Film Image
A Dream Is What You Wake Up From
Larry Bullard & Carolyn Y. Johnson
Producer: Third World Newsreel
50 minutes

A Dream Is What You Wake Up From

Originally released in 1978, A DREAM IS WHAT YOU WAKE UP FROM explores the role of Black families in American society. The everyday lives of three Black families with different approaches to their struggle for survival in the United States are represented through a mix of fiction and documentary scenes, a docudrama style inspired by the work of Cuban filmmaker Sara Gómez.

Filmmakers Larry Bullard and Carolyn Y. Johnson relied on a mix of documentary and drama to record families engaged in their day to day activities at home, at work and in school. This material was juxtaposed with a sound track on which family members discuss their individual thoughts, values and aspirations. With this hybrid film style, the filmmakers were able to reveal and examine the gaps between everyday reality and the way in which it is perceived by each individual.

One of the first Third World Newsreel productions, A DREAM IS WHAT YOU WAKE UP FROM was recently part of two award-winning film programs: Film Society of Lincoln Center "Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968 - 1986" and BAMcinematek "One Way or Another: Black Women's Cinema 1970-1991".
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"Larry Bullard and Carolyn Johnson’s striking A DREAM IS WHAT YOU WAKE UP FROM (78) employs vignettes and self-reflexive techniques to question the American dream and the accepted role of black women in families." - Violet Lucca, Film Comment
"This fascinating hybrid of documentary and fiction employs a number of strategies to create a complex look at different Black American families. As the scene shifts from urban building projects to suburbia, from the present to the past, the filmmakers eavesdrop on intimate kitchen-table conversations, fold in historical re-enactments, drop by community meetings and conduct talking-head interviews." - Manohla Dargis, New York Times
Even as this incisive docudrama confounds the border between reality and fiction, its ideas about gender imbalance and the societal prejudice that locks Black families outside of the American dream remain crystal-clear. - Matthew Eng, Tribeca News
• Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, Film Society of Lincoln Center, 2015
• Billy Wilder Theater, UCLA, 2015
• One Way or Another: Black Women's Cinema, BAMcinematek, 2016

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TWN acknowledges that in New York we are on the unceded territory of the Lenni Lenape, Canarsie, Shinecock, and Munsee peoples and challenges the harm that continues to be inflicted upon Indigenous and People of Color communities here and abroad, which is why we all need to be part of the struggle for rights, equality and justice.

TWN is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Color Congress, MOSAIC, New York Community Trust, Peace Development Fund, Ford Foundation, Golden Globe Foundation, Kolibri Foundation and individual donors.