A matter of miles from Hollywood but a world away lies Watts, Los Angeles. As Thom Andersen observes in Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003): “The 1965 Watts uprising had revealed a racial fault-line in Los Angeles. The open secrets of police brutality and housing discrimination could no longer be swept aside”. Yet Watts was almost never the setting for films set in the city, only casting its shadow over the “New Hollywood” indirectly, in films which addressed political corruption, malaise, and a sense that all was not right in the world, demonstrating white people’s particular capacity to ignore, while subconsciously alluding to what was hidden in plain sight. By contrast, as Andersen notes,

Haile Gerima’s Bush Mama is another movie about the police, but it is one of the first to show cops entirely from the other side, from the viewpoint of the brutalised, the black people of south Los Angeles, who are made to feel they live in an occupied territory.

Haile Gerima’s Bush Mama (1979) could not be more different from the Hollywood films of the time. Focusing on an unemployed Black woman in the inner-city neighbourhood of Watts, its only white characters are intrusive agents of state violence. The film is insistently non-linear, mixing the rough quality of verité-style “imperfect cinema” location shooting with surrealism, symbolism and an often cacophonous, overlapping sound mix. Shot as Gerima’s UCLA Thesis Film in 1975, the film received theatrical distribution four years later, achieving some notice in the national press, but despite renewed academic attention in recent years, has been almost totally excluded from the canon of American film, along with the majority of Gerima’s work. Forty years on from its production, Gerima’s film has an interrupted legacy. The kind of cinema it pursues, formally experimental, politically committed, outside mainstream production and distribution networks, radical in every sense, remains marginalised. The political liberation it seeks – from police brutality, from the carceral system, from gendered and racialised violence – has not yet come about. Its desires remain interruptive. 

Born in Ethiopia, Haile Gerima’s father was a playwright: his work features in Gerima’s 1976 film Mirt Sost Shi Amit / Harvest: 3,000 Years, shot in the final years of Haile Selassie’s rule. Gerima initially departed for the United States in 1967 to study theatre, first in Chicago and then in Los Angeles. It was here that he encountered the newly-thriving film department at UCLA, where Elyseo J. Taylor – the only Black faculty member of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television – and his successor Teshome Gabriel encouraged study of Third Cinema – particular from Africa and Latin America – and the multi-ethnic filmmaking practices of the short-lived Ethno-Communications Program (1969-73).1 Switching from theatre to film, Gerima became part of an emergent group of Black filmmakers – among them Charles Burnett, Bill Woodberry and Jamaa Fanaka, and subsequently Julie Dash, Alile Sharon Larkin and Barbara McCullough – who have come to be collectively known as the “LA Rebellion”, though they were never a formal group, nor, as Gerima notes, exclusively Black.2 In the wake of the 1965 Watts rebellion, and continuing conditions of inner-city immiseration, these filmmakers frequently shot in Watts, insisting on using members of the community as actors, extras and technicians. In 1977, while shooting Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett went to the extent of bailing people out of jail so they could work on the film. Likewise, Gerima recalls that the sound technician on Bush Mama was a 15 year-old teenager who Burnett had mentored, while Burnett himself collaborated on the film’s cinematography with Roderick Young.3 This generation of filmmakers also emphasised what Toni Cade Bambara would later call a “diasporic hook-up” based on a “global agenda of cultural defense […] in the ongoing history of the Pan-African film culture movement”.4 In 1974 Burnett, Gerima and others organised the Third World Film Club, and UCLA sponsored visits by Ousmane Sembène and Cuban filmmaker Santiago Álvarez.5 Gerima led the US delegation to FESPACO (Festival of Pan African Film and Television) in Burkina Faso, and connected with emergent Black British filmmakers in the 1980s: “Every time I was in London, there was Isaac Julien; […] the Ceddo group; the Menelik group; Sankofa and the Black Audio Film Collective. They used to sit with us for hours, until four o’clock in the morning.”6

Bush Mama

For Gerima, symbolically or in actuality, the group of politically-radical filmmakers at UCLA – who included African American, African, Chicano, Native America, Iranian, Brazilian, Columbian Asian American and some white participants – were “illegal migrant workers trying to be movie makers”. Exiled from Ethiopia due to the ongoing civil war, Gerima has continued to make films in both the United States and Ethiopia. He notes: “America is not my home. I am still a guest who needs a visa to be there. I am not a citizen of the US nor do I want to be.”7 In his early features, Gerima, newly arrived in the United States, emphasised connections between Black life in America and on the African continent, a connection he would maintain throughout his career, in films like Sankofa (1993), which addresses the transatlantic slave trade and Teza (Dew, 2008), a loosely autobiographical film whose protagonist travels between Ethopia and East and West Germany during the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam. In Bush Mama, his first feature film, Gerima sought to bring his African roots and his experiences of Black life in America together. Gerima notes: “Bush Mama has a lot to do with my having seen a Black woman in Chicago evicted in winter. And I never knew how a person could be thrown out, and so I came up with the idea ‘Bush Mama’; this African mother in the snow.”8 Though this incident does not appear directly in the film as shot, an emphasis on precarity guides the film. As its protagonist puts it in a closing monologue: “There’s a lot of people like me, and we have many things to fight for just to live”.

In flashbacks, we see Dorothy (Barbara O. Jones, subsequently known as Barbarao) try to make a life with Vietnam war veteran T.C. (Johnny Weathers) and her daughter, Luann (Susan Williams). Struggling for money, the situation worsens when T.C. is wrongfully arrested the day of a job interview that’s promised to turn things around. Gerima depicts the welfare system as a site of deliberate contradiction and confusion, of mixed messages and double-binds, which are strategically mismanaged so as to render its subject confused, powerless and unable to instate resistance to the system. Pregnant and now a de facto single mother, Dorothy is berated by welfare officers who attempt to force her into terminating her pregnancy, or risk losing the financial aid she receives. Her routine alternates between being stuck in one place or being forced into repetitive and aimless movement: walking endless streets, waiting for buses that never arrive. At the welfare office she witnesses the police shoot a Black welfare claimant who’s had enough and is waving an axe around outside: his body crashes through the window, an image repeated throughout the film. Often, she simply sits watching the outside world from her window, staring into the middle-distance, unseeing under the camera’s unflinching gaze. Dorothy’s friend Molly (Cora Lee Day, later to take on the key role of Nana Peazant in Daughters of the Dust) is dismissive of Black Radical politics, blaming African Americans for their own suffering even as all the evidence suggests the grim, systematic implacability of a de facto police state. By contrast, the older, wiser Simmi (Simmi Ella Nelson) preaches the need for “togetherness” and self-sufficiency, and Dorothy encounters alternative visions of Black history and militancy, both in America and on the African continent, through her daughter’s friend and teacher Angi (Renna Kraft). Simmi and Angi’s advice is supplemented by T.C.’s letters, recounting his growing politicisation in voiceover. 

In the film’s final section, Dorothy, sitting once more at her apartment window, witnesses another police shooting. Later that night, she returns to the apartment to discover a white police officer sexually assaulting her daughter – an incident inspired by a similar incident recounted to the film’s star and co-writer Barbarao when she was wrongfully jailed for unpaid traffic tickets.9 She bludgeons him to death with her umbrella. Though a letter to T.C. sounds in voiceover in which Dorothy recounts her subsequent arrest and assault in a jail cell, which has caused her to lose the baby, she proclaims “the wig is off my head”, symbolically embracing a natural, and the film ends, not on the image of her subsequent fate, but on a freeze frame of her defiant gaze back at the camera.

Gerima himself later noted that a series of “disasters in production” had caused him to “lift away from the script, when the whole logic of the things you had planned backfires.” Turning the problem into a working method, he continues: “Bush Mama taught me that film is not linear – that in film, most of the linear things that you had in your script were conventions that you need to question.”10 Instead, Gerima sought to render a process rather than a series of narrative signposts or character arcs, seeking to answer the questions:

When does a person change? When do you become a feminist suddenly? What are the quantitative things that lead to you becoming […] revolutionary? […] It’s a gradual thing that has been going on, and the artist and the filmmaker have to find all the things that led up to this rupture. That is more important to be committed to than three-act anything.11

Bush Mama deliberately interrupts structured narratives – the three-act structure, the narratives of the welfare system, the media, and the cops. In doing so, it presents the interrupted lives of Watts’ Black population, constantly at risk of detention, arrest, death. Nowhere, perhaps, is this more apparent than in the opening sequence, which contains footage of a stop-and-search performed by the LAPD on Gerima himself, captured in shaky footage by a second camera crew.

Bush Mama

For Clyde Taylor, this moment emblematised what he called the “realness dimension” at the heart of much of the New Black US Cinema.

The evidence of [the LAPD’s] actions is recorded objectively in cinema verité as the establishing shots of the film. […] From such a documentary beginning, one is more easily convinced that the daily actions of [the black community’s] inhabitants are constantly policed[…].12

The moment is not simply an illustration of powerlessness or objection, but is repurposed by being made into an image that can be witnessed. As Gerima notes:

We put a tripod [up], police come – in Bush Mama, you see in the beginning, police were apprehending us with our camera, everything. They almost killed me by mistake. And so it’s really an improvisation. It’s not a plan. It’s an improvisation and the discovery becomes knowledge and you become more coherent.13

Whereas Solanas and Getino stressed the importance of documentary, Bush Mama does not present this footage documentary-style, but as part of the jarring succession of shots and scenes which introduce us to Dorothy, walking along the streets. As Allyson Nadia Field notes, this scene can be read as a parody of the opening credit sequence to Gordon Parks’ 1971 Shaft, perhaps the Blaxploitation film.14 Emerging at a fast clip from the subway, the film’s hero is seen walking confidently down the street to Isaac Hayes’ iconic score, filmed in a mixture of extreme long shot from upper storeys and at street level. Shaft walks past fleets of moving taxis with blithe disregard, looking straight ahead, always sure of his direction, never stopping or looking around him. In Bush Mama, Dorothy, an unemployed single mother, has to remove her high heels in order to walk more easily, and has her bag snatched by a boy who wrestles it from her hands. The camera is close, congested, its motion often blurring what is captured, as if having to weave its way past pedestrians, and the footage is soundtracked to a dense sound collage made up of overlapping recitals of an AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) questionnaire, soon joined by police radio dispatchers and helicopters, along with Onaje Kareem Kenyatta’s modal jazz score.

Shaft & Bush Mama

As Mike Murashige puts it, “the entire voice-over becomes a dissonant and seemingly inescapable chorus of the state’s presence in these characters’ lives”.15 Both Dorothy’s walk and Gerima’s and T.C.’s arrests are part of a daily process: an unremarkable, purgatorial routine. In the existing social order, they are, precisely, not remarkable. At the same time, they are what the rest of the film slowly explodes out from: the footage of Dorothy’s walk recurs as a linking device for much of the film, its precise place in the film’s chronology deliberately unclear. Writing of Gerima’s subsequent film, Harvest: 3,000 Years, Teshome Gabriel observes: “Just as an oral form, images come and go, appear, vanish and reappear, endlessly recalling other images and associations [..] Patterns of images and characters interact unceasingly, in theme and style, to form other, greater […] patterns which mark the development of the film’s structure.”16 Likewise, Bush Mama makes its argument through insistent visual parallels. A writhing motion unites the man shot outside the welfare office, Dorothy’s fantasy of hitting a welfare officer over the head with a bottle, a masked, pregnant figure on a cross, and Dorothy herself, apparently possessed in a hallucinatory church service.

Bush Mama

In particular, the film draws insistent visual and aural parallels between T.C.’s literal imprisonment and Dorothy’s metaphorical imprisonment within the welfare system. We see this in the visual echo (with the camera moving in opposite directions) between the shots of wig- and clothes-shop fronts passed in blurred movement near the start of the film and the similar shot of rapidly passing prison bars in the scene of T.C.’s imprisonment, his walk to his cell echoing Dorothy’s on the street.

Bush Mama

Sonically, just as Dorothy is assaulted by the sound of the welfare office and of police sirens and radios – the apparatus of what is in effect a military, occupying army – so T.C. is assaulted by the sound of army helicopters in Vietnam. As Murashige notes in his astute essay on the film, these two apparently separate State functions – welfare and police, bureaucracy and force – are part of the same structure.17 At the same time, a gendered gap opens up in Dorothy’s and T.C.’s respective experiences of these systems. T.C.’s letters, read in voiceover, chart a coming to political consciousness which parallels that of figures such as Malcolm X, poet Etheridge Knight, and above all, Black Panther George Jackson, whose letters from prison – Soledad Brother (1970) and the posthumous Blood in My Eye (1971) – are key texts of the Black Power era.18 T.C. lectures Dorothy on the need to embrace revolutionary ideology, his anger at once directed at the society of whose systematic workings he slowly begins to understand himself as victim, and, implicitly, at Dorothy herself, who he feels is an index of the pacified population who refuse to recognise their own oppression and in doing so, perpetuate it. By contrast, Dorothy’s closing voiceover emphasises tenderness.

