Programmed by Anton Yu
Special thanks to Professor Jacqueline Stewart and Bill Brown from the Office of the Provost for their help and support.
(Gordon Parks, 1968) · This film program consists of Gordon Parks’ three early documentary films: Flavio (1964), Diary of a Harlem Family (1968), and World of Piri Thomas (1968), all presented in 16mm. The films explore the lives of individuals separated by location—Black Harlem, Brazil, and Spanish Harlem—but are all unified by their impoverished environments and struggles to survive for a better future. The screening is free and open to the public.
runtime: 92 min format: 16mm
(Gordon Parks, 1969) · The first major Hollywood studio film directed by an African American, Gordon Parks’ feature debut is a coming-of-age story based on Parks’ semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. The Learning Tree follows two black teenagers, Newt Winger and Marcus Savage, as they grow up in rural Kansas and confront racial discrimination in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The film was among the first 25 films included in the National Film Registry in 1989.
runtime: 107 min format: 35mm
(Gordon Parks, 1971) · One of the best known and most influential blaxploitation films ever made, Shaft made Parks a legend and Richard Roundtree, in the titular role, a star. Hired by gangster Bumpy Jonas (Moses Gunn) to find his kidnapped daughter, Shaft finds himself caught in a dangerous crossfire of violence with the police, the mafia, and Harlem's underworld all out for blood. With its pulsing action and its beautifully shot NYC vistas, Shaft thrills and delights.
runtime: 100 min format: 35mm
(Gordon Parks, 1972) · The second Shaft film, Shaft's Big Score!, is bigger, bloodier, and even better than the first. After his friend is killed, Shaft is out for justice, and what he finds is his old nemesis, Bumpy Jonas, this time in an underground war to control the NYC numbers racket. Car chases, explosions, shoot-outs and sex fill every moment, and Roundtree, the best James Bond we never got, dominates the screen.
runtime: 104 min format: 16mm
(Gordon Parks, 1974) · Parks' strangest and perhaps best film, The Super Cops tells the vaguely real-life story of Dave Greenberg and Robert Hantz, two rookie NYC police officers who were so legendarily successful—a 97% conviction rate on their 660 arrests in just four years!—that they earned the nicknames of Batman and Robin. A weird mixture of gritty verité and comic-book stylization, the film agilely and expertly crafts a paranoiac comedy of police corruption and extra-legal crime fighting.
runtime: 90 min format: 16mm
(Gordon Parks, 1976) · Roger E. Mosley plays Huddie Ledbetter, the brilliant blues guitarist and singer, better known as Leadbelly. In a series of flashbacks, the film tells the story of Ledbetter's early life and how he emerged one of the greatest musicians in our nation's history. 'They chased him down with dogs, chained him in iron, beat him with rawhide, slammed him in the sweatbox. They tried to bury Leadbelly, but Leadbelly wouldn't lie down. You can't bury a black legend like Leadbelly!'
runtime: 126 min format: 35mm
(Gordon Parks, 1984) · The first film adaptation of Solomon Northup’s autobiography Twelve Years a Slave, Solomon Northup’s Odyssey tells the true story of a free black man kidnapped in 1841 and enslaved for 12 years in Louisiana. Choosing to film in parts of the Deep South for added realism, Parks also selected a film crew of mixed races in order “to show Southerners how Whites and Blacks could work peacefully together”. This screening is free and open to the public.
runtime: 115 min format: DVD
(Craig Laurence Rice, 2000) · This program consists of two documentaries. “The Weapons of Gordon Parks” (1968, 16mm), part of Warren Forma’s “Artists At Work” series, tells the story of Life photographer Gordon Parks in his own words. Craig Laurence Rice’s Half Past Autumn (DVD) presents a larger picture of Parks’ life: from his early experiences with racism to his successes as a writer, composer, filmmaker, photographer, and humanitarian. The screening is free and open to the public.
runtime: 119 min format: 16mm, DVD
(Andy and Lana Wachowski, 1999) · Under-the-radar idiosyncratic hometown heroes Lana and Andy Wachowski were given carte blanche to realize their populist fantasies in this blockbuster film, concerning vinyl-clad hackers clubbing at Neo (Keanu Reeves), studying Bruce Lee movies, and smashing the camera obscura of corporate office life, all via a continually fruitful virtual reality / Plato's Cave metaphor.
runtime: 136 min format: 35mm