More Mysterious Than Our Desire: Black Film Multitudes

Wed, Sept 16, 2020
6 pm

Online, via Zoom

In conjunction with her exhibition Mutualities, Cauleen Smith screens her experimental short film Chronicles of a Lying Spirit (by Kelly Gabron) (1992) alongside a group of shorts by other Black filmmakers. Selected by Smith and film scholar Michael B. Gillespie, the program is organized around Blackness as a critical and aesthetic practice. The title comes from a line by James Baldwin in The Devil Finds Work, “[T]he church and the theater are carried within us and it is we who create them, out of our need and out of an impulse more mysterious than our desire.” 

Smith and Gillespie will introduce the screening with a discussion of the selected films and the idea of Black film as an avant-garde and radical tradition. The screening will begin at 6:30 pm. 

Michael B. Gillespie is the author of Film Blackness: Black Cinema and the Idea of Black Film (Duke University Press, 2016) and co-editor with Lisa Uddin of Black One Shot, a Black art criticism series on ASAP/J. His work focuses on Black visual and expressive culture, film theory, visual historiography, popular music, and contemporary art. His recent writing includes work in Black Light: A Retrospective of International Black Cinema, Flash Art, Unwatchable, and Film Quarterly. He teaches at the City College of New York and the Graduate Center (CUNY).

Screening Program: 

Edward Owens
Remembrance: A Portrait of A Study, 1967 (6 min)

Melvonna Ballenger
Rain (Nyesha), 1978 (16 min)   

Cauleen Smith
Chronicles of A Lying Spirit (by Kelly Gabron), 1992 (8 min)

Christopher Harris
Halimuhfack, 2019 (4 min)

Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich
Spit on the Broom, 2019 (12 min)

Keisha Rae Witherspoon
T, 2019 (14 min)

This event will have automated closed captions through Zoom. Live captioning is available for public programs and events upon request with seven business days advance notice. We will make every effort to provide accommodation for requests made outside of that window of time. To place a request, please contact us at or (646) 666-5574 (voice). Relay and voice calls welcome.

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