The first worldwide theatrical retrospective of groundbreaking filmmakers Camille Billops and James Hatch is on the way. The late collaborators and married couple “explored African American cultural life in a series of highly acclaimed documentaries,” per Deadline.
Third World Newsreel will launch the retrospective February 3 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It includes a 4K restoration of 1982’s “Suzanne, Suzanne,” and “2K digitizations of their five succeeding films, culminating with their last film together, 2002’s ‘A String of Pearls.’”
“Centering Black cultural life and storytelling on screen, these autobiographical films innovate documentary form and artfully weave together personal histories and social issues,” a release from Third World Newsreel emphasizes. “Outrageous and committed, Camille Billops and James Hatch challenged the white art establishment, promoted other Black and POC artists, and produced years of interviews in video and books to highlight BIPOC creatives,” the release notes. “As Camille put it, ‘Who else will do it?’”
Named to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2016, 1982’s “Suzanne, Suzanne” spotlights Billop’s niece and sees her reflecting on her experiences with abuse. In 1991’s “Finding Christa,” Billops reunites with the daughter she gave up for adoption. “The KKK Boutique ain’t Just Rednecks,” released in 1994, explores racial discrimination within the United States.
“The work of Camille Billops and James Hatch defiantly challenges documentary norms and is a revelatory experience of their lives, Black families, and all families – while forcing viewers to rethink their assumptions of motherhood, older sexuality, domestic violence, race, and gender roles. This is the first time that their work is being released in a theatrical retrospective – and we hope that new audiences will be entranced by their work – and through this, led to the work of other BIPOC documentary filmmakers as well,” said Third World Newsreel executive director J.T. Takagi.
Billops died in 2019 and Hatch in 2020.
Head over to Deadline to check out a complete list of films screening in the retrospective. A trailer for the retrospective can be found below. “When women want to change their lives, it’s unacceptable,” Billops says in the spot.