African American Representation in Feature Films

Post-screening discussions with Bob Devine

  • Instructor: Bob Devine
  • Date: Every Thursday from October 13 to November 10
  • Time: 7:00 PM
  • Place: Nonstop Institute, 305 N. Walnut, Yellow Springs
  • Cost: Pay as you are able
  • Screening and discussion of important and sometimes difficult-to-access narrative films dealing with African American representation by African American directors and by Hollywood (1964-1989). Included are works by Haile Gerima, Ivan Dixon, Charles Burnett, and Spike Lee. People are encouraged to attend these screenings/workshop discussions as a series, or to attend the individual screenings of specific films. To register for the workshop call 937-232-9906, or come to Nonstop the night of the film.


  • Thu, Oct 13 @ 7 PM – Nothing but a Man – (1964) by Michael Roemer

  • Considered a pioneering independent film and apparently a favorite film of Malcolm X, Nothing but a Man is the first dramatic story featuring a largely black cast (Ivan Dixon, Abby Lincoln, Yaphet Kotto) created for an integrated audience. “Through the combination of writing, directing, cinematography and sublime acting, Nothing But a Man emerges as an intimate…portrait of a couple enduring racism [in Alabama]…that rings with so much authenticity it seems like a documentary. Recalling the work of Italian neo-realists…it’s almost impossible to believe the film came out of the United States—not just in 1964, but any year.” (David Walker, 2004). Features a magnificent early Motown soundtrack.


  • Thu, Oct 20 @ 7 PM – The Spook Who Sat by the Door – (1973) by Ivan Dixon

  • From a 1966 novel by Sam Greenlee, Dixon sold the film as a Blaxploitation shoot-em-up, masking the theme of urban-based warfare for African American liberation in urban communities. Upon release it provoked violent reaction in some parts of white America, and the FBI pressured the distributor to destroy all copies. The film was a bootleg classic in the African American community, but didn’t officially exist until it was digitally restored from the original camera negative, hidden in a Hollywood vault, in 2004.


  • Thu, Oct 27 @ 7 PM – Bush Mama – (1975) by Haile Gerima

  • This complex independent film, shot on the streets of LA, traces the connections between the social control inherent in the welfare system and state-sponsored terrorism, with a stunning performance by Dayton’s Barbara O. Blurring the boundaries between regulation, coercion and policing, Gerima develops multiple narratives of resistance.


  • Thu, Nov 3 @ 7 PM – Killer of Sheep – (1977) by Charles Burnett

  • A mesmerizing chronicle of a family and life in South Central LA in the mid-70s, this film can be found on most 100-best-films-of-all-times lists. Ntongela Masilela, film critic and Burnett’s classmate at UCLA (where a series of remarkable films were influenced by the new Latin American of the late 60s/70s) said, “it is the combination of both an acute mind and an exemplary sensibility which makes Charles Burnett one of the outstanding poets of the American cinema today.” (2009)


  • Thu, Nov 10 @ 7 PM – Do the Right Thing – (1989) by Spike Lee

  • This controversial film alludes to the 1986 incident in Howard Beach, Queens, in which a groupof white teens beat and chased three black men after hunting them down in a pizza parlor. In this “hottest day of the year” narrative, Lee foregrounds Bed Stuy, creates hyper-realistic representations of the public image of blacks in saturated color, and explores economic racism.


    About the Instructor: Bob Devine was one of the founding members of Antioch College’s critical Communications program, has been teaching courses in media and social change, film and communications theory for 40 years, and has been actively involved in the fields of community media, public access and participatory democratic media outside the academy. In 2005 Bob served as Interim Executive Director of Manhattan Neighborhood Network, and in 2008 he served an extended term as an Executive Consultant for O‘lelo Community Media in Honolulu, these organizations being the two largest community media centers in the country. At Antioch, Bob served as President of the College from 1996-2001, while continuing to teach in the field of communication and community media; most recently Bob taught courses and independent studies for Nonstop. Bob is the 1994 recipient of the Alliance for Community Media’s George Stoney Award, recognizing his national contributions to the field of community media, and the 2002 recipient of the Antioch College Alumni Association’s J.D. Dawson Award recognizing his contributions to the College. Bob is also the director of several dozen documentaries.