Talking to each other is not easy. I know you’re in jail, T.C. and angry. But most of the time I don’t understand your letters. Talk to me easy, T.C., ’cos I want to understand. It’s not easy to win over people like me. There’s a lot of people like me, and we have many things to fight for just to live. But the idea is win over more of our people. Talk the same talk, but easy, T.C.

In increasingly disavowing intimacy, T.C.’s letters speak of the carceral experience of state oppression, but have no words for the challenges Dorothy experiences as a single mother. His insistence that she keep their child, for instance, contains no real practical suggestions as to how she might support it, forming the flipside to the State insistence that she abort. Between these poles, Dorothy’s own lived experience is excluded. 

Gendered stereotypes of Black families had been influentially propagated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s infamous 1965 report The Negro Family: The Case for National Action. Black fathers were feckless and absent, and further predisposed to violence as a reaction to being sidelined by matriarchally-focused family structures. Such explanations at once demonised Black women and Black men, explaining political action as the result of “male rage” and suggesting that the racial plight of a country that until a few years’ previously had existed in apartheid conditions was down to faulty adaptations to a nuclear family model. Meanwhile, State policies continued to collectively deprive women of colour of reproductive freedom. While women of colour were the most statistically likely to seek illegal and risky abortions, they (and working-class white women) were also the most prey to sterilisation abuse, to an extent far surpassing middle-class white women. In 1967, officials gave 18 year-old Nial Ruth Cox a choice: either accept surgical sterilisation or they would discontinue her family’s welfare payments. Cox filed suit against the state of North Carolina in 1973. Mass sterilisation of Native American, Chicana, Puerto Rican and Black women continued into the 1970s. As Angela Davis noted: “While women of color are urged, at every turn, to become permanently infertile, white women enjoying prosperous economic conditions are urged, by the same forces, to reproduce themselves.”[19. Angela Y. Davis, “Racism, Birth Control, and Reproductive Rights” in Women, Race and Class, Penguin, New York, 1981/2019, p. 199.] Activists such as the founders of the Combahee River Collective and the organisation CARASA (Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse) were thus involved in activism agitate both against anti-sterilisation abuse and for the right to access legal, safe and equally-distributed terminations.19 

In Bush Mama, Moynihanesque stereotypes and the eugenicist elements of State policy lie behind the welfare officer’s attempt to force Dorothy to terminate her pregnancy, based on a moral judgment of the single mother and the “absent” father – even as the father’s absence has been fostered by the State. Yet Moynihan also lies behind the film’s counter to this argument, which has its legacy in Black Nationalist arguments from the Nation of Islam and elements of the Black Panther Party responded to State eugenicist policies by claiming that abortion was “genocidal”, and that the task was to “build the Nation” by having children – that’s to say, once more, to build the heterosexual nuclear family.20 In a horror-movie-style sequence, Dorothy imagines an abortion, intercut with the image of the murdered man in a surreal juxtaposition heightened by the sound of a gunshot on the soundtrack. Heavy-handedly eliding abortion with the murder of Black people by the police, this is a crude variant on the “abortion as genocide” argument. While it challenges the Moynihanesque demonisation of the “welfare queen” and the “broken home”, Bush Mama thus simultaneously embraces the patriarchal-Nationalist vision of the nuclear family as model for the nation.21

