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LA Rebellion at LEFFEST

Nate Hardman in Billy Woodberry’s Bless Their Little Hearts (1984)

Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep, To Sleep with Anger), Ben Caldwell (I & I: Na African Allegory), Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust), and Billy Woodberry (Bless Their Little Hearts), will soon be heading to Lisbon and nearby Sintra, where LEFFEST will present LA Rebellion, one of the most comprehensive retrospectives dedicated to the movement ever staged in Europe. The filmmakers will attend the opening of an immersive exhibition of Caldwell’s art and photographs and take part in discussions as eighteen films made between 1973 and 1999 by fourteen directors screen during the festival’s sixteenth edition, which opens on Thursday and runs through November 20.

The informal collective of filmmakers of color—they weren’t all Black, as Julie Dash pointed out in a 2016 interview with Bilge Ebiri in the Village Voice—studied together in the 1970s and lent their hands to the making of each other’s films. “These artists were dropping personal, uncommercial work that was a counterpoint to the blaxploitation movies crowding movie houses at that time,” wrote Craig D. Lindsey in the Voice in 2018. “While those pulpy popcorn flicks had Black stars righteously entertaining Black audiences, the inventive, low-low-low-budget films of the Rebellion—inspired by film movements coming out of Europe, Latin America, and, of course, Africa—were for-us-by-us films with a neorealist bent. They were honest, political, and fiery as hell—just like the era from which they emerged.”

The Portuguese Riviera will be swarming with talent in the coming days. Further confirmed guests include David Cronenberg, Jerzy Skolimowski, Olivier Assayas, Abel Ferrara, Alexander Sokurov, John Malkovich, and Angela Davis, the subject of two new documentaries screening at the festival. A thematic program will tackle that eternal bugaboo of a question: Am I Guilty. Curators Alexei Artamonov, Denis Ruzaev, and Ines Branco Lopez have put together an eclectic program that begins with Ingmar Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly (1961) and includes films by Barbara Loden, Thomas Heise, Robert Kramer, Jules Dassin, and Nobuhiko Obayashi.

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