A few years have passed since that time of intense study. In the spring of 2021, I had the opportunity to moderate a conversation with filmmakers Sophia Nahli Allison and Merawi Gerima, members of this chosen community who have both achieved critical success on projects that were envisioned in that Los Angeles living room. Allison is an Oscar-nominated director whose recent short documentary, A Love Song for Latasha (2019), tenderly (re)introduced audiences to Latasha Harlins, a Black girl and aspiring lawyer from South Los Angeles whose life and premature death spirited the 1992 LA Uprising. Her feature-length documentary Eyes on the Prize: Hallowed Ground (2021) premiered at BlackStar Film Festival in 2021. Gerima’s directorial debut, Residue (2020), is the winner of several major film festival awards around the globe and takes an unapologetic look at the disorientation and violence of gentrification in Black neighborhoods.
We are three members of a larger Black creative community who flourished through and beyond the gates of film school. Our conversation below is contingent on years of gathering, studying, building, and creating space intentionally devoted to crafting stories that honor and engage Black diasporic practices. Our experiences in and outside of film school lay bare the inherent struggles of contemporary Black filmmaking, as well as the radical possibility that remains available through Black collectivity. As a Black film and media studies professor, I understand the value of higher education; however, I am also fortunate to have been a participant and witness to the power of community and care fostered outside of institutional control.
This particular conversation is a small segment of a series of ongoing dialogues centering the LA Rebellion film movement, cultural memory, and contemporary communal filmmaking practices. It was made possible through the organizing efforts and generosity of Professor Desha Dauchan and the film and media studies department at the University of California, Irvine. The focus of the series was to (re)introduce audiences to the creative and industrial practices that were crafted by the contingent of Black student filmmakers who attended UCLA from the late ’60s into the ’80s, formally recognized as the LA Rebellion. Over several weeks, a selection of LA Rebellion artists and contemporary filmmakers who were deeply influenced by the legacy of the LA Rebellion participated in conversations spanning various aspects of art making and creativity. My conversation with Allison and Gerima touched on the power and possibility of communal care and collaboration beyond the purview of institutional validation. More so, however, this dialogue pays special honor to the echo of our ancestors’ voices that we hope to continue to visualize.