At the same time, in stressing resistance to sexual violence – not through male “protection” of female victimhood (a trope running from W.E.B. DuBois through to Black Power), but through female agency – Dorothy aligns with Angela Davis’ depiction of female resistance to sexual assault during slavery as “insurgency” to the slavers’ “counter-insurgency”: an insistence on the right to one’s own body as more than a vessel of reproductive labour.22 Jared Sexton calls Dorothy’s action in the closing scene part of “a tradition of black women’s violence as a distinct form or mode of action […] a violence that, as Nikki Giovanni once said, simply ‘cannot take the weight of a constant degradation’”.23 In this, Dorothy takes her place alongside the 1855 Missouri Circuit Court case of the enslaved 19 year-old Celia, who in defending herself against institutionalised rape and sexual assault by her master beat him to death with a stick, dismembered his body, and burned the remains; alongside Joan Little who in 1974 was acquitted of killing a prison guard after a nationwide campaign; alongside trans woman CeCe MacDonald, jailed for defending herself after a racist and transphobic assault in 2011. Gerima likewise draws on a tradition of Black revolutionary icons depicting women. His first two films in particular centre on Angela Davis, herself a professor at UCLA, fired first in 1969, then rehired, before being fired again, then on the run after trying to spring George Jackson from jail. Gerima’s 40-minute Child of Resistance (1973) was inspired by a dream he’d had of Davis in prison. Black-and-white footage of Barbarao in a cell alternates with colour sequences depicting unwittingly shacked African Americans in a club, set to Barbarao’s voiceover ruminations. Ultimately, the men seen in the club, now unshackled, saw through the bars of the empty cell, and the film ends with a quotation from George Jackson: “If I leave here alive, I’ll leave nothing behind”. Yet icons are contested terrain: Davis’ image has been co-opted, fetishised, commodified – nowhere more so than in the Rolling Stones’ racist and misogynist “Sweet Black Angel” (1972). In Gerima’s first film, Hour Glass (1971), a Black child wrestles with an elderly white woman over an icon of Malcolm X, looked over by further icons of Davis and Martin Luther King.

Hour Glass

Gerima’s films do not simply reproduce or use the iconographic representations of Davis, Malcolm X or George Jackson, but force their viewers to interrogate the construction of images within and outside the world of film. Bush Mama centres the two posters that Luann’s friend Angi places on the wall of her apartment. The first is a graphic photograph of the bullet-riddled body of Jerry Lee Amie, a Vietnam veteran, murdered in front of his home by the LAPD at the age of 24; the second, an anonymous female fighter for the Angolan anticolonial guerrilla forces of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), holding a gun in one hand and a baby in the other. 24  In 1978, poet Audre Lorde argued for the latter poster’s revolutionary potential in refusing to split off the functions of motherhood and militancy, stating: “The image of the Angolan woman with a baby on one arm and a gun in the other is neither romantic nor fanciful.”25 But earlier in the film, Dorothy looks with suspicion at the MPLA poster, whose direct gaze at the camera appears to follow her from the wall. From the wall, the MPLA poster returns the camera’s gaze: a gaze of solidarity and tenderness for fellow MPLA fighters, but also a gaze of defiance for the coloniser she fights. The camera alternates between close ups of the eyes on the poster and Dorothy’s own eyes, establishing a kind of virtual community of gazes. Having been subjected to the gaze of the State and its punitive “welfare” surveillance apparatus, Dorothy feels the gaze of the poster as interrogative but not hostile. It questions her consciousness and choices, but not in the punitive manner of the State heard in the opening sound collage. In the film’s final shot, Dorothy is shown in freeze-frame, having removed her wig and staring directly at the camera, with the MPLA poster on the wall behind her, the camera shifting focus between the two. With the poster positioned behind her, Dorothy likewise stares directly at the camera, and thus at both film crew and viewer. Having looked at the poster, she now looks with the poster, having moved from the position of voyeurism and surveillance identified with the State and with the mechanisms of white film to a counter-gaze: a look that both refuses interpellation and demands an answer. 

As bell hooks warned, to “create images from a decolonized perspective” is not in itself enough. Rather, “there must also be a new aesthetics of looking taught to audiences so that such work can be appreciated. The process by which any of us alter the way we look at images is political.”26 Representation begins by looking at, looking with, and looking back. hooks describes the “oppositional gaze” of the Black female spectator who looks back at a cinematic vocabulary constructed by the dominant Hollywood framing of the white male gaze (a gaze that occurs regardless of the gender or race of the filmmaker) – mocking it, laughing at it, rejecting it. Dorothy’s is likewise an oppositional gaze: not just at the screen, but from the screen. The film seeks to challenge both the white male gaze of the Hollywood filmic paradigm and the punitive surveillance of the State, both of which objectify, demonise and exclude Black women. As Murashige puts it: “Dorothy herself becomes the photographic evidence of resistance embodied in the poster”.27 We end with Dorothy’s moment of triumph rather than the inevitable carceral reverberations of her act, related in voiceover. Like Angela Davis and like the anonymous MPLA fighter, she is rendered an icon. 

