Black Cinema Now Conference

New York University – Institute of African American Affairs

Friday, March 26 and Sunday March 28, 2010

Cantor Film Center, 36 East 8th Street, NY, NY


A two-day conference on black cinema and the representation of blacks in mainstream contemporary cinema produced in the past two decades.

The discourse, symposia and debates on black American cinema, its culture and politics have continued to evolve over the last two decades. However, given the rising significance of  black cinema studies within the broader areas of African American and African Diaspora studies in the US, Europe and Africa, the production of knowledge, scholarship contributing and resource materials have lagged behind.

A critical, scholarly description of black American cinema remains an important complex endeavor. A new look at black cinema would be relevant and contribute to interrogating recent trends in independent as well as mainstream films, and also examine the complexities of black American cinema, such as its history, race and representation, class and color, black masculinity, gender and sexuality, the star system and black celebrities, and prospects for an independent black cinema. By reviewing the criticism and contemporary theory, as told by its most influential critics, scholars, teachers and producers we will re-evaluate the history, as well as provide new definitions and contribute to its critical language.




Friday evening, March 26th

Location: Cantor Film Center, 36 East 8th Street, NY, NY

 7:00 pm                 Keynote: Clyde Taylor

 7:30                         Black Cinema Today 

                                MODERATORS: Manthia Diawara and Ed Guerrero

PANELISTS: Mia Mask, Mark Reid, Michele Wallace, Sam Pollard & Stanley Crouch

 All day Sunday March 28th

Location: Cantor Film Center, 36 East 8th Street, NY, NY

 10-11:15 am                            Representation

                                                MODERATOR: Jacquie Jones

                PANELISTS: Todd Boyd,  Armond White,  Toni Francis & Zola Maseko

 11:30-12:45 pm             Hollywood Directors (Black Directors & Black Cinema/White Directors &  Black  Cinema)

                                                MODERATOR: Juan Flores   

                                                PANELISTS:  Keith Harris, Paula Massood, TreaAndrea Russworm

 1-2 pm                                 Lunch

 2-3:15                                  The Star System

                                                MODERATOR: Cheryl Finley

                                                PANELISTS:  Ed Guerrero, Kobena Mercer, Jane Gaines

                                                Tommy Lott

 3:30-4:45                           New Directions

                                                MODERATOR: Sheril Antonio            

                                               PANELISTS:  Michael Gillespie,  Leslie Harris,  John Akomfrah,  Anna Everett


John Akomfrah, from Ghana/England, is an award winning director whose list of credits includes the mesmerizing biography The Wonderful Word of Louis Armstrong and a celebratory portrait Martin Luther King – Days of Hope. As a writer, critic and director he has been one of the central figures on Black British and African film movements. A founder member of the seminal arts group, the Black Audio Film Collective, Akomfrah has, since the1990s, been exploring Afro-Diasporic aesthetics in the digital domain.

Dr. Sheril Antonio is the Associate Dean for Film, Television, New Media, & Recorded Music and an Associate Arts Professor in the Department Art and Public Policy at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.   Film scholar, lecturer, and author, Antonio is the author of Contemporary African American Cinema and serves as an advisor and lecturer for a variety of projects including the William H. Cosby Future Filmmakers Workshop, the Democracy Video Challenge with the US State Department, and as a jury member for the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise and the NAACP Top 100 Movies of the Century.

A distinguished scholar, prolific author, ubiquitous media commentator, consultant, and producer, Dr. Todd Boyd, the Katherine and Frank Price Endowed Chair for the Study of Race and Popular Culture and Professor of Critical Studies in the USC School of Cinematic Arts, is internationally regarded for his work on race, media, hip hop culture, and sports. His books include The Notorious Ph.D.’s Guide to the Super Fly 70s, Young, Black, Rich, and Famous, and The New H.N.I.C. Boyd’s articles have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Chicago Tribune.

Of  Stanley Crouch, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has written, “Each generation has a moment, or an embodiment, of hard-earned integrity and the keenest insight.  Among our generation of writers, Stanley Crouch is that moment.” Crouch has served as Artistic Consultant for jazz programming at Lincoln Center since 1987 and is a founder of the jazz department, known as Jazz At Lincoln Center. His writing has also appeared in numerous magazines including Harper’s, The New York Times, and once a week he writes an editorial page column for the New York Daily News. His books include The All-American Skin Game, The Artificial White Man, and Considering Genius: Jazz.

Manthia Diawara is a University Professor, professor of comparative literature and also director of New York University’s Institute of African American Affairs. He has published widely on the topic of culture, film, literature and art of the Black Diaspora in scholarly and popular magazines. His books include African Cinema: Politics and Culture, and Black American Cinema. Diawara’s documentary films include Sembene Ousmane: The Making Of The African Cinema, with Ngûgî wa Thiong’o, Conakry Kas, and Maison Tropicale

Anna Everett is Professor of Film, Television and New Media Studies in the Department of Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has published numerous books and articles including Returning the Gaze: A Genealogy of Black Film Criticism, 1909-1949 and most recently her newly published monograph Digital Diaspora: A Race for Cyberspace.  She was the lead organizer of the 2004 AfroGEEKS: From Technophobia to Technophilia and the 2005 AfroGEEKS: Global Blackness and the Digital Public Sphere Conferences. She is founding editor of the journal Screening Noir: A Journal of Film, Video and New Media Culture.

Trained in the history of art and African American Studies at YaleUniversity, Cheryl Finley is now Assistant Professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University. She is the author of Committed to Memory: the Slave Ship Icon in the Black Atlantic Imagination, forthcoming with Princeton University Press. Her wide ranging intellectual interests include African American and African Diaspora art history and visual culture, the theory of cultural memory, the history of photography, the art market and museum studies, African American cinema, and cultural heritage tourism.

Juan Flores is Professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University.  Affiliated with the Latino Studies Program, his main scholarly interests include culture, diaspora and transnational communities, social and cultural theory, and the Afro-Latino experience in the U.S.  His books include From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity and The Diaspora Strikes Back: Caribeño tales of Learning and Turning. His many fellowships and honors include Casa de las Americas essay prize, Ford grant for The AFro-Latin@ Project and an NEH research grant.

Toni Francis is an Assistant Professor of English at the College of The Bahamas, where she teaches courses in film history, drama, and literary theory. Her primary area of research is TransAtlantic studies, with postcolonial rhetorical analyses of early modern drama, African American and Caribbean literature, and contemporary theory.

Jane M. Gaines is a Professor of Film at Columbia University in the School of the Arts. Gaines has worked on a book of feminist film theory and silent film history, Fictioning Histories: Women Film Pioneers, involving archival print research. The first volume of the accompanying sourcebook covers the U.S. and Latin America. Her recent talks and articles have been on documentary film and video work and practice, new media and pornography. Her work continues in critical race theory and African American film history, copyright and piracy, and semotic theory as it pertains to the photographic image.

Michael B. Gillespie is Assistant Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts, the School of Film and the Department of African American Studies at Ohio University. His work addresses film with a consideration of collateral fields of inquiry concerned with aesthetics, culture, and historiography. His teaching and research interests include film adaptations, genre, film blackness, and the Japanese New Wave. His essays include “Do The Right Thing” in Fifty Key US Films, eds. Sabine Haenni and John White and “Reckless Eyeballing: Coonskin and the Racial Grotesque,” in Black American Cinema Reconsidered, eds. Manthia Diawara and Mia Mask.

Ed Guerrero is associate professor of Cinema Studies and Africana Studies at New York University. Guerrero’s influential books, Framing Blackness, and Do the Right Thing in the ‘Modern Classics’ series (British Film Institute), explore black cinema, its critical discourse and political economy. Guerrero has also written extensively on black cinema, its movies, culture and politics for such journals as Sight & Sound, CINEASTE, Film Quarterly, Discourse, Journal of Popular Film and Television, and Callaloo. He has served on numerous editorial and professional boards including Cinema Journal and the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress.

Keith M. Harris is a graduate in Cinema Studies at New York University. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of English and the Department of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California at Riverside. His areas of specialization include film, African-American and Africana cinema, African American visual culture, gender studies and queer theory. His recent publications include “‘That Nigger’s Crazy’: Richard Pryor, Racial Performativity, Cultural Critique” in Richard Pryor: The Life and Legacy of a “Crazy” Black Man and “Clockers  (Spike Lee 1995): Adaptation in Black” in The Spike Lee Reader.

Writer, director and producer, Leslie Harris’s Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. is one of the first features written, directed and produced by an African-American woman. The film went on to win The Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize. Since then Harris’s films have appeared in numerous festivals including Cannes, Tokyo, Toronto Pesaro, Burkina Faso, and Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival. Her many awards include The National Endowment for the Arts Grant in Filmmaking and American Film Institute’s Filmmaker Award. Harris was awarded the ABC/DGA Directing Fellowship by ABC Television, one of the three selected out of 2,500. Harris was a directing fellow on such ABC shows as “Grey’s Anatomy” “Desperate Housewives” and “Boston Legal.”

Jacquie Jones is a Peabody Award-winning director of documentary films and the executive director of the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC). In her position at NBPC, she has pioneered several ground-breaking initiatives designed to create community and access for black media makers throughout the African diaspora using next generation media technology. She has also published widely about black film and popular culture, including most recently as a regular contributor to Jones is on the board of directors of Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media and the Integrated Media Association. 

Tommy L. Lott is professor of Philosophy at San Jose State University. He is the author of The Invention of Race, editor of Subjugation and Bondage: Critical Essays on Slavery and Social Philosophy, African-American Philosophy, and co-editor of The Idea of Race and Philosophers on Race. His research focuses on modern philosophy, social and political philosophy, African American philosophy and film/media and cultural studies.

