need to tell you that there have always been black filmmakers, long before Spike
Lee; too many to mention just a few. But one significant person, who seems to
have been overlooked, is playwright/professor/activist and filmmaker Kathleen Collins.
her list of films only consists of two pictures, and that she died relatively
young, at the age of 46, in 1988, after a long battle with breast cancer, she has
sadly been overlooked for too long.
feature film that made her a name, “Losing Ground,” has sadly been very little seen
by the public. It made the rounds of some film festivals during the early 1980’s, and yet, surprisingly, the film was never screened in New York City. However, it was rightfully praised by those few who saw it. And the film can legitimately
be called a landmark film in the history of black independent cinema.
Ground” is, in fact, a film-within-a-film, revolving around Sara (Seret Scott) a university
professor who finds herself in an emotional and spiritual crisis, when she discovers her husband Victor’s (Bill Gunn, the director of “Ganja and Hess”) infidelities.
As a way to cope
with her situation, and to find herself again, Sara agrees to act in a student’s
film project, which very much reflects her own personal situation – “a moment of profound and
shattering emotion that calls her ordered intellectual existence into question.”
“Losing Ground” was revolutionary in its time (and is still very much today), being the first film
that was set in the world of the well-to-do black intelligentsia, not far removed
from Collins’ life. And, in fact, many have speculated that the film’s refusal
to succumb to the usual black stereotypes and negative imagery, is what caused it
to be ignored by the media (including the black media), and was never released theatrically, except for a one time only showing on a local New York PBS station.
Now, almost 30
years after Ms. Collins’ death, a new restored print of “Losing Ground” is ready
to be discovered by a new audience. The filmmaker’s daughter, Nina Collins, along
with Milestone Films, have worked with DuArt Film to rescue the original 16MM
negatives, and remastered the original soundtrack to create new digital masters.
33 years, the newly restored “Losing Ground” will have its long overdue, New
York theatrical premiere, on Friday, Feb. 6, starting at 8:30PM, at the Walter Reade theater, at Lincoln Center, as the centerpiece for the upcoming series “Tell it Like it Is: Black Independents in New York 1968–1986.”
Lead actress Seret Scott, cinematographer Ronald
K. Gray and Nina Collins will all be on hand to present the film, which will later have a week run at Lincoln Center as well.
Also Milestone is preparing
to release the film on DVD shortly after its N.Y. screening.