A conversation about Ragtag Cinema's Annual Black Independent Film Series
KBIA's T’Keyah Thomas sits down with with Ragtag Film Society's Ted Rogers and Faramola Shonekan as they talk a little bit about Black Independents Vol III, their annual Black independent film series happening over at Ragtag Cinema this February for Black History Month.
This years theme is "Anticolonial Cinema from Across the African Diaspora", and includes vintage African films from the 70s as well as 2019's 'Neptune Frost', co-directed by poet Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman.
T'Keyah Thomas: My name is T’Keyah Thomas and today I'm in the KBIA studio with –
Ted Rogers: Ted Rogers. I am the cinema programmer at Ragtag Cinema.
T'Keyah Thomas: And –
Faramola Shonekan: I’m Faramola Shonekan, and I am the Director of Community Partnerships in Education at Ragtag Film Society.
T'Keyah Thomas: And today, they join us to talk a little bit about the annual Black independent film series happening over at Ragtag Cinema this month. This is a program you run during Black History Month. When did it get started? How did it come about?
Ted Rogers: The first year was 2020. I got approached to show certain films during Black History Month, and more often than not, these were not films directed by Black Filmmakers, and I really wanted to take the opportunity as a cinema that showed independent cinema to actually show the history of black filmmaking and specifically how most of those films were independent, were outside of the studio system.
The black independent series is never going to be as accessible as the Black voices collection on Hulu or on the Hallmark Channel, but at some point – and this is no disrespect towards Sidney Poitier or Denzel Washington – but at some point, we have to be able to celebrate films beyond Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington.
T'Keyah Thomas: Yeah. Cheryl Dunye and Kathleen Collins and –
Ted Rogers: Exactly, exactly. Yeah, there are amazing things happening in terms of representation in Marvel movies, but, you know, there has been some really revolutionary stuff being put on screen by Black Filmmakers for a lot longer than that.
It's for Black people. It's for people in our community who feel like their stories have oftentimes been extinguished and erased."Faramola Shonekan
T'Keyah Thomas: Tell us a little bit about this year series. Is there a theme, a through line?
Ted Rogers: So, this season is subtitled “Anticolonial Cinema from across the African Diaspora,” and so, while there are some Americans involved, there are French filmmakers, there are Senegalese filmmakers, Rwandan filmmakers. But this series is all centered around the effects of colonialism – whether living under it, living after it, and the ways that it has changed and maintains power over people and over borders.
T'Keyah Thomas: With that said – who would you say the series is for?
Faramola Shonekan: It's for Black people. It's for people in our community who feel like their stories have oftentimes been extinguished and erased. This is a way for us to tell them that their stories very much matter. If white people want to come along, we aren't necessarily looking for your opinion on these things. This isn't necessarily for you because everything else is for you.
T'Keyah Thomas: During the intro for the second film, Touki Bouki, you mentioned that the audience might recognize some of the images. You said Beyonce and Jay-Z use some of the iconic shots of the film as inspiration in one of their recent projects.
Beyonce especially has been known to pull inspiration from and collaborate quite a bit with African artists and creators to bring some of that aesthetic into her work. What is it about these vintage African film that stand out and continue to influence pop culture today?
Faramola Shonekan: I'm so glad that you brought Beyonce up. What you said actually reminds me of her Coachella performance. I don't think anybody really noticed it, but she sampled famous African artists named Fela Kuti.
"But this series is all centered around the effects of colonialism – whether living under it, living after it, and the ways that it has changed and maintains power over people and over borders."Faramola Shonekan
To my parents, who are Nigerian, he was like the Beatles of Nigeria, as far as his notoriety, but also his anti-colonial sentiment, and just the way in which he used music to sort of resist against powers of colonialism, but also the Nigerian government, as well.
Colonialism is a master with many masks, and it just changes face, and so, that's why people like Beyonce, and other artists feel the need to bring back these voices of the past that are actually quite present because they still apply today.
T'Keyah Thomas: You can catch the Black Independent Film series at Ragtag Cinema on Wednesdays this month. There are two films left in the series – 1972 Sambizanga and 2019 Neptune Frost.
Ya girl, TK, will be on the mic reading some poetry before tonight's film, so come through and check that out. But you can find tickets and more information online at https://ragtagcinema.org/.