Regeneration: An Introduction Film Series Begins on August 25 with Premiere of the Newly Restored Reform School (1939), a Film Once Thought Lost – Comprehensive Online Resource regenerationblackcinema.org Launches Today
Los Angeles, Calif. (Aug. 17, 2022) —The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures debuts Regeneration: Black Cinema, 1898–1971 on August 21, 2022. The ambitious exhibition, on view through April 9, 2023, explores the achievements and challenges of Black filmmakers in the US in both independent production and the studio system—in front of the camera and behind it—from cinema’s infancy in the 1890s to the early 1970s.
The Academy Museum’s second exhibition in the 11,000-square-foot Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg Gallery, Regeneration includes rarely seen excerpts of films, documentaries, newsreels, and home movies, as well as historical photographs, costumes, props, and posters. Regeneration will also feature contemporary artworks referencing the impact of the legacy of Black filmmaking and AR elements designed for the exhibition. The exhibition will be accompanied by a range of film screenings, including world premieres of films newly restored by the Academy Film Archive, an interactive microsite with supplemental content, a robust curriculum to engage high school students and teachers, and a fully illustrated catalogue featuring the writing of leading filmmakers, scholars and the co-curators.
The exhibition is co-curated by Doris Berger, Vice President of Curatorial Affairs at the Academy Museum, and Rhea L. Combs, Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, with the Academy Museum’s J. Raúl Guzmán, Assistant Curator, as well as Manouchka Kelly Labouba and Emily Rauber Rodriguez, Research Assistants. Multiple film series are organized by Bernardo Rondeau, Senior Director of Film Programs for the Academy Museum, and a future exhibition film series will be guest-programmed by Black Film Archive creator and curator Maya Cade.
“This landmark exhibition seeks to restore lost chapters of American film history as it elevates the contributions of Black artists to present a more inclusive story,” said the Academy Museum’s recently appointed Director and President Jacqueline Stewart. “We are incredibly proud to present Regeneration, an exhibition that demonstrates how the Academy Museum shares new scholarship, offers a more expansive vision of American film history, and encourages public dialogue about the past and present of film as an art form and a social force.”
Co-curators Berger and Combs said, “It has been a great honor for us to curate Regeneration, a project that challenged us to do justice to the lives and work of nearly a century of Black filmmakers and the audiences they served. The legacies explored in these galleries were important in their own time, though too often neglected and marginalized, they remain vital today. We hope to heighten awareness of these films and film artists and encourage an appreciation of the many, many contributions that African Americans have made to cinema.”
EXHIBITION ORGANIZATION AND HIGHLIGHTS
Regeneration comprises seven galleries dedicated to exploring the social and political situation of Black Americans at the dawn of filmmaking; the presence and images of Black people in early cinema beginning in 1898; pioneering independent Black filmmakers such as Oscar Micheaux and so-called “race films” from the 1910s to the 1940s; Black music in American film, including “soundies” and Black musicals of the 1920s and 1940s; Black stars and film icons from the 1920s through the 1950s; and freedom movements in the 1950s and 1960s. The concluding gallery in Regeneration pays tribute to five Black directors active from the 1960s onward: Melvin Van Peebles, Gordon Parks, William Greaves, Madeline Anderson, and Robert L. Goodwin.
The exhibition opens with two versions of a clip from Something Good – Negro Kiss (1898), showcasing vaudeville performers Saint Suttle (1870–1932) and Gertie Brown (1882–1934) in what appears to be one of the earliest examples of an on-screen performance of affection by Black actors. This silent work counters the popular stereotypical and racist caricatures of Black performance at the time. Additional highlights on view include never-before-shown costume drawings from Carmen Jones (1954); glamour portraits of leading Black film stars; costumes worn by Lena Horne in Stormy Weather (1943), and Sammy Davis Jr. in Porgy and Bess (1959); a 1920s camera from the Norman Film Company, a producer of race films; a 1940s Mills Panoram machine, on which visitors to the exhibition can watch “soundies;” and one of Louis Armstrong’s trumpets.
