Julie Dash’s 1982 classic digitally remastered film Illusions, will be screening along with Charles Burnett’s My Brother’s Wedding, and Billy Woodberry’s Bless Their Little Hearts later this month on March 20. This selection of L.A. Rebellion titles is a part of the Cinefamily new film series, Underground USA. Over the next two months, over 40 independent films from a variety of directors and genres from the 80’s will be screened during this series.

Dash, Burnett, and Woodberry were all key members of a movement that spawned a host of filmmakers from the African diaspora known as the L.A. Rebellion in the late 60’s and early 70’s (post the 1965 Watts Rebellion). During this this time, major film schools were being criticized for their lack of integration and inclusion of minority students. This criticism lead to an initiative (the Ethno-Communications Program) that admitted promising and talented people of color and essentially spawned the first wave of black student independent filmmakers at UCLA (known as the L.A. Rebellion).

“When we call ourselves film-makers it’s because we wrote, produced, knew how to do the sound, operate the camera, to light, and when we took it into post [production] we’d edit our films physically, as well as mix the sound. We were totally immersed in it. We weren’t making films to be paid, or to satisfy someone else’s needs. We were making films because they were an expression of ourselves: what we were challenged by, what we wanted to change or redefine, or just dive into and explore.” – Julie Dash

Only 15 miles away from Hollywood, this artistic group of visionary filmmakers used the streets of Watts and other urban areas in Los Angeles as a real-life backdrop to create films outside of the Hollywood studio system. Many of the powerful cinematic images created during this era spoke out against racial, political, and class oppression, and ranged from experimental to classical narrative storytelling. They rejected the Hollywood way of film making and used their films to express feelings about poverty stricken families, and the turbulent political and racial climate during that time period, and created a unique cinematic landscape that energized not just Black cinema, but American cinema as a whole. The films that came out of this major black film movement have earned accolades at festivals around the world, and all of their films still resonate with audiences around the globe today.

In addition to Dash, Burnett, and Woodberry, many other prominent filmmakers such as Haile Gerima, Zeinabu irene Davis, Ben Caldwell, Barbara McCullough, O.Funmilayo Makarah, Jamaa Fanaka, Alile Sharon Larkin, Larry Clark and more were all a part of this movement.

“We weren’t trying to fit into the Hollywood paradigm, we were trying to find a new way to reimagine our lives, to define who we were, what we wanted, what our pasts were, and what our future was going to be.” – Julie Dash

Julie Dash went on to become the first African American woman to get a major theatrical release for her film Daughters of the Dust, a film that she was developing while at UCLA.

“I just wanted to explore the culture of African-American women that I was not really seeing. Everyone had to be some cool, slick jive mama, and I wanted to see something else.” – Julie Dash

Check out the Cinefamily Underground US lineup HERE  for more information on screening times and locations.

March 19th – Bless Their Little Hearts (1983, Dir. Billy Woodberry)

March 20th – My Brother’s Wedding (1983, Dir. Charles Burnett) and Illusions (1982, Dir. Julie Dash)

 “These films were very meaningful and they continue to be meaningful. They document a time period and they document very specific voices we had not seen or heard before. That’s why they’re like treasures.” – Julie Dash