We're thrilled to report that a VHS copy of Bill Gunn's STOP (#5 on our seemingly neverending "Endangered List") will be screened for free at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) on Sunday, April 4th as part of a terrific 4-day retrospective of Gunn's challenging, powerful, and fascinating body of film work. As far as we know, this will be the first public screening of STOP in 20 years [More details can be found below and here].
The Groundbreaking Bill Gunn
Thursday, April 1
PERSONAL PROBLEMS (1980)
Written by Ishmael Reed
Directed by Bill Gunn
with Vertamae Grosvenor, Walter Cotton, Sam Waymon, Ishmael Reed
A pioneering video work, which premiered at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and screened on WNYC in New York, is self-described by writer Ishamel Reed as an "avant-garde soap opera...which permitted black producers, a black director, black actors, and black writers and actresses to have control over their work."
Friday, April 2
GANJA & HESS (1973) -- Introduced by Pearl Bowser
Written and directed by Bill Gunn
with Duane Jones, Marlene Clark, Bill Gunn, Sam Waymon
"Ganja & Hess is jolting, jagged, lyrical, mythic and utterly unclassifiable, as avant-garde as the most independent film of today or any of the New American Cinema work from the 1960s or audacious studio films of the 1970s, with resonances one isn’t likely to encounter ever again.” — Hammer to Nail
Cult hero Duane Jones (star of Night of the Living Dead) plays a doctor who, after traveling through Africa, takes on the characteristics of a vampire. A hard-to-find masterpiece of 70s American cinema, the film is a complete original, mind-bending and brutal. “One of the most beautiful and unusual films ever produced in the United States.” —Ishmael Reed
Saturday, April 3
THE LANDLORD (1970)
@2, 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm
Screenplay by Bill Gunn
Based on the novel by Kristin Hunter
Directed by Hal Ashby
with Beau Bridges, Lee Grant, Diana Sands, Pearl Bailey
“Something like a Marx Brothers movie charged up on LSD and left-wing politics… a compelling and adventurous spectacle, which feels simultaneously like a time capsule and a crucial influence on such recent films as The Royal Tenenbaums and Half Nelson.” — Salon
WASP-y rich kid Elgar Enders (Bridges) buys an apartment building in then-gritty Park Slope with plans to evict the current residents and turn it into a ritzy home for himself. When the black tenants refuse to move out, however, Enders is launched into a series of comic misadventures that begin to change his outlook on life and attitude about race. Hal Ashby’s pointed comedy strikingly predicts contemporary concerns regarding gentrification and presents a nuanced, daring exploration of race relations in America that is surprisingly ahead of its time.
Sunday, April 4
STOP (1970) -- Free screening on VHS
Written and directed by Bill Gunn
with Marlene Clark, Richard Dow, Edward Bell, Linda Marsh
An emotionally violent poet and his wife leave their snowy confines and head to San Juan, their marriage imploding. Filmed in languorous soft light, the images turn from dreamlike to hallucinogenic when another couple enters their orbit. One of the first studio films by an African-American director, yet unique by not focusing on race, having an experimental narrative and introducing a homosexual element new to the period. Perhaps all reasons it was never released. Free screening presented on video.
THE ANGEL LEVINE (1970)
@4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm
Screenplay co-written by Bill Gunn
Based on the story by Bernard Malamud
Directed by Ján Kadár
with Zero Mostel, Harry Belafonte, Gloria Foster
An adaptation of the whimsical Bernard Malamud story about an elderly Jewish tailor (Mostel) who suffers from a bad back, a dying wife, and financial problems. Just when things look as if they can’t get any worse, a black Jewish man (Belafonte playing the bad boy of heaven) shows up in his kitchen claiming to be an angel from God sent to help.