Throughout the exhibition, to address the continuing impact of the legacy of Black filmmaking and its interplay with other traditions in visual art, the exhibition also includes works by contemporary artists including Theaster Gates (Some Remember Sock Hops, Others Remember Riots, 2020), Glenn Ligon (Double America 2, 2014), Gary Simmons (Balcony Seating Only, 2017), and Kara Walker (The End of Uncle Tom and the Grand Allegorical Tableau of Eva in Heaven, 1995).
Presented in conjunction with Regeneration is Isaac Julien’s Baltimore, a three-channel installation from 2003 that is located in the Academy Museum’s Warner Bros. Gallery. Julien’s film is an homage to writer, director, producer, and actor Melvin Van Peebles (1932–2021), whose 1971 film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song ushered in the “blaxploitation” era, a genre of low-budget films created for African American audiences during the 1970s. Artist Isaac Julien appropriates the look and feel of blaxploitation films, using Baltimore’s streets and museums as locations. Julian created this piece while filming Baadasssss Cinema (2002), a documentary on blaxploitation. Julien is a world-renowned British installation artist, filmmaker, and distinguished professor of the arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
ADVISORY COMMITTEE AND EXHIBITION SUPPORT
Throughout the development of the exhibition, co-curators Berger and Combs collaborated with an advisory group of distinguished scholars, curators, and filmmakers, including: Charles Burnett, filmmaker, Academy member; Ava DuVernay, filmmaker, Academy Governor; Michael Boyce Gillespie, Associate Professor, The City College of New York, Department of Media and Communication Arts; Shola Lynch, Curator, New York Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, filmmaker, Academy member; Ron Magliozzi, Curator of Film, The Museum of Modern Art; Ellen C. Scott, Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television; and Jacqueline Stewart.
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will screen a survey of the films and filmmakers explored in Regeneration. The first film series to accompany the exhibition—Regeneration: An Introduction—will kick off on August 25 with the world-premiere of a new restoration by the Academy Film Archive of the “lost” film Reform School (1939) starring Louise Beavers. This series runs until September 29 and will feature more than twenty screenings.
Covering the same 70+ year span as the exhibition, from cinema’s infancy in the 1890s to the early 1970s, the film series ranges from showcasing silent era pioneers such as writer-producer-director Oscar Micheaux’s dramas to the groundbreaking allegories of Spencer Williams and the independently produced, genre-defying works of innovators such as Melvin Van Peebles. Audiences will also be introduced to stars largely unknown to mainstream moviegoers—Ralph Cooper, Clarence Brooks, and Francine Everett—alongside iconic screen legends Paul Robeson, Josephine Baker, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Lena Horne, and more.
In addition to the inaugural film series, the museum will launch additional film programming and screenings around Regeneration in late 2022 and early 2023 including world premieres of films newly restored by the Academy Film Archive—Harlem on the Prairie (1937) and Mr. Washington Goes to Town (1942); a centennial celebration of Dorothy Dandridge and Ruby Dee; screenings of silent films with live musical accompaniment; and a screening series by guest programmer Maya Cade to debut in February 2023.
The Regeneration Summit, February 3–5, 2023, will be a two-day celebration of Black cinema featuring artists, scholars, and filmmakers participating in conversations, workshops, and activations throughout the museum. Centered on the question “What does Black Cinema mean to you?” we invite our public to experience the groundbreaking exhibition Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898–1971 and celebrate the accomplishments of Black film artists past and present. More details and special guests will be announced at a later date.
THE REGENERATION CURRICULUM
The Regeneration curriculum guide invites teachers and high school students to engage in the celebration of Black cinema while examining and expanding their own understanding of histories, and the importance of telling more inclusive stories. Created in modular parts drawing both from the exhibition and scholarship in the catalogue, teachers will be introduced to the education department’s pedagogical approach to inquiry-centered learning. The guide includes select biographies of influential thinkers and filmmakers, detailed explorations of the contemporary artworks included in the exhibition, unique film companions detailing the significant contributions and impact of Black filmmakers, and more.
Education programs are led by Vice President of Education and Public Engagement Amy Homma with curriculum development by Tuni Chatterji, Manager, Film Education and the summit is organized by Eduardo Sánchez, Manager, Public Programs and Lohanne Cook, Public Programs Specialist with special guest programmer, artist, activist, and educator OnRaé Watkins.
