Back in November, New York's Museum of the Moving Image hosted an event commemorating a landmark year in cinema – 1991 – when there was an influx of studio-funded films by black directors including Spike Lee, Matty Rich, John Singleton, Mario Van Peebles, and others.
Hosted by Warrington Hudlin, the celebration included a keynote from filmmaker/critic Nelson George, remote interviews with John Singleton and Matty Rich, and live interviews with NYU film school dean Sheril Antonio and writing program chair Richard Wesley.
I was able to attend the celebration along with a few members of the S&A team, and it was an enlightening conversation. Beyond simply celebrating the films of the era, we also found ourselves discussing subjects that come up often on this site –
Why aren't there just as many, if not more, black films being made today?
Why are black filmmakers having the same struggles to get their films greenlit, and funded properly, and distributed, that they had 20 years ago, and what can we do to overcome this?
Why didn't history move in one direction? What happened??
Of course, the answers for all this are varied, and heavily debated. But what I appreciated about the conversation at New Wave of Black Film was that it seemed to focus on successes and solutions. No, all isn't lost in black cinema. In fact, many of the minds that are essentially spearheading a new movement in black cinema today – Nekisa Cooper, producer of Pariah, for example – were there in the room.
And though it sometimes seems like an overkilled subject, it still remains relevant and necessary to discuss in order to find new solutions, new ideas, and continue ushering in new generations of talent – lest 1991 become a high point that we never surpass.
Find highlights from the New Wave of Black Film event below, courteousy of Reel Black: