Greetings cinema friends,
Tonight, Black Independents Vol II—our yearly survey of the varied waves of Black independent American cinema—continues at the Cinema with Ephraim Asili’s The Inheritance.
Asili’s 2020 feature debut is a radical cinematic experiment weaving scripted and improvised scenes from within a West Philadelphia Black artist and activist collective with documentary recollections of the notorious 1985 police bombing of the MOVE liberation group—combining politics, philosophy, cinematic theory, and humor to poetic effect.
The film’s bright color palette and focus on revolutionary education may bring to mind Jean-Luc Godard in the late-1960s (La Chinoise or Sympathy for the Devil in particular), but Asili has developed a distinct film language over the course of a decade. His Diaspora Suite (2010–2017), a collection of five short documentaries, forges Asili’s geo-politics of global pan-African identity, but it is The Inheritance that is most concerned with the African diaspora in America.
The series concludes on Monday evening with William Greaves’ Nationtime. Best known for his 1968 avant-garde docufiction Symbiopsychotaxisplasm, Greaves directed over 100 documentaries, many focused on African American history and politics. Nationtime is a report on the first National Black Political Convention in Gary Indiana in 1972, originally intended for television broadcast. The proceedings brought together Black voices from across the political spectrum—among them Jesse Jackson, Dick Gregory, Coretta Scott King, and Dr. Betty Shabazz—and narrated by Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier.
However, the film was deemed too militant and never aired, and only circulated in a significantly edited bootleg. With funding from Jane Fonda and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Nationtime has finally been restored in 4K to its full 80 minute running time.