CATALOGUE AND MICROSITE
A comprehensive, illustrated catalogue accompanying the exhibition, co-published by the Academy Museum and DelMonico Books, will function as an essential reader on Black visual culture and filmmaking. The catalogue includes a foreword by Whoopi Goldberg; original essays from the co-curators Doris Berger and Rhea L. Combs as well as Donald Bogle, Cara Caddoo, Terri Simone Francis, Michael Boyce Gillespie, Shola Lynch, Ron Magliozzi, Ellen C. Scott, and Jacqueline Stewart; new interviews with award-winning contemporary filmmakers Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, Ava DuVernay, Barry Jenkins, and Dawn Porter; and a filmography and chronology of significant socio-political moments by J. Raúl Guzmán.
The Academy Museum has also produced a complementary microsite (regenerationblackcinema.org), which offers a wide range of informational and educational assets. As the show’s permanent digital home, the site will extend Regeneration’s themes and deliver a rich content experience to both exhibition visitors and curious audiences engaging from home. In addition to original articles, essays, and curricular materials, the site will offer introductory excerpts of the show’s print catalogue and an interactive database capturing the films, filmmakers, and production companies examined in the show
The microsite launches on August 21, 2022 and will be updated with new content regularly throughout the show’s run at the Academy Museum. As Regeneration travels to subsequent venues, the site will update to reflect those new iterations, preserving the total historical record of the exhibition and its rich supporting slate of events, symposia, and screenings.
Image Credits: L-R Intro Gallery, Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Photo by Joshua White, JW Pictures/ © Academy Museum Foundation; Title Wall, Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Photo by Joshua White, JW Pictures/ © Academy Museum Foundation; Race Films, Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Photo by Joshua White, JW Pictures/ © Academy Museum Foundation.
Exhibition Credit: Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898–1971 is the recipient of the 2018 Sotheby’s Prize. The Sotheby’s Prize was founded to support and encourage museums to break new ground by recognizing curatorial excellence and facilitating an upcoming exhibition that explores overlooked or underrepresented art history. The Sotheby’s Prize was awarded by a jury of museum curators and directors comprising Sir Nicholas Serota, Donna De Salvo, Okwui Enwezor (1963–2019), Connie Butler, Emilie Gordenker, and chaired by Allan Schwartzman. Regeneration is made possible in part by major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Technology solutions generously provided by Christie®. Lead support provided by Campari®. Generous support provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, J. P. Morgan Private Bank, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, and Octavia Spencer. Support also provided by Sybil Robson Orr, Daniel Allen Sims and Althea R. Miller-Sims, Lyndon J. Barrois Sr. and Janine Sherman Barrois, Chaz Hammel-Smith Ebert and Rogerebert.com, Morgan Freeman, Lori McCreary and Revelations Entertainment, Max and Kahlia Konan, Emma Koss, Alana Mayo, Mary Parent and Javier Chapa, Nina Shaw and Wallace Little, and Yeardley Smith. Exhibition programs are made possible in part by California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Academy Film Archive restorations are funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Capital Group Companies Charitable Foundation. Academy Museum Digital Engagement Platform sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
About the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
The Academy Museum is the largest museum in the United States devoted to the arts, sciences, and artists of moviemaking. The museum advances the understanding, celebration, and preservation of cinema through inclusive and accessible exhibitions, screenings, programs, initiatives, and collections. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, the museum’s campus contains the restored and revitalized historic Saban Building—formerly known as the May Company building (1939)—and a soaring spherical addition. Together, these buildings contain 50,000 square feet of exhibition spaces, two state-of-the-art theaters, the Shirley Temple Education Studio, and beautiful public spaces that are free and open to the public. These include: The Walt Disney Company Piazza and the Sidney Poitier Grand Lobby, which houses the Spielberg Family Gallery, Academy Museum Store, and Fanny’s restaurant and café. The Academy Museum exhibition galleries are open seven days a week, with hours Sunday through Thursday from 10am to 6pm and Friday and Saturday from 10am to 8pm.