In celebration of the United Nations declaring 2011 as “The Year of People of African Descent”, this year’s Creatively Speaking film series at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) brings together a hand-picked selection of films and videos representing the diversity of people of African descent from around the world.
Curated by Michelle Materre, Creatively Speaking has been an ongoing forum presenting independently produced media that strives to convey a realistic, universal portrayal of people of color to audiences within and across communities of color.
Find the full lineup of films after the jump.
Saturday, September 17th
2:00pm – La Lupe: Queen of Latin Soul by Ela Troyano, 54 mins, 2008
A rebel and innovator, pop singer Lupe Yoli, otherwise known as La Lupe or La Yiyiyi, was renowned for her emotional performance style. Shot in New York City, Miami, La Habana and Puerto Rico, LA LUPE evokes two groundbreaking cultural periods through interviews and rare archival footage: pre-Revolutionary 1950s La Habana and the burgeoning Latin music scene in New York City in the 1960s and 1970s. The film begins with La Lupe’s funeral in 1992—attended by fans, family and the whole of New York’s Latino music aristocracy—and follows her from poverty to celebrity and back again.
With Carmelita Tropicana by Ela Troyano, 28 mins, 1994
This classic political satire dissects cultural stereotypes and mixes elements of three genres – the telenovela, experimental filmmaking and the American musical. A collaboration between sisters, Ela and Alina Troyano, the film mixes performance artist Carmelita Tropicana’s monologues and drag performance with the women’s prison film genre and in the process wreaks havoc with cultural stereotypes. Best Short Film winner at the Berlin Film Festival in 1994.
4:30pm – Women on the Verge: AKA/For Colored Girls.. – a series of short films dealing with the timely subject of issues of self esteem among young women of color and the importance of questioning societal standards of beauty.
Ebony Goddess by Carolina Moraes Liu, Portuguese w/English subtitles, 20 mins, 2010
Ebony Goddess follows three women competing to be the carnival queen of Ilê Aiyê, a prominent and controversial Afro-Brazilian group with an all-black membership. The selection is based on Afro-centric notions of beauty, in counterpoint to prevailing standards of beauty in Brazil, a country famous for slim supermodels and plastic surgery. Contestants for the title of Ebony Goddess dress in flowing African-style garments, gracefully performing traditional Afro-Brazilian dances to songs praising the beauty of black women.
Dark Girls by Bill Duke, Work-in-Progress, 9 mins, 2011 (unconfirmed)
From Hollywood director Bill Duke comes a new documentary in progress. This preview explores the ongoing deep-seated biases and attitudes about skin color—particularly dark skinned women – both from within and from outside the African American community.
A Girl LikeMe by Kiri Davis, 7 mins, 2005
A Girl Like Me explores the standards of beauty imposed on today’s black girls. The film delves beneath the surface in order to show how such standards affect self-esteem and self-image. This short documentary has touched the hearts and minds of millions worldwide and serves as a wake up call for us all.
La Corona by Amanda Micheli, Isabel Vega, Spanish w/English subtitles, 40 mins, 2008
The contestants are murderers, guerrillas and thieves. The runner-up will cry when she doesn’t get the tiara, wiping her tears with a tattooed hand. The winner will be crowned Queen, but she won’t be invited on a press tour as a role model for young girls. Instead, she will be escorted back to her cell. This is a beauty pageant like no other, and it happens every year in the Women’s Penitentiary in Bogotá, Colombia.
6:50pm – Le Bonheur d’Elza (Elza’s Happiness) by Mariette Monpierre, French w/English subtitles, 80 mins, 2011 – SNEAK PREVIEW
A single mom in Paris, Bernadette tried to give everything to her daughters. Her eldest, Elza, completes her master’s degree in mathematics summa cum laude and is the first college graduate of the family. But Elza ruins her mothers’ happiness when she leaves against her wishes to return to Guadeloupe in search of a childhood memory and a father she distantly remembers. This feature directorial debut by director/writer Mariette Monpierre, offersan insider’s view of a lush island culture, capturing the beauty and contradictions of this family drama with passion and perseverance.
9:15pm – Fire in Babylon by Stevan Riley, 82 mins, 2011
This joyous, and uplifting documentary tells the incredibly captivating story of the glorious domination of the West Indian cricket team who with a combination of phenomenal skill and fearless spirit became one of the greatest teams in sports history. The film also celebrates the emancipation of a people with its roots in politics, pride, anti-colonial fury and music.
Sunday, September 18th
2:00pm –Black Is/Black Ain’t – shorts program exploring issues of identity within and across the Latino Diaspora.
Africa on the Pacific: Esmeraldas, Ecuador by Dr. Sheila Walker – 30 mins
On the Pacific Coast of South America, Afro-Ecuadoreans in the Province of Esmeraldas proclaim their identity with cultural traditions both brought from Africa and created in the Americas. Proud that their province was founded by free Africans in the 16th century, Afro-Esmeraldans celebrate and preserve African traditions in stories of river spirits and in names of both instruments and people.
Scattered Africa: Faces and Voices of the African Diaspora by Dr. Sheila Walker – 25 mins
This documentary emphasizes both commonalities and specificities in places such as Argentina and Uruguay where the African past and presence has often been declared non-existent; in Peru and Colombia where African presence has been underestimated and misrepresented; and in Surinam and Brazil, where African cultural forms characterize a national culture. This re-discovery of an African heritage and a scattered transnational community represents today what constitutes the Pan-American African Diaspora. Based on her own experiences, anthropologist Sheila Walker shares new perspectives on the Americas by introducing us to the people who were her teachers and cultural guides.
The Fifth Suyo by Fernando Espinoza, Spanish w/English subtitles, 26 mins, 2006
The Incan Empire was divided into four political and administrative regions called the “The Four Suyos.” The title of this documentary refers to a fifth region or “The Fifth Suyo” where Afro-Peruvians include themselves as a part of the history of Peru, because they also have a history yet to be told, and a voice that has yet to be heard.
Afrolatinos: The Untaught Story by Renzo Devia and Alicia Anabel Santos – 5 mins, 2011
This work-in-progress gives us a preview sampling of an upcoming television series uncovering a new level of identity awareness among people of African descent in Latin America.
4:30pm – Afro-Argentines by Jorge Fortes and Diego Ceballos, Spanish w/English subtitles, 74 minutes, 2002
Are there any Black people in Argentina? Many Argentines will answer “no” to that question. This film provides a counter-narrative to the national myth of Argentina’s exclusively European heritage by tracing the history of black people in Argentina and their contributions to Argentine culture and society. Afro-Argentines explores the long presence of people of African descent in one of the most Europeanized countries in Latin America.
6:50pm – Children of God by Kareem Mortimer, dir; Trevite Willis, producer, 82 mins, 2010
Set against the backdrop of a nation grappling with violent homophobic crime, this debut narrative feature tells the stories of three very different individuals who head for the spectacularly beautiful and tranquil island of Eleuthera, each with a different reason for escaping current circumstances. Soon, their disparate worlds collide in unexpected and affecting ways. This uncommon portrayal of love, loneliness, tolerance, secrets and self-acceptance takes viewers on a journey that is enlightening, courageous, and disquieting all at the same time, shocking our very core with its startling conclusion.
9:15pm – Le Bonheur d’Elza (Elza’s Happinness) by Mariette Monpierre
For tickets, visit BAM.org.