Haile Gerima, USA 1975, 16mm, black and white, 97 min
New print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive
Bush Mama powerfully captures the anger of America when the dream envisioned by Martin Luther King met with violent suppression and the stark reality of inner city neglect exposed by the uprising in Watts in 1965. Haile Gerima's iconic film shows the Black community under siege, harassed and starved of opportunities. It is a powerful portrait of the political awakening of a mother struggling to survive on welfare and bring up her daughter. Deftly combining fiction with documentary, including footage of the LAPD questioning Gerima and his crew during filming, the film draws on a range of topical events from police killings, treatment of Vietnam veterans to the militant liberation movement in Africa. The mesmerising performance of Barbara O. Jones shows the protagonists shift from passivity to empowerment. The film vividly conjures her interior world, a fractured reality filtered by memories and anxieties as she moves towards political consciousness following the arrest of her husband for a crime he didn't commit.
Inspired by the Ethiopian director's experiences of racism in America, the film forcefully tackles questions of racial, gender and social inequalities that continue to have resonance today. Bush Mama's radical politics is matched by its form, its incredible layered sound design and elliptical structure creates one of the most powerful films of the period.
Charles Burnett, USA 1969, 35mm, colour, 22 min
Newly restored print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive
Charles Burnett's first student film is an affectionate character study of the people in the community in which he grew up. Taking place in everyday environments, from a living room to a front yard and an improvised gathering in a car park. Sensitive to the humour and idiosyncrasies of its non-professional cast, the film effortlessly captures remarkable scenes of rare intimacy. Made to oppose documentaries purporting to offer solutions to the problems of the working class, Burnett sought instead to show a slice of life in Watts attuned to the humour as much as the frustrations of the community.
Programme duration: 119 min