Each film in the series arrives at the theme of queer blackness in cinema from a different nexus of history, performance, originality, oppression, victory, adversity and fabulousness. Actor Colman Domingo’s choice is Mahogany (1975 – dir. Berry Gordy), starring Diana Ross as a working class woman from pre-gentrified Chicago who rises to become a top model and fashion designer in Rome. Mr. Domingo writes of Miss Ross’ presence in the film, “with a heavy dose of Fashion Fair makeup, Halston-esque gowns, wigs and lashes, she became the fairy godmother for all little black gay boys to seek the diamonds and rubies in their dreams.”
Writer Jacqueline Woodson’s selection is the classic award-winning documentary James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket (1989 – dir. Karen Thorsen), produced in association with the late, great Albert Maysles. The story of the life, works and beliefs of the legendary writer, playwright and Civil Rights leader James Baldwin is told using rarely seen archival footage blended with intimate interviews and rousing public speeches including his extraordinary New York funeral service held in 1987. Among Baldwin’s close friends – and critics – interviewed in the film are Maya Angelou, William Styron and Amiri Baraka. August 2015 will be Baldwin’s 90th birthday, so it is with great pride we present a film that Woodson says “shows us Baldwin’s brilliance and thoughtfulness, his before his time-ness,” and “allows us to meet the man who changed so many lives.”
Poet Angel Nafis will present Friday (1995 – dir. F. Gary Gray), the hilarious Ice Cube-Chris Tucker comedy that celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. For Nafis, it was the presence of actress Nia Long that most impacted her. She writes, “Praise be to Nia Long! So impossibly fine. Cocoa brown skin, dark cranberry lip, short cropped haircut, fine even in a sweat suit. She was amazing, and very much so what I had never before seen on TV or any magazines anywhere… In movies [black girls] are always bitchy, always broke, always loud, always monstrous, lowdown, spread thin. But Nia’s character got to be sweet, beautiful in her simplicity and familiarity….It was the first time I ever saw a movie and saw someone I could be proud to want to be. And my first time seeing a black woman on TV and not just wanting to emulate her, but almost itchy with the desire to put her face near my face.”
M. Lamar has selected Isaac Julien’s classic, Teddy Award-winning film Looking for Langston, which broke new ground and launched Julien’s celebrated career. For M. Lamar, the power of this film, along with Julien’s short The Attendant, comes from seeing “black men, black beauty and black homosexuality on screen as it has never been seen before or since.” He continues, “in the wake of Ferguson I would love for us to look at this film and think about how black men are seen in our culture and how this film disrupts that white supremacist view.”
Screenings will take place at the IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue at West 3rd St. Adult tickets are $14. Membership packages are available starting at $50.
Monday, May 11th, 8:00pm
LOOKING FOR LANGSTON and other short films by Isaac Julien
Dr. Isaac Julien, UK, 1989
We are thrilled to kick off BLACK SUMMER NIGHTS with this Teddy Award-winning film, which became a cult hit thanks to director Isaac Julien’s sensual and dreamlike portrait of the gay poet Langston Hughes and his affairs during the Harlem Renaissance. For musician and performance artist M. Lamar, whose work regularly explores black history and sexuality, the power of this and other Julien films is seeing, “black men, black beauty and black homosexuality on screen as it has never been seen before or since.” He continues; “in the wake of Ferguson I would love for us to look at this film and think about how black men are seen in our culture and how this film disrupts that white supremacist view.”
Monday, June 8th, 8:00pm
Dir. Berry Gordy, USA, 1975, 109 min
“The men love me, the women love me…Me. Mahogany.”
Black Summer Nights is thrilled to kick off Gay Pride Month with this one-of-a-kind melodrama turned camp classic starring Diana Ross as a working class woman whose meteoric rise from shop-girl to high fashion model to haute couture designer is challenged by her relationships with a dashing politician (Billy Dee Williams) and a malevolent gay photographer (Anthony Perkins). For Tony award-winning actor, singer and playwright Colman Domingo (Selma, Passing Strange), seeing Mahogany at an early age was deeply inspiring. He writes, “With a heavy dose of Fashion Fair makeup, Halston-esque gowns, wigs and lashes, Mahogany became the fairy god mother for all little black gay boys to seek the diamonds and rubies in their dreams.” Prepare to be dazzled by this fabulously fun and yet deeply emotional film!
Monday, July 20th, 8:00pm
JAMES BALDWIN: THE PRICE OF THE TICKET
Dir. Karen Thorsen, USA, 1989, 87 min
In February, QAF audiences packed the IFC for A Litany for Survival, the documentary about the poet Audre Lorde. This month, we’re thrilled to present another classic film about a landmark black literary figure. The Price of the Ticket brilliantly weaves rarely-seen archival footage from over 100 sources with intimate interviews and eloquent public speeches to form an astounding portrait of the legendary writer and Civil Rights leader James Baldwin. For award-winning Young Adult author Jacqueline Woodson, who dreamed of meeting Baldwin, the film “shows us his brilliance and thoughtfulness, his before-his-time-ness,” and “allows us to meet the man who changed so many lives.” As August marks James Baldwin’s 90th birthday, we are proud to present this valuable and vibrant documentary masterwork in celebration of one of New York’s most significant sons.
Monday, August 17th, 8:00pm
Dir. F. Gary Gray, USA, 1995, 91 min
Friday was hailed as an instant classic the moment it hit theaters in 1995, thanks to a breakout performance by Chris Tucker and its loving send-up of familiar black neighborhood figures. For tonight’s guest, poet Angel Nafis, whose work has been compared to Ntozake Shange and June Jordan, seeing the world around her reflected on screen was a powerful experience, but even more important was the presence of “impossibly fine” actress Nia Long, as a “black girl next door” who wasn’t a stereotype. Nafis found a rare onscreen role model, and felt, “almost itchy with the desire to put her face near my face.” Join us for this special 20th anniversary screening.
BLACK SUMMER NIGHTS GUEST CURATORS
PAMELA SNEED is a New York based poet and actress. She has been featured in the New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Time Out, Bomb, VIBE, and on the cover of New York Magazine. She is author of Imagine Being More Afraid of Freedom Than Slavery, published by Henry Holt (1998), KONG & Other Works, published by Vintage Entity Press (2009) and a chapbook Lincoln (2014). She has performed original works for sold out houses at Lincoln Center, P.S. 122, Ex-Teresa in Mexico City, The ICA London, The CCA in Glasgow Scotland, The Green Room in Manchester England, BAM cafe, Central Park Summer Stage and recently Columbia University’s Tribute to James Baldwin, The Whitney Museum and BRIC.
STEPHEN WINTER is an award winning film director, screenwriter, consultant and producer. His films include Chocolate Babies (1996), Young Men Big Dreams: Inside The World of the Steve Harvey Mentoring Camp for NBC/Universal, and his new film Jason and Shirley will premiere in 2015. Some of the films he has worked on are Precious (2008), Paperboy