For Cynthia Young, the film is “a contradictory canvas for both hope and despair”: hope in terms of Dorothy’s resistance, despair because the broader collective project of “liberation is delayed.”28 T.C. has been jailed; Dorothy will soon be jailed; Luann is left alone. In Young’s words, “Dorothy has arrived at a radical subjectivity, but it is one contained by state forces.”29 The film’s final freeze frame is a moment both in and out of time and history. It is interruption and delay of carceral retribution for Dorothy, but it is also, as Young puts it, the delay of the project of liberation in general. Shot in 1975, though unreleased until 1979, Bush Mama was made during the period that the MPLA in Angola finally drove out Portugese colonialists after a decade of war, in turn triggering Portugal’s carnation revolution – a conjuncture that, as Cedric Robinson noted showed how it was the peripheries, the “Third World”, the Global South that might bring down racial capitalism.30 That same year though, a decades-long civil war saw the MPLA now fighting UNITA in a Cold War proxy war, the aftermath of which Gerima later depicts in his films Imperfect Journey (1994) and Teza (2008). Likewise, Bush Mama is a telling index of the process of carceral capitalism which, rather than “improving” since the 1970s, has in many ways extended even further, as the scholarship of Michelle Alexander, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Jackie Wang, and others so vividly suggests. In the years since Gerima made his film, the two functions – coercive violence and bureaucratic “management” have arguably drawn all the more close, given, for instance, the increasing focus in 21st-century American policing on technology, data, information-gathering and computerised systems which are virtually impossible to negotiate for those subjected to them.31

Yasmina Price has recently suggested we place Sarah Maldoror’s Sambizanga (1972) in a genealogy of “abolitionist cinema”.32 The same applies to Gerima’s work. Earlier in Bush Mama, as we hear T.C.’s first letter to Dorothy read in voiceover, the camera tracks from T.C., looking directly at the camera, to other prisoners on the cell block, on each of whom the camera briefly pauses before moving on. The prisoners are each isolated in their cells, unable to see each other, and cut off from societal view, yet they challenge this by looking directly at us, one after the other, establishing what Robert Stam and Ella Shohat call a “community of the gaze.”33 Even within the jail cell, resistance continues: through the bars, through the walls. In Child of Resistance, a group of men previously seen shackled in a bar reappear with sledgehammers to destroy their chains, to break through the prison bars, to smash up an electric chair. As Greg Thomas puts it: “this individual camp or plantation dungeon is emptied, totally wrecked, and destroyed.” 

Child of Resistance

And again in Bush Mama – outside the prison per se, but in the carceral circuits that surround it – Dorothy fights back. Gerima’s response to being stopped and searched while filming was to include the footage in his film. Someone was filming. Someone witnessed and documented. This is the beginning of community, of resisting the occupying army. For Gerima, following the theorisations of Fernando Solanas and other Third Cinema pioneers, the film camera was a weapon, a tool in the struggle.34 But unlike a gun, a film does not run out of ammunition. The camera witnesses and records, but also transforms reality. Cinema itself is, in essence, the projection of still images to create the illusion of movement. A frozen image can be made to move. The cell awaits smashing. Bush Mama’s final freeze frame awaits reactivation.


