past, to specific issues using narrative films
that didn't necessarily deal with those issues directly. Black people were picking
up the camera and telling their own stories, and the stories they were telling had
a great deal to do with the audience that was seeing it. It was also important to
involve, wherever possible, the actors or the actresses in this process of showing
and educating audiences.
People were coming to Third World Newsreel and wanted us to help develop a film
festival. One of the first ones that we did was in Nantes (in the South of France)
and in Paris. It was a small program, but this international connection allowed
us to expand audiences and to gain attention abroad and in this country. As a result
of the work that was done in Paris and Nantes with African Americans films, a market
opened up here in the States. We got more venues, more places to show the work,
and we even put the work on tour. "Independent Black American Cinema" included 14
films in it, documentaries, shorts, and features.
Ganja and Hess, Killer
of Sheep and an early film by Charles Lane, A Place in Time,
were all in it. Some of the filmmakers were funded to accompany the films to Paris.
There was a kind of distribution element that came out of this particular festival
that traveled for about three years. Films like
Ganja and Hess got a new life. We went all over the country, to universities,
museums, and so on, showing this work. We were down here in Atlanta at the High
Museum. Filmmakers were making money and we were getting more and more exposure
as an organization that was programming African American films. We were also getting
mileage out of doing programs like “In Color: Sixty Years of Images of Minority
Women in Film." That series included film and filmmaking stories about women of
color, Asian American, Mexican, Black and so on. The Paris event also spun off into
a program that we did in this country, entitled “Journey across Three Continents.”
That touring exhibition included a lot of the work we were able to pick overseas
from African filmmakers who were coming to us for distribution exposure. Though
I put the programs together, we all worked together at it.
Ultimately we were able to do a booklet called “Journey across Three Continents.”
I think the look of the material as well as the amount of information in it made
these tours and the circulation of these films more visible as educational tools,
while building audiences. Many folks who had never seen an African film got exposure
to this material. This was also the first time that we used scholars to present
the films as well as the filmmakers. Wherever this program was shown, the host group
would have this information and they could spin off from this material. So the package
went to about 30 cities over a three-year period and was responsible, I think, for
spreading the word in an open market about African cinema. These booklets were used
long after the festival was no longer circulating and were resources that students,
for example, wanted to own and use. I was just at a conference not too long ago
where I met a young South African woman who said that this was a bible. She walked
around London when she was going to school with this, and it was like a familiar
friend that she had with her all the time because it gave her a sense that there
were other people making films. Here she was in an arena where she felt a little
insecure as a beginning filmmaker, but this was something that gave her leverage.
I was very flattered, as all of us should be, by any kind of connections we make
with young emerging filmmakers, particularly if they're people of color and they
come from another country.
I arrived at Third World Newsreel after become familiar with the organization in
college. Wanting to get involved in the arts and film in some way, I found very
few examples of the type of political work that I wanted to do. And Third World
Newsreel was one source. There were a few other Black independent filmmakers around
at the time that I was inspired by; Haile Gerima was one. There were a number of
white, Latino, and Asian independent filmmakers whose work I felt was connected
to this idea of film as a tool for retaining the history of progressive struggle.
Obviously and unsurprisingly, the mainstream culture did not intend to do that.
So wanting to involve art and activism in what I envisioned as my life’s work, I
gravitated towards Third World Newsreel and started volunteering there, started
renting their films, and exhibiting their films and others in community-based settings.
I finally landed a job cleaning films and helping out in the cutting room on a film
Triangle, which was a collaboration between Third World Newsreel and
Christine Choy, Allan Siegel and Worth Long. This film is about the confluence of
black, Chinese, and white identities in the Mississippi Delta. It was a very successful
film, and I learned a lot during that project about filmmaking. I finally secured
a job working in distribution and learned a lot about disseminating the hundred
titles that were in Third World Newsreel's collection at that time.
