Black Lives Matter
Special Courses Fall 2020
Support your learning of African-American and Black history with these upcoming film courses.
Students will explore the history and contexts of Afrofuturism, which has roots in African American science fiction and now refers more broadly to literature, music, and visual art that explore the African diasporic experience. The course will focus on creative aspects including short script-writing, filmic storytelling, and online discussions with working filmmakers. For more information, visit here.
If you want to explore the nexus of hot contemporary issues and US presidential elections through film, then this is the class for you. To better understand how the concerns of election years are represented in fiction films and documentaries, we'll discuss how fiction films and documentaries investigate assumptions about equality, human rights, immigrants, and prosperity in the US. The films we’ll study include James DeMonaco’s The Purge: Election Year (2016), Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro (2016), Laura Poitras’s Citizen Four (2014), Ava DuVernay's 13th (2016), and Jose Antonio Vargas's Documented (2013). For more information, visit here.
Black Lives Matter Films, selected from Visiting Filmmakers Series
"You write in order to change the world… The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way a person looks or people look at reality, then you can change it." --James Baldwin
A Message from Film at Mason Professor Cynthia Fuchs
James Baldwin's faith in the power of art inspires us still. The faculty and staff at Film at Mason believe in this power and in using our art -- filmmaking -- to tell stories that matter. To change the world, we must see it as well as represent it, honestly, thoughtfully, and with purpose. Our mission statement speaks to our commitment: "Film at Mason is a community of cinematic storytellers that fosters creativity, analysis, and diverse perspectives, professional practice and socially conscious filmmaking." We believe in our students' ability to effect change, and our curriculum reflects as well our belief that we must interrogate as well as make media.
Today, we send our condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Sandra Bland, and the countless other victims of police brutality and racist violence. We are also encouraged by the current -- ongoing, resilient -- movement.
Black Lives Matter.
To fight racism and attain justice, the way forward is at once clear and complicated, equal parts protest, education, and communication. The way forward is also premised on understanding the past, images and experiences from which we can learn even as we resist them. As Baldwin asserted, "History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history." History, like art, like filmmaking, and like the future, is a process. That process must be inclusive and intentional, empathetic and self-aware. That process is our present, and it will be our work and our commitment in the days, weeks, and years to come.
Our dedication to inclusive filmmaking is longterm. Our own history includes more than two decades of the Visiting Filmmakers Series at Mason, featuring films and artists who represent black lives, experiences, and aspirations. We are honored to continue to support these filmmakers and their stories.
Below please find a selected list of films we've shared with our community. We encourage you to share and discuss with friends and family.
Click on film titles to see the Visiting Filmmakers Series event pages.
13th (Ava DuVernay 2016) Netflix
Combining archival footage with testimony from activists and scholars, Ava DuVernay's examination of the U.S. prison system looks at how the country's history of racial inequality drives the high rate of incarceration in America. Read more about the film on its website. Watch for free on YouTube here.
Evolution of a Criminal (Darius Clark Monroe 2014) Deerjen Films
Evolution of a Criminal” is an autobiographical documentary about director Darius Clark Monroe’s 16-year-old self. The film describes his family’s financial struggles and home environment that pushed him into making the choice of robbing a local bank and how the robbery created a ripple effect impacting him, his family, friends, and the victims in the bank. Read more about the film at PBS. See it on YouTube. Free to watch for Mason community here.
Family Affair (Chico Colvard 2010) C-Line Films
Chico Colvard examines his own family's history of incest and abuse in his searingly personal debut documentary. In the process, he explores notions of family, survival, forgiveness, resilience, and understanding. Free to watch on Vimeo here. Learn more about Chico’s incredible new film, Black Memorabilia (2019), here.
Field Niggas (Khalik Allah 2015) Grasshopper Film
A case study in street portraiture from the man who made his name photographing the Wu-Tang Clan with a camera he borrowed from his dad. Field Niggas screened around the world, and was a New York Times Critics Pick. Available to watch with a Criterion subscription here. Khalik Allah was a cinematographer on Beyoncé's Lemonade. His brilliant new film, Black Mother (2019, Grasshopper Film) is available to watch for free here.
Hale County This Morning, This Evening (RaMell Ross 2019) Cinema Guild
An inspired and intimate portrait of a place and its people, Hale County This Morning, This Evening follows Daniel Collins and Quincy Bryant, two young African American men from rural Hale County, Alabama, over five years. Innovative and evocative, Hale County was nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar. Free to watch for Mason community here. It is also available on Amazon Prime.
In Lorton's Darkroom (Karen Ruuckman 2016) Photochange
In Lorton's Darkroom is a documentary short that tells the story of inmates who came of age – and learned to be photographers -- in DC's notorious Lorton Prison during the early days of mass incarceration. Read more about the film and the teaching project at Photochange.
Let the Fire Burn (Jason Osder 2014) Zeigeist Films
Comprised of found footage and sound bites, Let the fire burn describes the conflict between the Black Power group MOVE and the people and city government of Philadelphia, culminating in the armed standoff of May 13, 1985, in which one police officer and eleven MOVE members were killed, ending when Philadelphia police dropped a bomb on the row house that served as MOVE headquarters. Read more about the film at PBS. Watch on Vudu or iTunes.
The New Black (Yoruba Richen 2014) Sundance
The New Black tells the story of how the African-American community is grappling with gay rights in light of the marriage equality movement and the ongoing struggle for civil rights. Find where to stream the film on its website.
Out in the Night (blair dorosh-walther 2014) Sundance
In a gay-friendly neighborhood of New York City, four young African-American lesbians are violently and sexually threatened by a man on the street. They defend themselves against him and are charged and convicted in the courts and in the media as a 'Gang of Killer Lesbians'. Read more about the film on its website. Watch on Amazon Prime here.
Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland (David Heilbroner, Kate Davis 2018) HBO
Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland explores the death of Sandra Bland, found hanging in her jail cell three days after being arrested for a traffic violation in a small Texas town. Winner of the 2019 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Documentary (Television). Read more about the film here. Watch on YouTube here. Free to watch for Mason community here.
See also, Kate and David’s 2018 short documentary, Traffic Stop, also at HBO.
(T)Error (Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe 2015) Netflix
(T)Error is the first documentary to place filmmakers on the ground during an active FBI counterterrorism sting operation. Through the perspective of a 63-year-old Black revolutionary turned informant, viewers get an unfettered glimpse of the government's counterterrorism tactics and the murky justifications behind them. Watch it now on Netflix.
Through a Lens Darkly (Thomas Allen 2015) First Run Features
The first documentary to explore the role of photography in shaping the identity, aspirations and social emergence of African Americans from slavery to the present, Through a Lens Darkly probes the recesses of American history by discovering images that have been suppressed, forgotten, and lost. Watch on iTunes here.
The Waiting Room (Pete Nicks 2013) Bullfrog Films
The Waiting Room lays bare the struggle and determination of both a community and an institution coping with limited resources and no road map for navigating a health care landscape marked by historic economic and political dysfunction. Free to watch for the Mason community here.
Whose Streets? (Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis 2017) Magnolia Pictures
An account of the Ferguson uprising as told by the people who lived it. The film looks at how the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown inspired a community to fight back and sparked a global movement. Available to watch with a Hulu subscription and on Amazon Prime here.
A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo