A Cinema Today: Film Blackness Series event on November 15

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Filmmaker Kevin J. Everson, courtesy the artist.

On Wednesday, November 15, the Visual Arts Program of the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University and Princeton Garden Theatre will present a screening of the short films of artist and filmmaker Kevin J. Everson at the Princeton Garden Theatre. Starting at 7:30 p.m.‚ the screening will be followed by a Q&A with Everson.

Kevin Jerome Everson has made nine feature films and over 120 short films, which have been exhibited internationally at film festivals, museums, and galleries around the world, making him among the most prolific of contemporary filmmakers. With a sense of place and historical research, Everson’s films combine scripted and documentary moments with rich elements of formalism and abstraction. The subject matter is the gestures or tasks caused by certain conditions in the lives of working class African Americans and other people of African descent. The conditions are usually physical, social-economic circumstances, or weather. Instead of standard realism, he favors a strategy that abstracts everyday actions and statements into theatrical gestures, in which archival footage is re-edited or re-staged, real people perform fictional scenarios based on their own lives and historical observations intermesh with contemporary narratives. The films suggest the relentlessness of everyday life—along with its beauty—but also present oblique metaphors for art-making.

Everson will be screening a number of his short films: Eason, a short experimental film about migration and the death of James Walker Hood Eason, leader of Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) of Philadelphia;

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A still from Kevin J. Everson’s film IFO (2017). Courtesy of Kevin J. Everson

How Can I Ever Be Late, inspired by Sly Stone’s 1973 visit to University of Virginia, a collaboration with Claudrena Harold; and IFO, which stands for “Identified Flying Object”, a meditation on reported alien sightings in Northern Ohio, with the filmmaker using his familiar austere and formalistic aesthetic devoted to blackness, gesture, and history.

The screening is being presented as part of the series Cinema Today: Film Blackness‚ organized by Dr. Michael Gillespie, a Visiting Associate Professor in Visual Arts. The series is part of a fall Lewis Center for the Arts course taught by Gillespie, also titled Film Blackness, that is devoted to thinking about the idea of black film with critical attention to film form, film theory, and black visual and expressive culture. The course considers the art of film and the idea of race as irreducible to reality or truth and instead frames the idea of black film as a discursive practice that poses new paradigms for understanding narrative, aesthetics, culture, historiography, and intertextuality.

Gillespie is a film theorist and historian, with an interest in black visual and expressive culture, film theory, genre, visual historiography, global cinema, adaptation theory, popular music studies, and contemporary art. His recently released bookFilm 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. He 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.

The final screening in the series, featuring work by filmmakers Ja’Tovia Gary and Frances Bodomo, members of The New Negress Film Society, is scheduled for Wednesday, November 29.

The series is cosponsored by the Lewis Center’s Committee on Race and the Arts.

The film screening series is supported through the John Sacret Young ’69 Lecture Series fund. Sacret Young is a 1969 graduate of Princeton and an author, producer, director, and screenwriter. He has been nominated for seven Emmy Awards and seven Writers Guild of America (WGA) Awards, winning two WGA Awards. He is perhaps best known for co-creating, along with William F. Broyles Jr., China Beach, the critically acclaimed ABC-TV drama series about medics and nurses during the Vietnam War, and for his work on the television drama The West Wing. Young has also received a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award, and his original mini-series about the Gulf War, Thanks of a Grateful Nation, was honored with his fifth Humanitas Prize nomination.

Tickets for the November 15 screening are free for Princeton University students, faculty and staff; show Princeton ID at the Garden Theatre box office to pickup tickets. Public tickets, $6-$11, are available online at www.thegardentheatre.com or in person. The Garden Theatre is located at 160 Nassau Street.

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