New Yorkers get to have all the fun; here’s another reason (of countless) why, especially if you love movies, superheroes (every definition of the word), and black people. And who doesn’t love every one of those things?
From Friday, February 2 through Sunday, February 18, 2018, BAMcinématek in Brooklyn, NYC, will present another inspired film screening series titled Fight the Power: Black Superheroes on Film – an event that will intentionally coincide with the release of Disney and Marvel’s Black Panther (opening the Steinberg Screen at BAM’s Harvey Theater on Friday, February 16, 2018).
Curated by BAMcinématek Senior Programmer Ashley Clark, the 28-film series, spanning about 50 years of cinema history, will “examine an entire alternative cinematic history of black screen heroes who challenged establishment power structures through their sheer existence,” spotlighting “industry-defying images of black heroism and empowerment in films that are as socially and politically subversive as they are downright fun.”
“Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is one of the most hotly anticipated blockbusters of the year, and is rightly seen as a new high watermark in the representation of black characters in the fantasy genre,” Clark says. “But it is preceded by a rich if under-acknowledged history. Fight the Power: Black Superheroes on Film presents the mythical, fantastical, and groundbreaking icons that laid the path for Black Panther.”
The series kicks off with Melvin Van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song (1971, on February 2), which follows male prostitute Sweet Sweetback (Peebles) as he dodges police arrest with help from some unconventional accomplices.
The series will also feature some iconic Blaxploitation films with heroic characters including Cleopatra Jones (1973, on February 3), which, as reported on this site last month, is being remade with Underground co-creator Misha Green scripting; also screening will be Foxy Brown (1974, on February 3), Shaft (1971, on February 4), eccentric rarity Abar: The First Black Superman (1977, on February 2) and affectionate spoof Black Dynamite (2009, on February 6), plus the independent, anti-establishment cult classic The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973, on February 5) and Sidney Poitier’s thrilling revisionist Western Buck and the Preacher (1972, on February 4).
For those more interested in pure comic book superhero fare, other series selections include 2 titles from the Blade film series (Blade, 1998, on February 9; Blade II, 2002, February 9); yes, there was a 3rd Blade movie, but I suppose we’d rather just forget that one doesn’t exist. In addition, set to screen is Spawn (1997, on February 6) and yes, even the, dare I say, cringe-worthy Catwoman (2004, on February 17).
A selection of films spotlight fantasy and science fiction heroes, including Will Smith in Men in Black (1997, on February 11); Sun Ra in Afrofuturistic odyssey Space Is the Place (1974, on February 5); The Brother From Another Planet (1984, on February 16) about a mute extraterrestrial with a gift of technical wizardry who escapes from another planet and ends up in New York; The Meteor Man (1993, on February 11), which tells the story of a schoolteacher who develops superpowers after being struck by a meteor and uses his new found powers to fight crime in his neighborhood; last year’s indie darling Sleight (2016, on February 16), a naturalistic film infused with fantastical elements about a street magician; of course Attack the Block (2011, on February 18) stars John Boyega and is set in a South London invaded by angry aliens; Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (2000, on February 17), in which Forest Whitaker plays a hired hitman who lives by the code of the ancient samurai; and Dystopian epic Strange Days (1996, on February 18) featuring a tough-as-nails Angela Bassett.
The Fight the Power screening series also incorporates a few films with unconventional superheroes, including Candyman (1992, on February 7), the late, great George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968, on February 7) and Michael Rymer’s Queen of the Damned (2002, on February 13).
A selection of international films will also be included in the lineup, with titles like Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998, on February 11), Cannes Grand Jury Prize-winning Yeelen (1987, on February 17), Besouro (2000, on February 12) and a special screening of Brown Girl Begins (2017, on February 13), an adaptation of the Afrofuturist novel by Nalo Hopkinson, and the first Caribbean-Canadian sci-fi feature film ever made.
Fight the Power: Black Superheroes on Film will be presented at BAMcinématek in Brooklyn, NYC, from Feb 2—18. As the date draws near, and more information about the program is unveiled, we will take a closer look at some of the films, many we’ve written on this blog over the years.