Zola Maseko directed The Life and Times of Sarah Baartman, a 53 minute documentary film that addresses the taboo themes of racial inferiority and black female sexuality. Other films by Maseko include The Return of Sarah Baartman, Children of the Revolution, and A Drink in the Passage. His first feature film was Drum, released in 2004. Set in 1950s Johannesburg, it tells the story of the magazine of the same name and specifically focuses on Henry Nxumalo, a journalist fighting apartheid. He received the top prize at FESPACO, the Golden Stallion of Yennenga, the first South African to do so.

Mia Mask is an Associate Professor of Film at Vassar College where she teaches African American cinema, documentary film history, horror film, feminist film theory, African national cinemas, and genre theory. She is the author of Divas on Screen: Black Women in American Film. Formerly an assistant editor and regular contributor at Cineaste magazine, she has written film reviews and covered festivals for, The Village Voice, Abafazi: Simmons College Journal, Film Quarterly, Time Out New York, Brooklyn Woman, and The Poughkeepsie Journal.

Paula J. Massood is Leonard and Claire Tow Professor in the Department of

Film at BrooklynCollege, CUNY and the Professor of Film Studies in the Doctoral Program in Theatre at The GraduateCenter, CUNY.  She is the author of Black City Cinema: African American Urban Experiences in Film, the editor of The Spike Lee Reader, and served as the film and theater subject editor for the African American National Biography project.

Kobena Mercer is an independent scholar in the UK who writes and teaches on the visual arts of the Black Diaspora. He is a contributor to Afro-Modern (Tate Liverpool, 2010) and series editor of Annotating Art’s Histories, co-published by MIT and INIVA, whose titles include Cosmopolitan Modernisms, Discrepant Abstraction, Pop Art and Vernacular Cultures, Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers.

Emmy-award winning editor Sam Pollard‘s professional accomplishments as a feature film and television video editor, and documentary producer/director span almost thirty years.  Between 1990 and 2000, Pollard edited a number of Spike Lee’s films and documentaries:  Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Girl 6, Clockers, Bamboozled, and Four Little Girls. From time to time, he serves on advisory committees for the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, or the Independent Television Service. 

Dr. Mark Reid‘s scholarship seeks to recover and historicize black independent filmmakers of the U.S. and francophone countries. His work has been published in numerous journals, such as Black Film Review, Film Criticism and Jump Cut. Reid is the author of Redefining Black Film, PostNegritude Visual and Literary Culture, and Black Lenses, Black Voices: African American Film Now. Additionally, he has edited Spike Lee’s ‘Do the Right Thing’ and co-edited of Le Cinéma Noir Américain.

TreaAndrea M. Russworm, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, received her AB from BrownUniversity and PhD from the University of Chicago.  Her current research project is on race, popular culture, and psychoanalytic thought during the civil rights era. Her teaching interests, both primary and secondary, include post-1950s African American literature and culture, film and television studies, American studies, psychoanalysis, digital media (including video game theory and culture) and representations of race and community in the “avatar age.”

Clyde Taylor’s commitment to black cinema began with  establishment of the African Film society in the San Francisco bay area in 1976.  His  critical writings on black American independent cinema in the 70s, 80s and 90s included the influential essay/exhibition “The L.A. Rebellion.” His participation in Oscar Micheaux studies included his script for the PBS documentary, Midnight Ramble.   He is the author of The Mask of Art: Breaking the Aesthetic Contract in Film and Literature. In 1999, Taylor was inducted into the National Hall of Fame of Writers of African Descent.

Michele Wallace is a Professor of English at The City College and in the Ph.D. Program in English at The Graduate Center. In 1978, her book Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman pushed Wallace into the national spotlight, eliciting both praise and criticism. Wallace is a critic of literature and other expressions of culture, especially  film, television, the visual arts, design, fashion, and advertising.  She has taught at universities, spoken to groups, and written widely on issues of race and gender for both scholarly and popular publications.

Armond White is chief film critic for New York Press. He is chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle and author of The Resistance: Ten Years of Pop Culture that shook the WorldRebel for the Hell of It: The Art and Life of Tupac Shakur,   Keep Moving: The Michael Jackson Chronicles, and What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About the Movies.

The Institute of African American Affairs (IAAA) at New YorkUniversity was founded in 1969 to research, document, and celebrate the cultural and intellectual production of    Africa and its diaspora in the Atlantic world and beyond. IAAA is committed to the study of blacks in modernity through concentrations in Pan-Africanism and black urban studies.

Presented by Institute of African American Affairs in conjunction with the Tisch School of the Arts’ Venus 2010 “They Called Her Hottentot” interdisciplinary symposium on Sarah Baartman on Saturday, March 27th. For more information:

Supported by: NYU Cinema Studies Dept