Black women filmmakers—not invented yesterday and invented by no one but themselves—have persistently been making imaginative work in spite of the many obstacles and restrictions they’ve faced. Losing Ground (1982), by the filmmaker, playwright, and novelist Kathleen Collins, is a particularly incandescent example of filmmaking as a process of defiant self-creation. The work of black women in American cinema has in fact always been less about canons than archives—prioritizing the recovery of such omissions in order to disrupt dominant structures. The projects of recent black women filmmakers like Ja’Tovia Gary’s Giverny I (Négresse Impériale) (2017) and Garret Bradley’s America (2019) show this continuing evolution. Their exquisite films weave archival fragments into their contemporary footage to generate new visual meaning. That Collins’s Losing Ground is both a predecessor and, in the sense of release and sensibility, a contemporary to these films is fitting.
A pioneering Nigerien filmmaker who has yet to enjoy due recognition for his prolific career as one of the most important figures of early African cinema, Moustapha Alassane almost single-handedly made the 1970s a high point for film production in Niger following the country’s independence from France in 1960. Ten of his short films, divided into three separate showings, will be playing at Metrograph in a retrospective of his work.