ICA’s Cinema Series Highlights Independent Filmmakers, Monuments, Death of Sandra Bland & More

by | Jun 13, 2018 | FILM & TV

To kick off the summer,  VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art is premiering a free film series to showcase local and national filmmakers in conjunction with their current exhibition, Declaration.

Launching today and running year-round, the ICA Cinema Series will offer free movies at the arts center’s auditorium once a month along with post-screening discussions with the filmmakers. Series film  curator Enjoli Moon said all of the films in the summer series, Declaration of INDIEpendence, feature someone making some type of declaration.

“They {ICA} wanted to use the film program as an opportunity to really connect the community and bridge the gap between the institution, academic campus, and the actual Richmond community,” she said. Films will dive deep into subjects ranging from monuments, to the arrest and death of African American activist Sandra Bland, racism, to stories of local residents from all walks of life, with the aim of opening up much-needed discussions and dialogue. 

For the premiere on Wed., June 13, the Cinema Series will open with “Richmond Speaks“, a short film showcase which highlights a selection of Richmonders who have made an impact on the city through community involvement, activism, or acts of kindness. The trio of films are made by local filmmakers and after the screenings, the filmmakers, along with the subjects, will talk about the need for spaces for individuals and the roles that institutions like the ICA play in the bigger picture.

The first film, “May It Be So”, will cover the ever-controversial and much-debated topic of the city’s monuments, but also show a side to Richmond history that these statues don’t tell. “Don’t Touch My Hair” will also premiere tonight, which presents the various forms of the black experience via metaphors of black hair expressions, as well as the role that Black women play in today’s social justice movements. Finally, viewers will get to see “Adrian’s Story” a short film about Richmonder Adrian Swearengen, a barber-in-training, who after years of incarceration finds his passion of cutting hair and offers free haircuts in the community for those who can’t afford to go to a shop.

Showing what the institution represents was important to Moon. The goal of the short-film showcase is to make sure that people from all over Richmond are represented, welcomed, and included.

“I wanted to start off with films that were focused on Richmond, really less for cinematic impact and more about laying the foundation,” said Moon.

The highly-anticipated HBO documentary, “Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland” was selected for the July 11 screening in the ICA’s Cinema Series. The film explores the 2015 death of Sandra Bland, an African American woman who, after being arrested during a traffic stop in Prarie View, Texas, was found hanged in her jail cell at the Waller County Jail three days later. Her death was ruled a suicide, but made national news and sparked protests and outrage from the public, disputing the cause of her death and alleged police brutality. The documentary, which is just two days shy of the three-year anniversary of her death, explores the mysterious case and what we can learn from it.

“’Say Her Name’, in it of itself is a declaration to make sure that women, especially women of color, who are victims of police brutality that their voices and their memories are not forgotten,” said Moon.

This documentary holds a lot of weight on Moon as well. “I think it allows us the opportunity to acknowledge some of the work that America still has to do in regards to equity and its treatment of black people and it can be a catalyst for this conversation,” she said.

With permission from HBO, this event is one of few, if not the only, premature showings of the film, which won’t be released on HBO networks until the fall. Bland family members, lawyers, and the directors, Kate Davis and David Heilbroner, will hold a panel discussion following the screening.

On August 8, the ICA will premiere “The (Rebirth) of a Nation” by DJ Spooky, a remix of filmmaker D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film, Birth of a Nation. Originally titled “The Clansman”, the silent film follows the relationship of two families in the Civil War and Reconstruction Era over several years, but sparked major controversy for its depiction of African Americans and its glorification of the Ku Klan Klan. 

Multimedia artist Paul Rucker will be part of this panel discussion. Rucker’s “Storm in the Time of Shelter” exhibit was featured in the opening of Declaration, and features a shocking collection of life-size figures wearing the full regalia of the Ku Klux Klan. Instead of the traditional white robes, the figures wear robes and hoods made of silk, satin, Ghanaian Kente cloth, and bold, patterned fabric. Moon said this event gives people an opportunity to ask questions and put his work into context as well.

Finally, in September, New York City-based collective New Negress Film Society, a group of black female filmmakers, will screen their works followed by a discussion.

The ongoing series will be presented every second Wednesday of the month at 6 PM. The movies are free, but the ICA requests that you RSVP.



Talya Faggart

Talya Faggart

Talya Faggart is a Senior at VCU studying Broadcast Journalism. She enjoys fashion, music, and watching Rick & Morty.

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