Among the groundbreaking group of filmmakers who were part of the Black independent filmmaking movement based in Los Angeles known as the LA Rebellion during the late 70’s to the 80’s (Charles Burnett, Julie Dash and Halie Gerima, and others), Billy Woodberry may not immediately come to mind. But he was no less an important member of this movement; his 1984 drama "Bless Their Little Hearts," based on a screenplay by Burnett, is a seminal and influential work of black independent cinema.
Since then, Woodberry has been working as a video and multimedia installation artist, with his works showcased around the world – Viennale, DocLisboa, Amiens International Film Festival, Camera Austria Symposium, Harvard Film Archive, Human Rights Watch Film Festival and Museum of Modern Art to name a few places. And since 1989, he also has been teaching at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Valencia, CA.
But Woodberry still has continued to make films; and next month, REDCAT (CalArt’s Downtown Center for Contemporary Arts) will be screening not just one but two US premieres of Woodberry’s latest films, both completed this year.
The main work to be screened is his new documentary "And When I Die, I Won’t Stay Dead," which is about beat poet and surrealist Bob Kaufman (1925-1986), who is considered to be a major figure in the world of poetry, and "a singular voice to the poetic-political imaginings of world literature." Although he has seemingly been overlooked in recent years.
Born in New Orelans, the son of a German-Jewish father and Roman Catholic black mother, Kaufman’s work was mainly inspired by jazz syncopation and rhythms. And as an adherent to poetry in the oral tradition, Kaufman did not write down his poems. As a result, much of his published work survives thanks to his wife Eileen (pictured above with Kaufman) , who wrote his poems down as he conceived them. As well as being a practicing Buddhist, he was so popular in his day that he even appeared as a guest on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson several times during the 1970’s.
The documentary also chronicles Kaufman’s political activism which got him investigated and harassed by the FBI, including dozens of police arrests in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as received involuntary shock treatment after he was incarcerated in Bellevue.
But along with the Kaufman documentary, there will also be the US premiere of Woodberry’s short film "Marseille apres la guerre," which deals with the 1947 strike on the Marseille docks in which the legendary Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene, during the years before he started making films, helped to lead a strike to stop the shipment of weapons for the French colonial war in Vietnam (or what was called then Indochine).
Both films will be shown at REDCAT on Monday January 11, starting at 8:30PM. Hopefully, afterward, both films will travel the film festival circuit run in the US.
For more info and the purchase tickets go here.