BAM Presents RACE, SEX & CINEMA: THE WORLD OF MARLON RIGGS

BAM Presents RACE, SEX & CINEMA: THE WORLD OF MARLON RIGGS

From Wednesday, February 6 through Thursday, February 14 BAM presents Race, Sex & Cinema: The World of Marlon Riggs, the first stop in an ongoing, international celebration of the groundbreaking artist. Riggs (1957-94) was an American filmmaker, professor, poet, and gay rights activist, who wrote, produced, and directed provocative, formally innovative meditations on representation, race, gender, and sexual identity in American culture. Organized by BAM's senior repertory and specialty film programmer Ashley Clark in collaboration with documentary filmmaker and longtime Riggs collaborator Vivian Kleiman, the series marks the 25th anniversary of Riggs' death from AIDS-related complications, and the 30th anniversary of the premiere of his landmark work, Tongues Untied, a poetic reflection on the experiences of black, gay men in America.

The series opens with Tongues Untied (1989), a radical, poetic essay film on black, gay male identity, made, in its author's own words, to "shatter this nation's brutalizing silence on matters of sexual and racial difference." A lightning rod for both critical acclaim and conservative outrage-a 1991 Pat Buchanan attack ad on George H.W. Bush and the NEA used footage from the film, while referencing "pornographic and blasphemous art"-at the time of release, Tongues Untied is now recognized as an essential work of queer cinema. Vivian Kleiman and director Yance Ford will appear for an opening night post-film discussion moderated by historian Tavia Nyong'o.

The program includes Riggs' full body of work, including Riggs and Peter Webster's Long Train Running: A History of the Oakland Blues (1981), Riggs' UC Berkeley thesis film, screening with I Shall Not Be Removed: The Life of Marlon Riggs (Everett, 1996); his Emmy-winning solo directorial debut film, Ethnic Notions (1986), an exploration of the legacy of black stereotypes in America; the Peabody Award-winning Color Adjustment (1992), a companion to Ethnic Notions investigating black representation on television; and Black Is... Black Ain't (1994), both a meditation on black identity-featuring interviews with Angela Davis and bell hooks-as well as Riggs' own tender and joyful swan song. Riggs' shorts in the series include Anthem (1991), Affirmations (1990), and Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (1992), portraits of queer and HIV-positive men as aesthetically daring and deeply humane as Riggs' feature works.

Beyond Riggs' own films, Race, Sex & Cinema will explore the filmmaker's influences and the contemporaries who informed his work. The visionary writer and intellectual James Baldwin served as a profound influence on Riggs, as can be seen in James Baldwin Around the World, an international program of shorts including Horace Ove's Baldwin's Nigger (1968), the Istanbul-shot James Baldwin: From Another Place (Pakay, 1973), and Terrence Dixon's Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris (1971). Films by Riggs' contemporaries include The Attendant (1993), a provocative companion to Tongues Untied's vision of black, gay love by Riggs' friend, British filmmaker Isaac Julien; Lourdes Portillo and Susana Blaustein Muñoz's La Ofrenda (1989) and Trinh T. Minh-ha's Reassemblage (1982), experimental documentaries on identity and representation that decenter the colonial gaze; portraits of lesbian adolescence in Su Friedrich's Hide and Seek (1996) and Cheryl Dunye's Janine (1990); and the convention-exploding The Complete Electronic Diaries (1984-96) of artist Lynn Hershman Leeson, screening alongside the experimental The Man Who Could Not See Far Enough (Rose, 1981) and I Saw Jesus in a Tortilla (1982).

More recent works in the series highlight the barriers to representation that were broken by Riggs' films and the lasting influence they still exert, as in the Harlem Renaissance drama Brother to Brother (2004)-a title inspired by the opening lines of Tongues Untied-followed by a discussion with director Rodney Evans to celebrate the film's 15th anniversary; Barry Jenkins' instant-classic Moonlight; and shorts program Under the Influence, featuring work by contemporary filmmakers including Martine Syms, Elegance Bratton, and Tiona Nekkia McClodden.

Series guests include journalist Steven W. Thrasher and professor Racquel Gates, professor Herman Gray, filmmaker Katherine Cheairs, artist Kiyan Williams, and more; see schedule below for full details. This series is the launchpad for an international celebration of Riggs' work later this year, with screenings of Tongues Untied at venues including San Francisco's Roxie Theater, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, the Counter Narrative Project in Atlanta, the Oakland Museum of California, Oberlin College at the Apollo Theater, the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Stockholm's Cinema Queer International Film Festival, La Maison de La Poésie de Rennes, KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, and more. Riggs' short film Affirmations screens in the art exhibit Art After Stonewall, 1969-1989, touring at NYU's Grey Art Gallery, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, The Patricia & Philip Frost Art Museum in Miami, and the Columbus Museum of Art. This fall, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive will present Tongues Untied, alongside a retrospective of Riggs' video work.

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