Archive | June, 2014

“A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer” to be preserved with National Film Foundation Preservation Grant

27 Jun
Photo from the Richard Beymer Collection.  © Richard Beymer

A young man attends a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. © Richard Beymer.

Washington University Film & Media Archive is excited to announce that we have received a National Film Preservation Foundation Grant (NFPF) to preserve Richard Beymer’s documentary A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer. Beymer, an actor and filmmaker, traveled to Mississippi in 1964 to document the efforts of voter registration activists and the daily life of African American Mississippians. Beymer shot the film in black and white with a 16mm Bolex camera and captured unique footage of the daily life of children attending what were called Freedom schools-alternate schools set up by voter registration activists-as well as the political activity and the violent response from segregationists in Mississippi. “A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer” has become a touchstone and primary source for Freedom Summer, and footage from it attracted the attention of filmmakers and has been reproduced in many documentaries, including “Eyes on the Prize,” and more recently in Stanley Nelson’s “Freedom Summer.”

In a recent New York Times article, Beymer talked about his time in Mississippi during that turbulent, violent time,

“I was just filming everything that appealed to me,” Mr. Beymer, now 75, said in a telephone interview from his home in Fairfield, Iowa. “The only audience I had in mind, I suppose, was the next generation of people who came down here, so they could see what they were getting into. That gave me total leeway to just do my experience.”

The film used animation, photographs, black and white footage along with voice-over interviews with volunteers and African Americans residents who were organizing on multiple levels. The striking black and white footage shot by Beymer is lyrical and shows the unguarded moments of  the children who attended the Freedom Schools and the volunteers who had come down from the North. Often showing joyful scenes of children singing and playing the film is simultaneously an impressionistic portrait of life in a very specific place and time, segregated Mississippi, and also a challenge to people who tried to maintain that system by denying the vote and other basic human rights to African Americans.

In 2013, the Film & Media Archive acquired the Richard Beymer Collection. In addition to the film elements of A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer, and a collection of black and white photographs that were shot during filming, the collection contains other titles by Beymer including “The Innerview,” “Point of Departure” and “Perfect Movies.” It also includes a taping of part of show 3 of “Midnight Snacks” by Andy Kaufman on which Richard Beymer appeared.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer and the preservation of A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer, an exhibition and screening is planned for later this summer. As part of the NFPF grant, after the preservation work is complete the film will be made available online. 

For a full list of the awards see the National Film Preservation Foundation’s press release.

 

 

 

Educational Films Arrive at the Film Archive

20 Jun

Washington University Film & Media Archive Staff processing films from the Educational Film Collection.

 

In 2003, the Film & Media Archive obtained 200 educational films from the St. Louis Public School’s Film Collection. Another portion of the collection went to the St. Louis branch of the Academic Film Archive of North America, and the rest were stored in various locations in St. Louis and in Columbia, Missouri. After almost nine years, a large portion of the remaining St. Louis Public School films are now part of the Educational Film Collection at the Film & Media Archive. Nadia Ghasedi, Head of the Visual Media Research Lab (VMRL), Irene Taylor, Film & Media Cataloging and Preservation Archivist, and Barry Kelley, Processing Assistant, spent two full days in Columbia, Missouri testing many of the remaining films for vinegar syndrome, a condition which deteriorates film, checking for duplicate titles, and packing up the prints to be shipped back to St. Louis. Now, Irene, Barry, and two student assistants are assessing and cataloging approximately 6,500 films.

Film reels from the Educational Film Collection. Washington University Film & Media Archive.

Federal funding throughout the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s helped make this a thriving genre, but now many of these academic films are in danger of being lost and an effort is underway to preserve these films. Often overlooked and discounted, the films are a rich visual resource and can provide glimpses into the past fashions, social customs and attitudes, as well as provide a snapshot of the culture at a special point in time. Mainly from the 1960’s and 70’s, the collection includes purely education documentaries, dramatizations of literature and history, and “guidance” films which were made to highlight social mores, or focus on safety issues, and the subjects include African-American history, the labor movement, dance and music performances, and advertising.

Sample titles from the collection include, Eli WhitneyHarriet Tubman and the Underground RailroadImmigrant from America;Minorities – Patterns of ChangeTribute to Malcolm XThe Labor Movement: Beginnings and Growth in America, How to Save a Choking Victim, I’m the Only Me, Pioneers of the Plains, and Zero: Something for Nothing.

Photos by Alison Carrick.

Film reels from the Educational Film Collection. Washington University Film & Media Archive.

Film reels from the Educational Film Collection. Washington University Film & Media Archive.

Ruby Dee (1922-2014)

13 Jun
Portrait by Carl Van Vechten

Ruby Dee – Photo by Carl Van Vechten

Ruby Dee, the actress and activist who appeared in films and plays for over seven decades has died at the age of 91. She played Rachel Robinson in The Jackie Robinson Story in 1950, and reprised her groundbreaking stage role as Ruth Younger in the 1961 film version of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin In The Sun.

Ruby Dee and her husband Ossie Davis were a vibrant part of the arts during the 20th century and were very involved in the civil rights movement. Both were interviewed for the Blackside series that focused on African Americans in the arts, I’ll Make Me a World. They both were close to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Davis gave the eulogy at Malcolm’s funeral and he spoke about that in a separate interview for Eyes on the Prize II.

Rather than wait for Hollywood producers to develop roles for African Americans they produced their own plays and films including Purliefirst a play then a film, Uptight, a film Dee co-wrote and starred in, and then they both starred in a television series With Ossie and Ruby. Dee was also supportive to younger, talented filmmakers and appeared in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever. In all she had a

In addition to these interviews, the Film & Media archive also contains correspondence between Henry Hampton and Ruby Dee.

 

 

Yuri Kochiyama

6 Jun
Yuri Kochiyama

Yuri Kochiyama

 

Yuri Kochiyama, Japanese-American Activist and supporter of Malcolm X, has died at age 93. Kochiyama was interviewed for the Blackside/ROJA production, Malcolm X: Make It Plain. In the extensive interview done for this program, Kochiyama talked about her friendship with Malcolm, her allegiance with the civil rights movement, and being present in the Audubon Ballroom when Malcolm was assassinated. In this interview with Democracy Now, Kochiyama talks about how her activism began after her family was placed in internment camps during World War II and friendship with Malcolm. A life-long activist, Kochiyama worked to get recognition of the civil rights violations that Japanese-Americans were subject to prior to and during WWII.

In addition to appearing in Malcolm X: Make It Plain, Kochiyama was the subject of the  documentaries Yuri Kochiyama: Passion for Justice (1999) by Japanese American filmmaker Rea Tajiri and African American filmmaker Pat Saunders, and Mountains Take Wing (2010), a film about Kochiyama and Angela Davis. She appeared in several other programs and documentaries and her speeches have been published under the title, Discover Your Mission: Selected Speeches & Writings of Yuri Kochiyama (1998).

 

Maya Angelou

3 Jun

Writer and activist Maya Angelou has died at age 86. Angelou was active in the Civil Rights Movement, author of many celebrated poems, and served as poet laureate of the United States. Her prose book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is widely regarded as a leading work of literary autobiography. In this interview for Blackside, Inc.’s documentary The Great Depression, Angelou discusses living with poverty and segregation in rural Arkansas. She also discusses her early education and the impact that Joe Louis’s boxing victories had on African Americans in her community.