As I wrote
back in January of this year, there have always been black filmmakers, long
before Spike Lee or John Singleton. In fact too many to mention just a few. But
one significant black filmmaker who seems to have been overlooked, is
playwright/professor/activist and filmmaker Kathleen Collins.
because 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 unfortunately been seen by very few. It toured the film festival circuit during the early 1980’s, and 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.”
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.
But earlier this
year, after literally decades of neglect, a newly-restored print of “Losing
Ground” has led to a (re-)discovery of the film by new audiences. 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. The plan is to eventually release the film on VOD
and DVD in the near future.
smash reception following its long overdue New York premiere of the restored film (believe
it or not, it was the first time the film had ever been screened theatrically in New York) earlier this year, “Losing Ground” will be screened in Chicago
for one time only, at the Chicago Filmmakers Co-op on Weds Sept. 2 at 7PM, which
is located at 5243 N. Clark St.
However, though Chicago Filmmakers Co-op claims that this is the first-ever Chicago screening of the
film, actually it is not. The film was first screened back in the early
80’s at the very same Chicago Filmmakers Co-op, but when it was located in different part of the city, near
downtown Chicago; and, in fact, Ms. Collins was present for the screenings.
But if you
love black independent cinema, and live in the Chicago area, don’t let new
opportunity slip by.
Here’s the trailer
for the newly-restored version of the film: