Leslie Harris came along during what I’d call the golden 90s – when there was promise of a “revival” or a new wave in black cinema; one that seemed to flutter, wasn’t sustained, and never fully actualized.
Her debut feature (her only feature film that I’m aware of) Just Another Girl On The I.R.T., is a coming-of-age story about an African American teenage girl (Chantel) from a working-class family in Brooklyn, with dreams of going to college, and becoming a doctor. Chantel is a smart student, despite all the challenges she faces – the responsibility of taking care of her brothers, working a part-time job at a local grocery store, all while also going to school full-time. However, her dreams are challenged when she becomes pregnant.
The film was made with $100,000 in 1992, played at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival (where it won a Special Jury Prize), Toronto Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival and others, and was picked up for distribution by the then Weinstein brothers-run Miramax, who released the film in theatres in March 1993, where it grossed an impressive $479,000 (or about $735,000 in today’s dollars).
The film was mostly well-received by critics. I haven’t watched it in very long time – many years ago; I do remember thinking it to be well-intentioned, topical and energetic, but uneven in its staging and performances, and heavy-handed in delivering its message.
But for a film of its budget at the time (pre- the digitial cinema explosion that would come about a decade later), it did its job.
I’ll have to re-watch and re-visit it on this blog in the near future. My perspective on it might be different.
But those of you in NYC should know that, this Thursday, January 10th, at 7pm, there will be a 20th Anniversary screening of Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. at 92YTribeca, which will be followed by a panel discussion with director Leslie Harris, star of the film Ariyan Johnson, and writer Nelson George moderated by Uptown Magazine’s Angela Bronner Helm.
Tickets are $12 general admission, or $8 for 92YTribeca Film Club Members.
If Leslie Harris made another feature film, we missed it. After Just Another Girl on the I.R.T., she directed a short film titled Bessie Coleman: A Dream to Fly, a year later, in 1993.
I do recall receiving an email in mid-2010, informing me that Harris was casting for her second feature, titled I Love Cinema, which was described as a “sexy satirical comedy.“
The casting notice doesn’t contained the following description:
I LOVE CINEMA subtitled OR HOW A WOMAN SURVIVES IN A ‘SO-CALLED’ POST-RACIAL WORLD, is a satirical comedy that is sexy, fun and political. I LOVE CINEMA uses humor, irony and pathos to expose some of the absurd and outrageous attitudes that exist in on today’s college campuses in a so-called post-racial world.
I performed a Google search for it jut before posting this item, and discovered that she actually tried to raise funds for it via Kickstarter last October (2012). We certainly didn’t know about it, because I’m sure that if I received notice of this, it would’ve been posted here.
Harris wasn’t successful in raising the $32,000 her campaign was seeking.
I did also find a Facebook page for the project, but not much to update you on since the Kickstarter campaign ended.
But with renewed interest in I.R.T., on its 20th anniversary, maybe she could use that to drum up support for I Love Cinema.
I won’t be able to make this Thursday night’s event; although I hope to have someone there repping S&A with questions, like, what’s the status of I Love Cinema?
To learn more about the event, as well as purchase tickets for it, click HERE.
Here’s its trailer: