The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and Los Angeles County Museum of Art will be partnering to share a Black History Month program that celebrates African American film history on Saturday.
The event will be held at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza’s Cinemark Theater and will feature screenings of “The Wiz” and “Do the Right Thing.” Following the screenings, there will be a conversation with Jacqueline Stewart, a cinema studies professor at the University of Chicago. Melanin Market L.A., a pop-up market that aims to connect black-owned businesses and vendors to Los Angeles communities, will also be there.
The event was organized to celebrate the Lucas Museum’s recent acquisition of the Separate Cinema Archive, a collection of film artifacts gathered from notable African American films from 1904 to 2019.
“Cinema is something that really informs our daily experience and so we want to make sure that we are making our collection more generally speak to a diverse experience of creation and making art,” said Ryan Linkof, the curator of film at the Lucas Museum. “In that way, bringing in a collection of African American cinema, especially a lot of cinema that is not well understood and researched, it really gives us the advantage to include it in the history of cinema in America.”
Filmmaker and USC alumnus, George Lucas, founded the museum along with his wife, Mellody Hobson, who is the former chairwoman of DreamWorks Animation. The museum is under construction in Exposition Park and is scheduled to be completed by 2021. When complete, it will have an exhibition space of 300,000 square feet and will include both permanent collections and temporary exhibitions related to filmmaking.
The museum’s newly acquired Separate Cinema Archive consists of over 37,000 rare items, such as African-American film posters, scripts, film stills and a reference library. According to “IndieWire,” the archive gets its name from the history of “race films” in the early 20th century, which were screened in segregated theaters and featured all-black casts.
Before the Lucas Museum’s acquisition, Separate Cinema Archive had previously featured in film festivals, art institutions and traveling exhibitions. According to “IndieWire,” the archive is one of the most extensive repositories for African American film history and features work from almost every distinguished African American filmmaker in the past century.
On Saturday, there will be two screenings of prominent films in African American cinema. The screenings are sold out. “Do the Right Thing,” a film written and directed by Spike Lee, will be screened in the evening. The movie explores racial tension in a Brooklyn neighborhood on the hottest day of the year.
“The Wiz” will be screened earlier in the day. Released in 1978, the film is a reimagining of the “The Wizard of Oz” and features Michael Jackson and an all-black cast.
“One of the reasons we chose the film that we did, “The Wiz” specifically, [was] because it is about sort of reinterpreting a lot of that imagery out there through the lens of the wizard of Oz and also the struggles of attaining the American dream or sort of looking at the perseverance of the African American community within the American dream,” said Adam Piron, the assistant curator for film at LACMA.
In addition to Lucas Museum’s Separate Cinema Archive, the event is also in celebration of LACMA’s new Betye Saar: Call and Response exhibition. A Los Angeles native, Saar is an African American artist known for her assemblage works. According to LACMA’s website, her art often addressed issues of race, gender, and spirituality.
“[We’re] highlighting Betye Saar who’s an L.A. artist, also African American, she’s 93 years old. I think a lot of the themes of her work directly tackle and deal with a lot of the history of African Americans in this country,” Piron said.
Correction made Feb. 14, 11:16 a.m.: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Lucas Museum would open in 2021. The construction is actually expected to be finished by 2021. The date of the museum’s opening has not yet been announced.