introduced by Billy Woodberry
presented in collaboration with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
During February 1977, SFMOMA presented an in depth series, “Independent Black Cinema,” that included films by early black pioneers as well as talented young filmmakers. One of the highlights, Bush Mama is still little known even though it retains its power and originality. The film conveys the sense of that explosive moment. (STEVE ANKER)
Ethiopian-born Haile Gerima was not yet 30 and still a student at the UCLA Film School when he completed Bush Mama, an early manifesto of the “Los Angeles Rebellion” of black filmmakers (including Charles Burnett, Ben Caldwell, Larry Clark, Julie Dash and Billy Woodberry, among others) influenced by European neo-realism, the anti-imperialist mission of Third Cinema and the emerging concept of Black Art. Starting with documentary footage of police harassing the film crew, its fractured, experimental narrative espouses the development of the protagonist’s political consciousness. While her Viet Nam veteran husband has been framed for a crime, Dorothy is advised by a social worker to have an abortion and has to survive in a police-invaded ghetto. Gerima’s parallel between colonialism in the Third World and the plight of African Americans is expressed through an intense, multi-layered sound-track mixing urban noises, the voices of protest and the staccato tones of bebob jazz. (BÉRÉNICE REYNAUD)
Haile Gerima: Bush Mama (1976), 97 min.
For program overview, please see 75 Years in the Dark: Material & Illusion.