Welcome, one and all! The doors of the Cinefiles HQ are open for you once more. We are moving into the third week of the semester, and is it just us, or does it feel like we’ve already been here for months? If you’re already feeling sluggish and overwhelmed—or maybe you think you made some regrettable decisions over drop/add—do not fret! The Wesleyan Film Series is here to raise your spirits and distract you from the mounting piles of work on your desk.
Before we jump into the week’s screenings, we’d like to announce the birth of our new student-run film publication, Intercut. We’re bringing together Wesleyan students of all majors, fields of interest, and specialties to write and edit essays, commentary, and critique on films throughout history and across the world. The first issue, entitled “Entanglements,” is out now in print edition as well as online. Our interest meeting will take place in the Usdan multipurpose room (in the basement) on Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 5:30 p.m., so stop by if you want to learn more about collaborative editing processes and what writing for film looks like!
We’ll be kicking off this week’s Film Series in an exceptionally exciting way with Beyonce’s 2016 visionary visual album, Lemonade, gracing Goldsmith on Wednesday. The cherry on top is that the members of Womxn of Color Collective (WoCoCo) are treating us to a celebratory post-film discussion/Q&A/reflection. You do not want to miss this. Come with open arms, prepared to embrace everything Queen B has gifted us and ready to chat with the WoCoCo residents and the rest of Wesleyan’s campus.
On Thursday we have 1970s thriller “Cotton Comes to Harlem” opening up our Blaxploitation Celebration series and kicking off the “Black Pulp!” exhibition at the Zilkha Gallery. The exhibition begins on Sept. 19 and continues all the way to Dec. 10. In events co-sponsored by the Center for the Arts, the Goldsmith Theater will be showing “Cotton” this week and “Black Dynamite” next Thursday. Be sure to drop by both the screenings and check out the exhibition over at Zilkha!
2016. USA. Dir: Kahlil Joseph. Beyonce Knowles Carter et al. 65 min.
Wednesday, Sept. 20. 8 p.m. Free.
Does anyone really need a description of Lemonade? I think we can safely assume you are all familiar with last year’s breathtaking visual accompaniment to Beyonce’s sixth studio album. If not, here are some things you should know: it includes songs you love like “Sorry” and “Formation,” it features almost exclusively Black women supporting and celebrating one another, and it’s a stunning audiovisual experience that merges influences from a range of sources. Oh, and it’s an out-and-out masterpiece. Titled “Lemonade” in reference to the age-old proverb about what to do when life gives you lemons (the title is also a dedication to Knowles’ grandmother), this film is a tribute to female endurance. It features a number of cameos by famous Black female superheroes like Serena Williams and Leah Chase. While many simplify the album as a call-out to Beyonce’s unfaithful husband, it doubles as a forceful confrontation, an engaged conversation with national commentary on race, gender, faith, feminism, and what it means to display strength against adversity. It is also a visual delight.
“Cotton Comes to Harlem”
1970. USA. Dir: Ossie Davis. With Godfrey Cambridge. 97 min.
Thursday, Sept. 21. 8 p.m. Free.
Based off of the hugely influential crime novel by Chester Himes of the same name, this film explores themes of poverty, power, and pan-Africanism. It also marked the beginning of the African-American cop and detective genre popular throughout the 1960s and ’70s and pioneered the genre of Blaxploitation. Many people associate the origins of this style with the release of “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” in 1971, but “Cotton Comes to Harlem” actually arrived on U.S. screens the year before, becoming an overnight success. It follows the story of two detectives, Gravedigger Jones and “Coffin” Ed Johnson, in search of a missing bale of cotton in none other than—you guessed it!—Harlem, New York. Co-written and directed by Ossie Davis, this film also gave Calvin Lockhart, Judy Pace, and Cleavon Little their screen debuts. “Cotton Comes to Harlem” could easily be considered the first Blaxploitation film thanks to its portrayal of the power of self-determination within a black community. A particularly salient aspect of the film is Reverend O’Malley’s ship, named “Black Beauty” after the Black is beautiful movement. The ship’s title communicates succinctly how pride, beauty, and community shape and define this influential action-comedy. Don’t miss the film that kicks off our Blaxploitation Celebration mini-series!
2017. USA. Dir: Sofia Coppola. With Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst. 93 min.
Friday, Sept. 22. 8 p.m. $5.
Directed by Sofia Coppola, “The Beguiled” is a remake of the 1971 Don Siegel-directed film with the same title starring Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page. From the perspective of a female director, “The Beguiled” becomes a wildly different take on the relationship between an injured Union soldier (Colin Farrell) and the women who took him in for protection. As an injured but charming male figure, the soldier quickly triggers the desires of multiple women, leading them to squabble among each other, be it under the table or out in the open. In a set gorgeously built to re-create the Virginian girls’ school during the Civil War, Coppola offers an entertaining and thrilling drama graced with a group of lively wartime characters.
1959. Japan. Dir: Yasujiro Ozu. With Chishū Ryū. 94 min. 35 mm print.
Saturday, Sept. 23. 8 p.m. Free.
Yasujiro Ozu’s 1959 comedy skit “Good Morning” is his nuanced take on the daily lives of a suburban Japanese family grappling with post-war Westernization. Annoyed by what he conceives to be women’s daily petty talks, the father of the Hayashi family becomes even more incensed when his children take on a strike of silence to force him into buying a television. As he always does, Ozu magnifies the daily minutiae of monotony and turns it into a series of heart-warming pieces that allows viewers to reflect upon their own lives. Not to mention that Ozu’s focus on the children’s adorable rebellion makes “Good Morning” one of the most entertaining films in his portfolio.
Genyu Zhang and Beatrix Herriott O’Gorman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.