  1. Josslyn Jeanine, Luckett, “Toward a More Perfect Rebellion: The Multiracial Roots and Fruit of UCLA’S Ethno-Communications Program” (2018). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI10843041.
  2. Greg Thomas, “Close-Up: On Teza, Cinema, and American Empire: An Interview with Haile Gerima”, Black Camera, vol. 4, no. 2, spring 2013 (New Series), pp. 84-104 (101-102); Inez Hedges, “Black independent film: An interview with Haile Gerima”, Socialism and Democracy, vol. 10, no. 1, 1996, pp.119-127 (p. 122).
  3. Gerima notes that “Charlie shot some of Bush Mama, but the majority is Roderick Young whom they disillusioned because in Hollywood he had no opportunity.” Thomas, op. cit., p.102; Young’s other credits are the documentaries When We Were Kings (Leon Gast, 1996), Wattstax (Mel Stewart, 1973) and another LA Rebellion film, Larry Clark’s Passing Through (1977).
  4. Toni Cade Bambara, “Reading the Signs, Empowering the Eye: Daughters of the Dust and the Black Independent Cinema Movement” in Manthia Diawara (ed.), Black American Cinema Routledge, London, 1993, pp. 118-144.
  5. Cynthia Young, Soul Power: Cultural Radicalism and the Formation of a U.S. Third World Left, Duke University Press, Durham, NC, 2006.
  6. Thomas, op. cit., p.102.
  7. Interview with Haile Gerima: Freedom is not some kind of ‘UNESCO milk’ that can be given to someone. It is something people fight for”, Africavenir, May 2011.
  8. Allyson Nadia Field, Jan-Christopher Horak and Jacqueline Najuma Stewart (eds.), L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 2015, p. 334.
  9. Linda Gross, “The Radicalizing of a Filmmaker”, Los Angeles Times, 7th April, 1978, pp. 18-19.
  10. Hedges, op. cit., pp. 124-5.
  11. Tony Safford And William Triplett, “Haile Gerima: Radical Departures to a New Black Cinema”, Journal of the University Film and Video Association, vol. 35, no. 2, Independent American Narrative Filmmaking, spring 1983, pp. 59-65.
  12. Clyde Taylor, “New U.S. Black Cinema”, Jump Cut, no. 28, April 1983, pp. 46-48, 41.
  13. Field, Horak, and Stewart, op. cit., p.339.
  14. Ibid, p. 138.
  15. Mike Murashige, “Haile Gerima and the Political Economy of Cinematic Resistance” in Valerie Smith (ed.), Representing Blackness: Issues in Film and Video, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ, 1997, pp. 183-203.
  16. Teshome H. Gabriel, Third Cinema in the Third World: The Aesthetics of Liberation, UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor, MI, 1979, p. 90.
  17. Murashige, Ibid.
  18. On Jackson’s role in Gerima’s films, see Greg Thomas, “Dragons!: George Jackson in the Cinema with Haile Gerima – from the Watts Films to Teza”, Black Camera, vol. 4, no. 2 spring 2013, pp. 55-83.
  19. See Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (ed.), How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective, Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2017, pp. 49-53.
  20. See Jennifer Nelson, Women of Color and the Reproductive Rights Movement, New York University Press, 2003, pp. 85-112.
  21. As Allyson Nadia Field notes, other films made by female L.A. Rebellion filmmakers stage an argument about abortion that might in some ways be read as conservative. See Field, Horak and Stewart, op. cit., pp. 107-108.
  22. Angela Y. Davis, “Reflections on the Black Woman’s Role in the Community of Slaves.” The Black Scholar: Vol. 3, The Black Woman, December 1971, pp. 2-15.
  23. Jared Sexton, Black Men, Black Feminism: Lucifer’s Nocturne, Palgrave McMillan, London, 2018, pp. 95-7.
  24. For details of the first poster, see Center for the Study of Political Graphics. See also Robert A. Wright, “Police Killing of Unarmed Black Stirs Los Angeles”, New York Times, 26th July, 1970; “Police Kill Purple Heart Veteran of Vietnam War”, Jet, 16th July 1970, pp. 62-63. The exact date or provenance of the MPLA poster is less clear.
  25. Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, The Crossing Press, New York, 1984, p. 46.
  26. bell hooks, Reel to Real: Race, Sex, and Class at the Movies, Routledge, New York, 1996, p. 72.
  27. Murashige, op. cit., p. 201.
  28. Cynthia Young, op. cit., p. 236.
  29. Ibid, p. 239.
  30. Cedric Robinson, “Amilcar Cabral and the Dialectic of Portugese Colonialism” in H.L.T. Quan (ed.), On Racial Capitalism, Black Internationalism, and Cultures of Resistance, Pluto Press, London, 2019, pp. 308-30.
  31. Jackie Wang, Carceral Capitalism, Semiotext(e), South Pasadena, CA, 2018.
  32. Yasmina Price, “Woman with a Weapon-Camera: On the Work of Sarah Maldoror”, The New Enquiry, 27th August 2020.
  33. I draw here on Franklin David Cason, The Souls Of Black Film: Art And Politics, Ph.D Dissertation, University of Florida, 2010, p. 135.
  34. Thomas, p. 91.

About The Author

David Grundy teaches at Cambridge University and coruns the small press Materials and the magazine Splinter. Books of poetry are: Whatever You Think the Good Home (Punch Press, 2014), The Problem, The Questions, The Poem (Tipped Press, 2015), To the Reader (Shit Valley, 2016), and Relief Efforts (Barque Press, 2018). A critical book, A Black Arts Poetry Machine: Amiri Baraka and the Umbra Poets, appeared from Bloomsbury in 2019.

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