Sembène: Father of African Cinema

With a filmography spanning over 40 years, Senegal’s Ousmane Sembène (1923–2007) earned international renown as a revolutionary artist and as the Father of African Cinema for his indigenized filmmaking practice. Sembène eschewed Western languages and narrative style for a new cinematic aesthetic drawing from African storytelling traditions, performed in African languages (Wolof, Diola, Bambara), and expressly produced for African audiences. As Samba Gadjibo quotes Sembène: “Africa is my ‘audience’ while the West and the ‘rest’ are only targeted as ‘markets.’” Fifty years on from his first feature production, we celebrate his legacy with a new documentary and two recent digital restorations.

This series is sponsored by the Black Film Center/Archive, The Media School, the Cinema and Media Studies program, and the departments of African Studies, French and Italian, and Comparative Literature.

Penelope Spheeris: Directed By Women

Penelope Spheeris – Photo: Suzanne Allison

Often referred to as a rock ‘n’ roll anthropologist, as a child, Penelope Spheeris lived with her family in different trailer parks throughout southern California. She spent her teenage years in Orange County, graduating from Westminster High School with a daunting “most likely to succeed” label. Working as a waitress at Denny’s and IHOP, Spheeris put herself through film school and worked as a film editor and a cinematographer before forming her own company in 1974—ROCK ‘N REEL, the first Los Angeles production company specializing in music videos. Spheeris produced, directed, and edited videos for major bands throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s. Her feature film debut was the 1979 documentary on the L.A. punk scene, The Decline of Western Civilization, which received stunning critical reviews. Spheeris is a prolific documentarian and feature-film and television director whose credits include the two follow-up installments to her debut: The Decline of Western Civilization Parts II and III, as well as the narrative films Dudes, Suburbia, and Wayne’s World. Spheeris’ daughter Anna Fox produced the DVD/BluRay box set of The Decline of Western Civilization.

women's philanthropy

The Inimitable and Incomparable John Waters

Legendary auteur of trash and charm,
John Waters was born in Baltimore in
1946 and drawn to movies at an early
age—particularly exploitation films
that enticed audiences with lurid ad
campaigns highlighting sex, drugs,
and violence. As a Baltimore teenager,
he began making 8mm underground
movies influenced by the likes of Jean-Luc
Godard, Walt Disney, Andy Warhol,
Russ Meyer, and Ingmar Bergman,
and, in 1972, Waters created what
would become the most notorious
film of 1970s American independent
cinema—Pink Flamingos—making him
a cult celebrity.

With the success of the big-budget
Hairspray in 1988, Waters went from
“hon” to Hollywood, but he has never
lost his fondness for pushing boundaries
and skirting the edges of acceptable
behavior. Maintaining his independent
cinema ethos, he continues to charm,
challenge, and dare audiences with
his audacious vision. Commenting
on the long-lasting
popularity of Pink Flamingos after its 25th anniversary
Waters proudly boasted, “it’s
hard to o“ffend three generations, but it
looks like I’ve succeeded.”

In September 2014, the Film Society of
Lincoln Center honored John Waters’
half a century of filmmaking with a
10-day celebration entitled “Fifty Years
of John Waters: How Much Can You
Take?” featuring a complete retrospective
of his film work.

In addition to writing and directing
feature films, Waters is the author of
seven books—including Role Models
and Carsick, both of which landed on the
New York Times and the Los Angeles
Times best seller lists—as well as a photographer,
whose work has been shown
in galleries all over the world, including
the New Museum of Contemporary Art,
the Fotomuseum Winterthur, and The
Andy Warhol Museum.

Global Upheaval: Documents from a World in Revolt

From 2011–14, the world witnessed as millions of people self-organized and collectively began to imagine something different together. According to sociologist George Katsiaficas, “the basic assumptions of a society—patriotic nationalism and the authority of the government, hierarchy, the division of labor, and specialization vanish overnight. […] Popular movements not only imagine a new way of life and a different social reality but millions of people live according to transformed norms, values, and beliefs.” The intention of this two-night series is to take brief glimpses of these transformative moments through the lens of radical filmmakers Brandon Jourdan and Marianne Maeckelbergh (the team behind Global Uprisings) and Matt Peterson.

The series is sponsored by Students Against State Violence and the Institute for European Studies.

Cultural Divides: Reflections on the Immigrant Experience in Europe

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Europe relied on immigrants for economic growth. Over the past two decades filmmakers have found the experience of Muslim immigrants especially salient as they consider questions of individual identity formation and community belonging. These films concentrate on the daily life and struggles of minority immigrant communities in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom and reveal the complexities of Euro-Muslim culture, religion, and identity today.

This series is sponsored by the Institute for European Studies, Center for the Study of the Middle East, Turkish Language Flagship Center, and the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center.

New Ukrainian Cinema

Ukraine was a vibrant center for filmmaking in the Soviet Union, but in
the tumultuous years of the 1990s—during which Ukraine became an independent state and underwent wrenching economic, social, and political transformations—Ukrainian cinema fell into a comatose state. The last decade has witnessed two revolutions in the new Ukraine, as well as what some observers call a “new wave” of Ukrainian cinema. The New Ukrainian Cinema film series features films by two of the most exciting young Ukrainian filmmakers to emerge in this revitalized atmosphere: Dmytro Moyseyev and Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy.

This series is sponsored by the Russian and East European Institute, the Cinema and Media Studies program, and the departments of Sociology, International Studies, Speech and Hearing Sciences, Anthropology, and Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies (School of Public Health).

The History and Craft of Hip-Hop

Reflecting the explosion of hip-hop scholarship in the past two decades, The History and Craft of Hip-Hop is a celebration of the extraordinary level of technique and artistry involved in hip-hop music. The three films serve as a chronicle of best practices in hip-hop, focusing on rap but touching on each of the other three original hip-hop art forms—graffiti, breakdancing, and turntablism—as well, and ultimately offering a multi-faceted view of a living and electrifying art form.

This series is sponsored by the Jacobs School of Music and the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology.

Documenting the Decline of the Urban Working Class: The Films of Tony Buba

Independent documentarian Tony Buba chronicles the decline of former steel town Braddock, Pennsylvania, after U.S. steel mills closed and moved their operations overseas in the late 20th century. Buba’s focus on local blue-collar workers and other citizens reveals the impact that national decisions had and continue to have on ethnic and racial communities in the Pittsburgh area. Experimentally surreal and humorous, while expressing compassion for and political commitment to the working class, Buba’s films show how cities once central to America’s steel industry experience the devastating legacy of those decisions. Critic J. Hoberman called Buba one of the few regional filmmakers “to successfully and unsentimentally peel off the national smile button.”

This series is a part of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Themester 2015: @Work: The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet and is sponsored by the Department of History, Black Film Center/Archive, Center for Documentary Research and Practice, and IU Cinema.

40 years On: Screening the Vietnam War

More than any war, the media that brought the Vietnam War home to American audiences defined that conflict. In remembrance of the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon—the symbolic end to the war—this film series investigates radically different views of this war than we have typically seen. By combining contemporary historical documentaries with films from those troubled times, this series presents a more inclusive vision of the Vietnam War, one that did not make it onto the nightly news or the front pages of newspapers.

This series is sponsored by WTIU, IU Cinema, the Black Film Center/Archive, the Cinema and Media Studies program, The Media School, Indiana University Center for Documentary Research and Practice, and Veteran Support Services.