Film historian and theorist Michael B. Gillespie will join Princeton University’s Program in Visual Arts faculty as a visiting associate professor in the fall, along with filmmakers Afia Serena Nathaniel, Lynne Sachs and Yaara Sumeruk, as the University’s Lewis Center for the Arts continues to expand its courses and programming in filmmaking and film studies. The Center will also co-present a special film series with Princeton Garden Theatre, Cinema Today, which will feature screenings and talks by some of the most intriguing film directors working today.
Gillespie’s work focuses on black visual and expressive culture, film theory, genre, visual historiography, global cinema, adaptation theory, popular music studies, and contemporary art. His recently released book, Film Blackness: American Cinema and the Idea of Black Film (Duke University Press, 2016) frames black film alongside literature, music, art, photography, and new media, treating it as an interdisciplinary form that enacts black visual and expressive culture. The book shifts the ways scholars think about black film, treating it not as a category, genre, or strictly a representation of the black experience, but as a visual negotiation between film as art and the discursivity of race.
This fall he will teach the course “Special Topics in Film History — World Cinema in a Global Context.”
Gillespie has published numerous essays and book chapters including “Grace and Grind: Notes on the Work of Kevin Jerome Everson” in How to Remain Human (Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, 2015) and “Reckless Eyeballing: Coonskin, Film Blackness, and the Racial Grotesque,” in Contemporary Black American Cinema: Race, Gender and Sexuality at the Movies edited by Mia Mask (Routledge, 2012). He has organized numerous academic panels on black visual and expressive culture for meetings of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, American Studies Association, and Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present. His most recent research project is entitled Music of My Mind: Blackness and Sonic Visuality. Gillespie is currently associate professor of film at The City College of New York, holding a joint appointment in the Department of Media and Communication Arts and the Black Studies Program, and previously taught at Ohio University, Athens, The New School, Duke University, and New York University. He holds a masters and doctoral degrees from the New York University Department of Cinema Studies and a bachelors in English from Morehouse College in Atlanta.
Filmmaker Lynne Sachs makes films, installations, performances and web projects that explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences by weaving together poetry, collage, painting, politics and layered sound design. She has made over 25 films, supported by fellowships from the Rockefeller and Jerome Foundations and the New York State Council on the Arts. Her films have screened at the New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, and Toronto’s Images Festival. Her work has also been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, Walker Art Center, Wexner Center for the Arts and other venues nationally and internationally. She has taught at New York University, Hunter College, The New School, Maryland Institute College of Art, and the University of California, Berkeley. She will teach a course in documentary filmmaking.
Yaara Sumeruk is a South African filmmaker living in New York City. She has worked in almost every aspect of filmmaking, from directing to editing, production and marketing. She adapted the play Ringo into a short film, which premiered at The Locarno International Festival in Switzerland. She served as creative director and editor on seven films for the U.N. General Assembly, and edited several short documentaries for The Malala Fund. She has edited trailers for films including Spike Lee’s feature Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014), held the post of director’s assistant to James Ponsoldt for the production of Off the Black (2006, ThinkFilm), and assisted screenwriter Justin Haythe as story editor and researcher for films including The Lone Ranger (2013). She has previously taught at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She will teach the course, “How to Make a Film.”
In addition, one of the five 2016-18 Princeton Arts Fellows, Afia Serena Nathaniel, is a Pakistani-born filmmaker. She will teach “From Script to Screen,” a course focusing on the three major phases of cinematic storytelling: story development, principal photography, and post-production.
Gillespie, Sachs, Sumeruk and Nathaniel join current film faculty teaching in the program, including award-winning filmmaker Su Friedrich and media historian Amy Herzog. Film historian P. Adams Sitney retired from teaching in the program in June after a 36-year career at Princeton, earning emeritus status.
Other film-related, cross-listed courses for fall include “Documentary Film and the City,” focusing on Trenton’s unrest of April 1968; “Sound and Place;” “Introduction to Screenwriting: Writing the Short Film;” “Introduction to Screenwriting: Adaptation;” and “Advanced Screenwriting: Writing for Television.”
Building on the success of last spring’s World on a Wire film series, 2015-17 Princeton Arts Fellow Pacho Velez will curate and host a series this fall with the Princeton Garden Theatre. Cinema Today will present a screening of a recent film along with a talk by its director. Directors scheduled thus far include Gustave Deutsch on October 27, Terrence Malick on November 10, and Kelly Reichardt on November 17. An earlier film by each director will be screened at the Garden in the week preceding, enabling audiences to see prior and current work by these directors. Cinema Today is supported in part by the John Sacret-Young ’69 Lecture Fund.