The Amiri Baraka Film Archive, and other quick updates

 

I was honored to have my essay “The Baraka Film Archive: The Lost, Unmade, and Unseen Film Work of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka” included in the most recent issue of Black Camera, a scholarly journal I really love and admire. It’s a piece that builds on some of the collaborative work I had participated in last year, bringing Baraka’s previously-lost 1968 documentary The New-Ark to Rutgers-Newark (which I also wrote about here, to complete the link-orgy).

In this piece, I wrote about The New-Ark, but also the material in Baraka’s recently-opened papers at Columbia University, as well as those of his agent, and a set of his unpublished work at the Schomburg Center in Harlem, to argue that even though he only completed two films during his life (one, Black Spring, currently lost–though I do think it exists somewhere), filmmaking nonetheless played a central role in his artistic and political endeavors. I use unfilmed scripts, project proposals, and correspondence to reconstruct some of this work, including the unfinished circa-1970 animated film Supercoon, which would have been . . . well, memorable, to say the least.

The rest of the issue is really great, and I particularly appreciated Michael W. Thomas’s article on local digital video film production in Ethiopia, Michael T. Martin’s interview with artist/filmmaker Mike Henderson, and Autumn Womack’s analysis of overexposure as both practice and analytic for the ethnographic film shot by Zora Neale Hurston. Check it out, and keep an eye on Black Camera, it consistently publishes really exciting work!

 

Two other quick updates: I reviewed Andrew Hartman’s book A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars, in the latest issue of Journal of American History; at a 500-word cap, I couldn’t really do just to the book’s scope (and I had to spend a few of those precious words on a cheeky jab at Hartman’s labeling of Pete Townshend as the Who’s lead singer, mostly because I hate Roger Daltrey and couldn’t pass up a chance to diss him; what can I say, I’m only human). Had I more words, I would’ve challenged him a bit more on queer theory and its place in the culture wars, but that’s a minor quibble; this is a smart, expansive book, and THE history of the culture wars. Highly recommended!

Finally, I reviewed Victoria Hesford’s Feeling Women’s Liberation for the January 2016 Journal of the History of Sexuality. This is an adventurous book that bridges history and theory to recover the structure of feeling emanating out of feminism circa 1970, and while I took it slightly to task over its engagement with race, I nonetheless definitely admired it greatly, and Hesford’s centerpiece chapter on Kate Millett’s Flying and its effective illegibility to a rapidly professionalizing mid-70s feminism is simply remarkable, a really brilliant intervention. So again, read it!

 

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