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Inaugural “The Leagues Film Showcase” – Celebrating NYU’s Black Filmmaker Underground, September 11-13

Inaugural "The Leagues Film Showcase" - Celebrating NYU’s Black Filmmaker Underground, September 11-13

Hey New Yorkers! Here’s a very rare opportunity you should take full advantage of, to see the early works of several acclaimed filmmakers whose names and films have been mentioned/featured on this blog over the years. I’ll say no more and instead have the organizers of the event (which will be attended by many of the filmmakers) dish on all the details via press release below…

In the early 1990s at New York University, a small and

rebellious group of Black students in the Department of Film and Television came together to

unite their skills and resources in order to tell their own stories, not the ones they were expected

to tell by faculty and fellow classmates. In connection to the ostracized Negro League baseball

teams, they decided to call their affiliation The Leagues, and went on to craft unique films

reflecting their varied experiences and to inspire future generations of Black NYU film students

to connect under their banner to do the same. Now ready to share their relatively secretive

association with the world-at-large, The Leagues Film Showcase: Celebrating New York

University’s Black Filmmaker Underground will feature their collective work publicly for the

first time, with free film screenings throughout.

The viewing public will discover the richness of The Leagues’ history by seeing the tapestry of

storytelling these filmmakers presented to the world over the past twenty years. With diverse

topics, cinematic styles, origins, and complexities, modern Black film will be unraveled, as select

films will be seen collectively for the first time. You may have seen them on cable television or

at film festivals such as Sundance, Berlinale, Cannes, Toronto and Urbanworld – but for the first

time audiences will be able to view many of them in a premiere showcase at the place where

they grew out of – New York University.

Begun by Rod Gailes OBC and George Stubbs, The Leagues also found inspiration from

the support of auteur filmmaker and NYU film school instructor and alum Spike Lee and the

then new Tisch School of the Arts’ Dean Mary Schmidt Campbell. Their presence served as

validation for the small community of African-American film students that they can make films

and attend a seemingly intimidating university like NYU. These positive attitudes were also

bolstered by the ballyhooed, colloquially named “Black New Wave” of cinema with a series

of films from Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, 1989) Reginald and Warrington Hudlin (House

Party, 1990), and John Singleton (Boyz In the Hood, 1991), and others that created a new wave

of critical and commercial possibilities. UCLA’s L.A. Rebellion collective of Black film student

voices was also a significant influence.

But beyond fighting the system and dreams of success, these grad students wanted to create

a sense of “home” for all incoming African-American students. The Leagues was formed to

have a safe space in which to create – a community. As co-founder Gailes stated in a 2012

Shadow and Act interview, “NYU was hard to get into and hard to get out of! It would have been

impossible without a community of people conspiring to help you do it.” So they created this

community to tell their own stories, not the ones they were expected to tell by faculty and fellow

classmates.

As a New York Times profile on League member Dee Rees, director of the award-winning

2011 film Pariah, mentions about her time at NYU, “During Seith [Mann]’s time a lot of the black

students began calling themselves ‘the League,’…a reference to the all-black baseball league

that ended in the ’50s. The shorthand speaks to a sense of camaraderie that is shared by many

of the black students there. If there’s a thread connecting their work, it is that “none of us have

reductive views” of black identity, she said.”

The Leagues Film Showcase will officially introduce The Leagues’ work to the world-at-large,

highlighting the films of the first years of this New York-based movement (1991-1998), the

fresh style of the second generation (1999-2007), and culminating into the inventive works

of contemporary Leaguers (2008-present). Many of the filmmakers will be in attendance to

participate in Q&A sessions about their film careers, a short list of which already includes

Frances Bodomo (Afronauts), Caran Hartsfield (King), Rod Gailes OBC (Soft Focus), Ed

DuRante (Jake Gets Paid). The early work of cinematographers will also be recognized,

including that of Bradford Young (Pariah), Daniel Patterson (Gun Hill Road), and Cybel Martin

(Jackie.).

The special opening night event includes six films picked by celebrity NYU faculty including

director Kasi Lemmons (Black Nativity, 2013) and heralded editor/producer/director Samuel L.

Pollard (Jungle Fever, Slavery by Another Name) that best celebrate the three generations of

The Leagues. The Friday night screening focuses on the first and only feature film directed by

six members of The Leagues, 6 Things I Never Told You.

The closing night event will be an early career retrospective on League member Shaka King’s

career with a screening of his hit feature film Newlyweeds (2013), preceded by his student

works Cocoa Loco and Herkimer DuFrayne, 7th

talkbacks with respective directors and invited guests and are followed by a reception. 