I also participated in their training program, which was an exceptionally important
training program in that it provided a forum for emerging artists or people who
envisioned themselves as filmmakers to work with other people like themselves for
a period of a year or more for a very nominal fee. I think I paid $150 to be trained
in film and video production for a year. That was in the early '80s. We got to do
our own video projects and we collaborated on a fiction film. That hands-on access
to the means of production, to the instrument of creation and articulation was very
empowering. I then became an administrator of the organization a few years later
after Pearl, Allan, and Chris moved on. A woman whose name has been brought up several
times during this conference, J.T. Takagi, and I decided to take the organization
and carry it on because it was too important to be lost. Let me just explain who
J.T. is. She’s a third generation Japanese-American, a sansei, and her skill is
in location sound mixing. That means that she records film sound and has worked
on almost 200 independent documentaries and feature films. You'll see her name on
a lot of important films dating back to the '70s.
J.T. and I decided that we didn't want to cut out programs. We wanted to maintain
the organization's focus on training, that we wanted to empower its production unit
as much as possible, and that we wanted to do collaborations that were developed
during Pearl's tenure with community based groups and mainstream institutions to
present work that people of color felt was important, especially emerging voices
practicing film and video. So we wanted to keep all this practice, all these models
for intervention in what was clearly becoming the language of the future. And when
the classrooms in colleges and universities replaced their 16-millimeter projectors
with videotape decks, that changed our world, and we realized that we had to at
least keep up with our audience. So we had to get video equipment, and we had to
think about producing work on these new formats. We felt challenged not only by
the mainstream onus on information, but also by the producers of the technology
themselves. It wasn't a mystery to us that people of color needed to be empowered
in this area.
So the two of us decided that we had to incorporate the organization as a non-profit
and we basically divided up the work of the organization. It was like: "You take
the finance. I'll take the administration. You take the marketing and I'll maintain
the facilities at the office. I'll do the proposal writing. You do the managing
of the equipment." We began to include more and more feminist principles to broaden
its political base because we felt that our organization, being multicultural before
it even became a word was in a unique position to provide leadership and a humanistic
perspective to this emerging electronic, digital corporate infotainment menace that
There's been a heavy price paid by the organization for those decisions, but there
have been tremendous rewards. I think the biggest reward is the sense of community
that we developed by continuing to train people; we have 30 years worth of artistic
innovators and political and grassroots people affiliated with a very important
institution. We have exhibited Algerian filmmakers and Chileans. We have a Pan African
practice that began to really develop and flower when Pearl was involved with the
organization. We have introduced the work of emerging black filmmakers from Britain
to American audiences, particularly black audiences. And we also have made significant
interventions in developing work by lesbian and gay people of color and paving the
way for expanded audiences for their work. I'm very honored to be part of this panel
and I think the fact that we are here is a testament to the important role and leadership
of black women in institution building. Our leadership has been inclusive, realizing
that there is power in numbers, there's power in coalitions.
There's one person that's not here who's also part of this history. At its height,
the original Newsreel was a national network of collectives and groups and Jacqueline
Shearer emerged out of the Boston chapter and became a very important innovator
and influential policy-maker in the development of many of the documentary films
and filmmakers that you see today. She was one of the most important members of
the Boston collective, and she was my teacher. When I first came to Third World
Newsreel, she taught the workshop that year. She directed her own film called A
Minor Altercation and also Eyes on the Prize episodes on the Boston
school desegregation and on the death of Martin Luther King. She also directed a
film on the Massachusetts 54th Regiment during the Civil War. So, I'm very honored
by the support that we have gotten from the more mid-career and established artists
who included their work in our catalog. You know, Charles Burnett certainly doesn't
need to have his work in our catalog. I mean, he'd do just fine. But he's stayed
with the organization and his work is in our catalog as well as early works by some
very important makers like Camille Billops, Cheryl Dunye, Lourdes Portillo, Roddy
Bogawa and Julie Dash. There's a long list of people whose early works are in this
I'm most proud that I'm able to leave the organization, move on and do something
else and that I have been replaced by such an exceptionally gifted and capable person,
Dorothy Thigpen, a filmmaker as well as cinematographer.
