October 2, 2020 - 2:00pm
Co-sponsored by the Department of English, The Humanities Center, The Year of Creativity (2019/20), the Center for Creativity, the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series, and the Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies.
In the wake of the Watts Uprisings, against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and the raging Vietnam War, a group of African and African American students, including Charles Burnett and Julie Dash, entered film school at UCLA. Forming a group, now called, the L.A. Rebellion, these innovative filmmakers sought to create cinema that showed the full complexity of black life.
The films by Burnett and Dash, in particular, remove the white gaze from their characters, and approach their storytelling of black life using instead, according to Daniel Alexander Jones, lenses of love, itself a great rebellion against the limited one-dimensional characters that previously dominated American cinema. Charles Burnett has created American masterpieces such as To Sleep with Anger and Killer of Sheep. Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991) was the first film by an African American woman to receive general theatrical release in the United States. While in a graduate theater study program at Brown University, films by members of the L.A. Rebellion, were a centerpiece of inspiration for the interdisciplinary theater artist Daniel Alexander Jones and his cohort. Jones’ distinctive dramaturgy is rooted in Black American and Queer Performance traditions, and his work explores ideas of the Afromystical (awakening awareness of the numinous in every day through ritualized performance). What might we learn about art-making from these legendary artists in the midst of our contemporary layered crises of global pandemic, necessary Black Lives Matter uprisings, global racialized populism, and global warming? Come find out!
Charles Burnett is a writer-director whose work has received extensive honors. Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, his family soon moved to the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. Burnett studied creative writing at UCLA before entering the University’s graduate film program. His thesis project, Killer of Sheep (1977), won accolades at film festivals and a critical devotion; in 1990, it was among the first titles named to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.
European financing allowed Burnett to shoot his second feature, My Brother’s Wedding (1983), but a rushed debut prevented the filmmaker from completing his final cut until 2007.
In 1988, Burnett was awarded the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur (“genius grant”) Fellowship and shortly thereafter Burnett became the first African American recipient of the National Society of Film Critics’ best screenplay award, for To Sleep with Anger (1990).
Burnett made the highly acclaimed “Nightjohn” in 1996 for the Disney Channel; his subsequent television works include “Oprah Winfrey Presents: The Wedding” (1998), “Selma, Lord, Selma” (1999), an episode of the seven-part series “Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues” (2003) and “Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property” (2003), which was shown on the PBS series “Independent Lens.”
Filmmaker Julie Dash broke through racial and gender boundaries with her Sundance award-winning film (Best Cinematography), Daughters of the Dust. With its release, she became the first African-American woman to have a wide theatrical release of a feature film.
In 2004, the Library of Congress placed Daughters of the Dust in the National Film Registry where it joins a select group of American films preserved and protected as national treasures by the Librarian of Congress. Dash is the only African-American woman with a feature film that has been inducted into the National Film Registry.
Dash is the recent recipient of numerous awards including the New York Film Critics Special Award; the 2017 Robert Smalls Merit and Achievement Award; and the Visionary Award from Women in Film, Washington DC. She served as the 2017 Time-Warner Visiting Professor at Howard University, and a Distinguished Professor of Cinema, Television and Emerging Media (CTEMS) at Morehouse College (2015-2017).
Dash recently directed multiple episodes of the award-winning dramatic series, Queen Sugar, Season 2, created and produced by Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey for OWN Television. She is Distinguished Professor of Documentary Filmmaking at Spelman College.
Daniel Alexander Jones’s numerous critically-acclaimed plays and performance pieces include Black Light (Public Theater, Greenwich House Theatre); Duat (Soho Rep); An Integrator’s Manual (La MaMa, etc. and Fusebox Festival); and Radiate (Soho Rep and National Tour). Jones has recorded five albums of original songs as his alter-ego, Jomama Jones. He is recognized as a key voice in the development of Theatrical Jazz and has made a significant contribution to Black Experimental Theatre and Performance. He is currently developing ☾Altar no. 5⚡︎, a commission of the Public Theater developed in partnership with New York Live Arts.
As a director, Jones has helmed world premieres of new plays by E. Patrick Johnson, Erik Ehn, Renita Martin, and Shay Youngblood, among many others. He is a company member of Penumbra Theatre Company in St. Paul, an associate company member of Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis, and was a company member of Austin’s Frontera @ Hyde Park Theatre.
Daniel’s numerous awards include a TED Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, Doris Duke Artist Award, an Alpert Award in the Arts, a USA Artist Fellowship, the Helen Merrill Playwriting Award, an Arts Matters Grant, an inaugural Creative Capital Grant, a McKnight National Residency and Commission, a Howard Foundation Fellowship, a NEA/TCG Playwriting Residency, a Jerome Fellowship, and a Many Voices Playwriting Fellowship. Jones was lead artist on five projects awarded support by the MAP Fund. He has been a Mellon Creative Research Fellow at the University of Washington, a Hume Fellow at Occidental College, and a Fellow at the Hemispheric Institute at NYU. Jones received a Bistro Award for Outstanding Performance Artistry, as well as a Franky Award from the Prelude Festival in recognition of his long-term, extraordinary impact on contemporary theatre and performance. He is an alumnus of New Dramatists.
Daniel Alexander Jones did his undergraduate study at Vassar College in Africana Studies with a focus on literature and the arts, and graduate theatre study at Brown University.
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