The Leagues Film Showcase: Celebrating New York University’s Black Filmmaker

Underground schedule

September 11 at the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Film Center (36 East 8th

at Tisch School of the Arts (721 Broadway)

Thursday, September 11

6pm: Opening Night Faculty Showcase + discussion on ideals and issues surrounding the need

for the collective. Introduction by Samuel L. Pollard

Kiss It Up to God by Caran Hartsfield

Twin Cousins by Rod Gailes OBC

Five Deep Breaths by Seith Mann

African Booty Scratcher by Nikyatu Jusu

Premature by Rashaad Ernesto Green

Afronauts by Frances Bodomo

Friday, September 12

7pm: 6 Things I Never Told You

Saturday, September 13

12pm: First Frames (1991-1998) shorts showcase

The Apartment by Cinque Northern

America by Ed DuRante

Peace and Quiet by George Stubbs

Around The Time by Phil Bertelsen

Girl Talk by Stacey Holman

2pm: Getting the Groove (1999-2007) shorts showcase

Streets 2 Suites by Marquette Jones

A Spoonful of Sugar by Andrea Williams

The Adventures of Supernigger: Episode I: The Final Chapter by Alrick Brown

Midway by Darius Clarke Monroe

A Riot in the Dark by Mike Brown

Pariah by Dee Rees

4pm: The Future Present (2008-present) shorts showcase

Men or Mice by Kiara C. Jones

Jackie by Tamika Guishard

Stone Cars by Reinaldo Marcus Green

Nehemiah by Tiisetso Dladla

The Bodega by Stefon Bristol

Black Girl in Paris by Kiandra Parks

6pm: Special Event: A Night with Shaka King – featuring Newlyweeds + Cocoa Loco and

Herkimer DuFrayne, 7th Grade Guidance Counselor

Detailed film descriptions for The Leagues Film Showcase

6 Things I Never Told You (2011), 92 min.

Directed by Stacey L. Holman, Cinque Northern, Ed DuRante, Rod Gailes OBC, Caran

Hartsfield, James Richards

With Jamie Hector, Novella Nelson, Dominique Morriseau, Hassan Manning, Cherise Booth

An anthology of six short films that each take a look at committed romantic relationships in flux

and all longing for one thing: control.

The Adventures of Supernigger: Episode I: The Final Chapter (2004), 15 min.

Directed by Alrick Brown

This fantastical tale about a superhero that comes face to face with his arch nemesis also

serves as an allegory about the 1999 shooting death of West African immigrant Amadou Diallo.

African Booty Scratcher (2007), 14 min.

Directed by Nikyatu Jusu

Cinematography by Daniel Patterson

With DeWanda Wise, Ebbe Bassey, Stephen Hill, Sofia Rodriguez

Prom nears and things seem to be spiraling out of control for the typically composed Isatu. In

this coming of age story, West African tradition conflicts with American idealism and Isatu is

forced to reassess her alliances.

Afronauts (2014), 14 min.

Directed by Frances Bodomo

With Diandra Forrest, Yolonda Ross, Hoji Fortuna

16th July 1969: America prepares to launch Apollo 11. Thousands of kilometers away, a ragtag

group of Zambian exiles is trying to beat America to the Moon.

America (2001), 9 min.

Directed by Ed DuRanté

A glimpse at the New York City art scene, where sex and money are more important than a

Black painter’s talent.

Around the Time (1997), 15 min.

Directed by Phil Bertelsen

The relationship of Cornelius and Margaret ends in the unexpected birth of their son–she a

carefree Irish-Catholic nursing student and he, a married African-American father. Both show

little interest in picket lines and demonstrations. Yet in this story of innocence, infidelity, and

taboo love, they leave a legacy of protest just the same.

Black Girl in Paris (2013), 20 min.

Directed by Kiandra Parks

With Tracey Heggins, Zaraah Abrahams

When a down on her luck aspiring writer runs out of money after moving to Paris, she meets a

street-smart prostitute who takes her on a whirlwind adventure of passion, self-discovery and

uninhibited sexual freedom. Adapted from the novel by Shay Youngblood.

The Bodega (2013), 7 min.

Directed by Stephon Bristol

A misguided teenager helps his debt-troubled father by involving his best friend Solomon in a

hold up at a local bodega, ending their friendship.

Cocoa Loco (2009), 15 min.

