Camille Billops & James Hatch Complete Film Retrospective To Receive Worldwide Theatrical Release
New 4K Restoration of Suzanne, Suzanne and 2K Digitizations
Opens at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) in NYC on February 3rd
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Allison Lambdin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
New York, NY — January 9, 2022 — Third World Newsreel announced today the first-ever worldwide theatrical retrospective of the complete films of Camille Billops and James Hatch. The new 4K restoration of Suzanne, Suzanne and 2K digitizations will open at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) in NYC on February 3rd. Centering Black cultural life and storytelling on screen, these autobiographical films innovate documentary form and artfully weave together personal histories and social issues.
The distinctive and idiosyncratic films of Billops and Hatch fearlessly approach challenging situations that impact Billops’ own family. Their earliest film, Suzanne, Suzanne (1982), focuses on Billops’ niece unpacking her past abuse and how it reverberates throughout her family. Through confronting these difficult emotions, the film provides a catharsis for the participants. Author and activist bell hooks said that the film “remains one of the most powerful documentaries of domestic life.” In 2016, Suzanne, Suzanne was selected for the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. The new 4K restoration is by IndieCollect with thanks to Sandra Schulberg, Eva Yuma and team.
Perhaps their most known film, Finding Christa (1991), presents Billops facing her own reckoning. Billops documents her reunion with her daughter whom she gave up for adoption, along with the complex circumstances and feelings that both led to that decision, and also resulted from it. In a 1992 interview with BOMB Magazine, Camille Billops said, “Often, we don’t say things we should. I tried to say those things.” Unique in its approach and form, when the film was first released, Vincent Canby at The New York Times called it “terrifically artful.” The film went on to win the Grand Jury Prize for documentary at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival.
Older Women and Love (1987) was inspired by Billops’ aunt with a younger lover, and interviews a wide variety of women about age and romantic relationships. A docu-fantasy incorporating theatrical exercise, The KKK Boutique ain’t Just Rednecks (1994) draws from friends, artists, and creative luminaries like the famed playwright and director George C. Wolfe to confront American racism explicitly and tackle individual bias. Take Your Bags (1998) looks at how slavery has touched Billops’ family, and the subsequent erasure and theft of various African cultures, especially within the arts. A String of Pearls (2002) rounds out the Family Trilogy, turning the focus to the men in Billops’ family and investigating the pattern of fathers dying at a young age. These titles along with Finding Christa were preserved and digitized in 2K with help from the UCLA Film and Television Archive and Cinesolutions.
JT Takagi, Executive Director of Third World Newsreel, stated, “The work of Camille Billops and James Hatch defiantly challenges documentary norms and is a revelatory experience of their lives, Black families and all families — while forcing viewers to rethink their assumptions of motherhood, older sexuality, domestic violence, race and gender roles. This is the first time that their work is being released in a theatrical retrospective — and we hope that new audiences will be entranced by their work — and through this, led to the work of other BIPOC documentary filmmakers as well.”
Camille Billops (1933–2019) received global recognition for her work in various fields. In addition to her work as a filmmaker, she was also a sculptor, printmaker, archivist, writer, cultural archeologist, teacher, and ceramicist. The photography and sculptures of Camille Billops are currently on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art as part of “Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces.” James Hatch (1929–2020) was a scholar, historian, writer, filmmaker, and archivist. Hatch authored many plays, screenplays, and books focusing primarily on Black theater. With Billops, he interviewed Black artists and others, which were published in their own journal and then as a video series, Artist and Influence.
All of the documents that Billops and Hatch collected are currently housed at Emory University in their Hatch-Billops Archive. Emory’s exhibit, titled “Still Raising Hell,” encapsulates Billops and Hatch’s dedication to outspoken activism and advocacy. Outrageous and committed, Camille Billops and James Hatch challenged the white art establishment, promoted other Black and POC artists, and produced years of interviews in video and books to highlight BIPOC creatives. As Camille put it, “Who else will do it?”
The films of Camille Billops and James Hatch have previously screened at festivals and cultural institutions internationally. A String of Pearls, Take Your Bags, and Finding Christa were selected for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Finding Christa won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival, and Take Your Bags was also selected. Suzanne, Suzanne and Finding Christa were selected for New Directors/New Films (ND/NF), the annual festival held by the Museum of Modern Art and Film at Lincoln Center. Take Your Bags, The KKK Boutique ain’t Just Rednecks, and Suzanne, Suzanne were selected for International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR). Finding Christa was part of the 1993 Whitney Biennial.
Camille Billops and James Hatch made six films together, starting with Suzanne, Suzanne (1982) and ending with A String of Pearls (2002). At the time of Billops’ death, the two were working on their final film, Mama and Papa Lala, which is still left incomplete.
This worldwide theatrical release is possible through support from the Ford Foundation.
Third World Newsreel is thrilled to unveil a new trailer for this special theatrical release.
COMPLETE RETROSPECTIVE PROGRAM:
Suzanne, Suzanne (1982) — 4K Restoration
Older Women and Love (1987) — 2K Digitization
Finding Christa (1991) — 2K Digitization
The KKK Boutique ain’t Just Rednecks (1994) — 2K Digitization
Take Your Bags (1998) — 2K Digitization
A String of Pearls (2002) — 2K Digitization
About Third World Newsreel:
Third World Newsreel is a non-profit alternative media organization that prioritizes media by and about people of color and social justice issues, through educational distribution, exhibition, production, preservation and training.
Founded in 1967 as the film collective called the Newsreel, the organization became Third World Newsreel (TWN) in the mid-1970s. The organization is especially known for its unique films documenting the late 1960’s and 70s social movements, from the Black Panthers to the Young Lords, the women’s and labor movements, and covering international issues as well.
TWN is the proud distributor of Camille Billops and James Hatch’s work.
About Camille Billops:
Camille Billops (1933–2019) was a fearless filmmaker, artist, sculptor, historian, archivist, and staunch supporter of Black art and artists. Billops came into her own within the converging contexts of the 1960s civil and human rights struggles, New York’s emerging Black artists movement, and her personal struggles for affirmation. Her work is autobiographical, interpretive, and challenging. Without apology, she successfully drew from her life’s experiences, her education, and her observations of the world around her to carve out a space for her voice to be heard. She and her husband James made their loft in SoHo a hub for artistic collaborations, collecting thousands of books, documents, photographs, and ephemera related to Black culture. They held salons with Black artists, performers, and musicians, and recorded more than 1,200 oral histories, which were published in an annual journal called Artist and Influence.
About James Hatch:
James V. Hatch (1928–2020) was a historian of Black theater who taught English and theater at the City College of New York for three decades. He has written and co-written more than a dozen books, including “The Roots of African American Drama: An Anthology of Early Plays, 1858–1938” (1990), which he edited with Leo Hamalian, and “Sorrow Is the Only Faithful One: The Life of Owen Dodson” (1993), about the titular Black poet and playwright.