First, I'd like to thank Susan, Pearl, and Ada and the National Black Arts Festival
for letting us talk about ourselves for so long up here. And now I'd like the open
the floor to questions.
Looking at Newsreel productions over the past 30 years, do you think current Third
World Newsreel films have less to do with broad social class and economic issues?
Do you see a major change in focus in works coming out of Third World Newsreel now?
I can just speak about the short time that I've been here. What I'm seeing in the
current workshop and work coming in as new acquisitions is that a lot of the work
seems to be more personal and personalized. But I think a lot of it still speaks
to the broader political issues that affect that person's culture.
I think it reflects what younger, emerging artists are focusing on now. There is
a connection, I think, to post- modernist discourse that’s being promoted in the
universities. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. You know, people date people. You're
called 60s-ish or '70s-ish as if that's a problem, like you should be ashamed of
it, which I'm not. But I think there's a matter of style and also a matter of access.
So as everybody's getting more access, we've got to really be more open to what
people want to say the first time they pick up a camera. In many cases, they don't
have a lot of examples and the first thing that they need to say is the first thing
that they need to say.
I feel that's one of the challenges now because if the younger generation's frame
of reference is an MTV or CNN sound bite, then that's what they're going to regurgitate.
And I think one of our challenges is to move into the digital media world and cyberspace
and help develop the audience, the passive consumers, the young people who really
don't know their history and really don't recognize how the political issues around
them are affecting them, their friends and their community. One of our challenges
is to educate them and build a bridge between the '60s, the '70s and older generations.
But there's also really no apparatus to show that work. Well, there's a very small
apparatus. I mean there's more people will program less direct hard-hitting work.
There are more venues programming the more personal statements, the more artistic
work. If you look at what work's being shown at festivals or what's getting accepted
by PBS programmers and what's getting funded, there are certain kinds of trends.
And hard-hitting documentaries by people of color are not getting funded. There's
also that issue of it's already been done by x white producer before, or something
Yeah, I would like to put another spin on your question. And that is, consider how
much influence the stuff that is in the Newsreel archives and the work they've done
has had on other filmmakers in the alternative arena, not including people coming
through the workshop. I think if you look at the span of films and documentaries,
you can find a lot of footage that actually comes from the Third World Newsreel
archives, and it's that hard-edge, hard-hitting stuff that people are using. In
many ways, I think, that's a tribute to the organization that they've preserved
this material and that it can be used and recycled in the way it has been.
I am immensely grateful to you all for coming here today and sharing with us the
history of Third World Newsreel. I am struggling myself. My name is Carol Matelis
and I belong to a black women's film collective in Philadelphia. It's called Image
Weavers, and we have been trying to deal with the question of black images. Through
the course of our three- or four-year tenure, we’ve run the whole gamut. We have
had as much disappointment and pain as joy. We've had difficulties with funds management
as well as very successful screenings and everything in between. We’ve juggled priorities,
deciding whether screenings took precedence over production, whether to have an
emphasis on an archival collection. And I wondered what was the chief impetus for
to push through and survive? Was it the emphasis on screening? Was it networking
throughout the Pan African diaspora? Was it the archival material? Was it just the
social activist agenda? I mean what is it that enabled Third World Newsreel to survive?
I think a big piece of it is that we came into the world with a net worth that was
phenomenal in terms of an Eclair, an Arriflex, Viola, Nagra, Senheier shock. You
know, we had lighting. In terms of production equipment, we owned it. It was there.
We inherited it, and we had a whole body of material that was unique in terms of
the film library and the films for distribution. You couldn't go but so far down
because you always had something you could use to pull yourself back up. We just
had to figure out how to get enough money to make the catalog and get the mailing
out and then the money would start to come in. Then we could use that money literally
to finance our production. So I think that figuring out what tangible worth you
have as a group and using that is central. For every group it's going to be different.
That's what it was for us and that is what has been passed on.
You need money, and you gotta get it. So you have to make a long-range plan. If
you don't have the skills in your group, find somebody who does. Pay them. If you
pay nobody else, pay that person. Get a plan. Write down everything you need to
do to succeed. Figure out how to get it in five years and go get it. Ask every person
you see just like you would if you were buying a house or if you were going to have
a child or if you were going to get married or anything else you were going to do
in your life. But you can't do it without money. And somebody's going to have to
give you that equipment or give you that office because you need the assets.
While all of those things are the necessary ingredients, one of the biggest assets
that you have, that you don’t necessarily place a dollar value on, is that you have
an audience and you’re beginning to build that audience. The first motivation for
your organization is screenings and festivals. Your audience is your biggest asset.
There’s always an audience out there that's hungry for the material, and you have
to be knowledgeable about what it is that audience wants to come see. In terms of
attracting money to your organization or getting funding, you've got to prove the
numbers. In this organization, we had to prove that we had an audience for these
little festivals that we were doing and explain how we could build on that because
funders were not interested in simply supporting the same organization over and
over again. So we we were expanding our audience; we were broadening our outreach.
We could reproduce the numbers simply by doing a tour. If you do 25 cities, how
many people does that reach? And it's those numbers that often stand between you
getting a grant and not getting a grant. But it's sometimes very much overlooked
that the real people out there who see the work are the biggest ingredient.
I would join a network of black women organizations. I know there's a group in Brooklyn
trying to do similar things. I know there's a group in Chicago that does a calendar
every year; there's gotta to be a way. And like Pearl's saying, identify your audience
and the potential allies you could draw on for support.
Can I address what you're saying? We've been getting money from the state. We have
a small research library on black Americans in the arts, and they're always on you
about, "How many people are you affecting?” Anyway, we've been getting money from
the state council for 20 years. And it's always been this little game of how many
people, how many people. At first, our audience was always like 30 people, and then
we started publishing the transcripts and inviting artists to come and talk about
their work in a program called “Artists of Influence.” We started publishing it,
the first time on the typewriter, and after that we got a little bit better. So
that helped us keep money, and it was always this game of trying to keep the money
with the numbers. Then a nice thing happened. A man found us and who was associated
with Manhattan Cable and put us on cable. So now we have a little cable program
called "Artists and Influence" and we're on every Monday at 12:30. So now how many
people are affected? Well, we can say 2000 because of the magazine, because of the
channel, and so audience is not even a question. So, in other words, say, if you
guys have public access tv, then you have a cable program. That would be wonderful
for you because that would enhance your chances of getting money because you could
show your films on public access.
I would just add to what everyone said about collaboration with other groups, that
it helps a lot. Because everyone has their own realm of influence and they're bringing
something different to the table, it brings growth. Just "persevere".
I'd be interested in hearing more about what you mean by the digital area? I've
been kind of carrying this little torch around the last few years about digital
media because I find that Third World artists [in the US] and African Americans,
in particular, tend to have a lot more access to this technology than many other
Third World people around the world. Yet they have this aversion to this technology,
and I've found that a lot of the filmmakers don't seem to be that interested in
some of the things that are really going to change the face of filmmaking and information
delivery. It would be interesting to hear what your plans are.
Well, yeah. Moving into the digital age is a big challenge that we face because
of the lack of funding. As Susan said, Third World Newsreel inherited all of this
production equipment. We're at a crossroads now where things are moving into digital
and we are in a position where we must train and provide digital access to our constituency.
One thing we have to do is build a stronger bridge between the production, and distribution
and audience development. That way, people will realize the importance of the way
information is being put out there.
I mean what we do is empower cultural workers and programmers to take this work
and put it in whatever format or structure that they're using. And sometimes it
is in lieu of having a space, a theater that you have to sustain 'cause there are
very few successful models of theaters being sustained. That’s an easy way to lose,
but an easier way to win is to say, “This is available.” If you're working at IBM
and you can do something for Black History Month, here's a film that you can show
your colleagues. If you're working with youth, if you're working with teenagers,
if you're working with older people in your day-to-day work, you can use this work
produced by people of color about these issues and figure out a way to incorporate
it in the other activities that you do.
One thing that we're doing is we're starting this collaboration with a young group
who gives screenings once a month and combines that with music and poetry reading.
But the main focus is screening new work by and about black people. So collaborations
like that are ongoing, and we definitely need to make them happen nationally.
We have all been to Anthology Film Archives. Is there any chance that those kind
of connections…the sharing of screens could happen at Anthology...Because I think
they're underutilized. Have you ever approached Anthology?
No, because I think the Anthology cinema has its audience – I'm thinking in terms
of the past because I'm no longer with Third World Newsreel – but at the time, that
was not the kind of space to which audiences would go because of the location and
it wasn't a familiar place. Anthology Cinema was more known for its personal collection,
which was quite different from the stuff that we handle. We did work out of different
spaces. We did festivals a number of years, I think, in Symphony Space, which is
a theater that had kind of abandoned its film project, but they had all this 35-millimeter
equipment up there. We used that on several occasions, and we brought audiences
back into that theater. But that could not have been a permanent relationship because
those people were in business to do something else; they had another agenda.
Well, also I think we need to remember we're in Atlanta and not in New York. Many
of these films I have been able to see because I'm in college and because they come
to the classroom, so to speak. I'm very grateful that these films are available
through Third World Newsreel, but as a student it's very hard considering the price
of rental and the cost just to use them. The other situation is that black colleges
do not have these films available. Down South, I think, you have to go to Emory
or UGA, which is two hours away, to see something that a black filmmaker has made.
It's very disconcerting. I think that a concern here in Atlanta is just that film
is very Hollywood, very capitalistic. Every once in a while, there may be a film
showing by the Atlanta African Film Society, but you're not able to go and view
the films there. The Atlanta film community is very, very small; it’s very, very
tight and it's hard to get in the door to see anything. So I think a concern here
in Atlanta is how to increase the viewing of these kinds of films and how to get
more black colleges to buy these kinds of films.
I can't pass up the opportunity to say that very often we don't take advantage of
the resources that we have. That's through no fault of you or other individuals,
but I think we need to find a way to connect, to find out what is already being
done in our communities. You here in Atlanta have an excellent resource for all
of this material in Cheryl Chisolm who's been working in film here in Atlanta. Through
the National Black Programming Consortium, she has a visual literacy program and
other film resources. One of the reasons that we're all here is through the efforts
of someone working here in Atlanta like Cheryl Chisolm.
There are several organizations here. There's one called Independent Film Masters
that I'm a member of. Their last tour was of Magic Lantern, one of the larger independent
film and video post-production houses in Atlanta. They've been actively making an
effort to take young filmmakers – young black filmmakers specifically but anyone
is welcome – out to the various facilities to teach them things about filmmaking.
They did classes, seminars where people were actually able to use equipment and
work with technicians that are working on major films and documentaries. I'd be
glad to give you some information on that.
Okay. I want to thank all of you who came to this panel. I've heard a lot of things
you've said during this session that I can take back to Third World Newsreel. I
think one of the major things is that we need to share information and do more outreach.
Thank you all.
I work for the Parks Brothers and I wonder why a lot of catalogs -- like it was
doing a film festival for Black History Month and I didn't know -- I'm new to Atlanta,
so I didn't know places to go. And it would be nice if catalogs were sent (here),
we'll buy those films and show those films, because I know that once I found the
films, and I work at Martin Luther King National Historic Site, and I only found
the films because of talking to somebody in Florida and had them send the catalog
out to me. And then when I showed the films, I had the catalog out there, so people
wanting information about getting those films, I could just say, "Here's the catalog.
Call them." So I'm wondering why your organizations don't send out ...
It's situations like this that helps our mailing list grow. We just mailed this
out to 8,000 people. So I definitely want to get your address and we'll add it to
our mailing list.