Directed by Shaka King

With Anthony Chisholm, Nedra McClyde, Kaya Stokes

A brief tale about guilt, cocoa butter scented lotion, and the strangers you call family.

Five Deep Breaths (2003), 21 min.

Directed by Seith Mann

With Jamie Hector, Anslem Richardson, Ka’ramuu Kush, Pascale Armand

College friends meet at the crossroads of loyalty and morality and are forced to decide which

path to walk.

Girl Talk (1997), 30 min.

Directed by Stacey Holman

A pampered twenty-something African-American woman learns to face the realities of adult life

with help of her three girlfriends in a book club.

Herkimer DuFrayne, 7th Grade Guidance Counselor (2010), 11 min.

Directed by Shaka King

With Isiah Johnson, Amber Gray, Bryce Gill

The worst day in the worst life of the worst guidance counselor in America.

Jackie. (2011), 17 min.

Directed by Tamika Guishard

Cinematography by Cybel Martin

Having grown up in East New York’s volatile child care system, Jackie Isley is armed with street

and book-smarts upon meeting “Ronnie” for the first time. Looking more like her sister, Jackie

soon learns that not only is she the product of a teenage pregnancy, but also that her mother is

out for blood…

Kiss It Up to God (2000), 24 min.

Directed by Caran Hartsfield

Esther Richardson, the black sheep of the family, “accidentally” fails to stand for the national

anthem while attending a memorial service.

Men or Mice (2011), 15 min.

Directed by Kiara C. Jones

A quiet evening at home turns into a night of terror for Jade. When she reaches out to the men

of her life for help, she discovers an unconventional hero… she hopes.

Midway (2007), 10 min.

Directed by Darius Clark Monroe

Four black men of various ages are at work in a barbershop. A resigned and long-suffering

senior citizen calmly shaves himself. An alternately jovial and frustrated older man named

Red sits in his barber chair waiting for customers. A resolute middle-aged man named Keith

graciously cuts a child’s hair, while the new teenage employee impatiently paces back and forth,

complaining and wanting to leave. The older men alternately ridicule, console, and boss the

new guy, explaining that none of them asked to be there. Later, another employee arrives with

important news that he is reluctant to share. What is the news? And how will it affect each man?

Nehemiah (2013), 22 min.

Directed by Tiisetso Dladla

Inspired by the courage of his favorite cartoon character, an autistic teenager embarks on a

journey to reconnect with his father.

Newlyweeds (2013), 87 min.

Directed by Shaka King

Cinematography by Daniel Patterson

A match made in stoner heaven turns into a love triangle gone awry when Lyle can’t decide

which matters most, Nina or Mary Jane.

Pariah (2007), 28 min.

Directed by Dee Rees

Cinematography by Bradford Young

With Adepero Oduye, Wendell Pierce, Pernell Walker and DeWanda Wise

A lesbian teenager unsuccessfully juggles multiple identities to avoid rejection from her friends

and family. Mounting pressure from home, school, and within wears the line between her

personas thin with explosive consequences.

Premature (2008), 15 min.

Directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green

Cinematography by Daniel Patterson

With Suzette Gunn, Zora Howard, Stephen Henderson

After Tisha, a streetwise teenager from the Bronx, discovers she’s pregnant and receives

no support from her community, she has nowhere to turn and is faced with the most difficult

decision she will ever make.

A Riot in the Dark (2006), 10 min.

Directed by Mike Brown

Cinematography by Daniel Patterson

Nasir’s plans for revenge are upturned when he catches his bully in a disturbing situation.

Say Grace Before Drowning (2010), 17 min.

Directed by Nikyatu Jusu

Cinematography by Daniel Patterson

With Ellie Foumbi, Dennise Gregory, Ebbe Bassey, Hisham Tawfiq, Kehinde Koyejo

After meeting her African refugee mother for the first time in six years, 8 year old Hawa is forced

to coexist with a woman teetering on the brink of insanity.

A Spoonful of Sugar (2003), 20 min.

Directed by Andrea Williams

With Noelle Gift, Silvestre Rasuk, Ebbe Bassey

Patrice is a young black girl, born with HIV, growing up in New York City. Now she has met a

boy and is beginning to experiment with sex.

Stone Cars (2014), 14 min.

Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green

A teenage girl growing up in dangerous Khayelitsha township is faced with a difficult decision

in the wake of a traumatic event. Stone Cars is a coming of age love story set in the shacks of

Khayelitsha township, one of the most dangerous areas in the world.

The lineup can be seen in its entirety below and more information can be found at https://wp.nyu.edu/theleaguesshowcase.

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