Women’s Day of Black Again! Fifty Years of Blaxploitation
This coming Black History Month, Hyde Park Picture House will be presenting a programme on the 50th anniversary of Blaxploitation classics, Black Again! Fifty Years of Blaxploitation, in partnership with Women of the Lens Film Festival.
In the 1970s the Blaxploitation genre emerged, turning on its head the exploitation genre in which Black actors were often in subordinate roles, usually the victim rather than the hero. Finally, African-American perspectives, fashion and music had a place on the big screen and the urban African-American audiences that the films were aimed at finally felt they were being represented in the industry. There is a lot of opportunity for discussion about Blaxploitation films as, although they marked real progress on the one hand, on the other they received criticism for perpetuating stereotypes. We are excited to open up these debates in our Black Again! Fifty Years of Blaxploitation season as we have some very special guests joining us for introductions, panel discussions and talks accompanying the films.
One important subject we are wanting to shine a light on, is women in Blaxploitation films. On Saturday 7th October we are presenting Women’s Day of Black Again! Fifty Years of Blaxploitation. We are showing a double bill of Coffy and Cleopatra Jones. Both films were released in 1973 and were groundbreaking due to their Black female heroine protagonists. Finally, the iconic Pam Grier in Coffy and Tamara Dobson in Cleopatra Jones had strength, independence and agency that, for decades, had been severely lacking in representation of Black women in film, who far too often took on minor subordinate stereotype roles such as mammies. Grier and Dobson’s roles were in no way a perfect model of feminism, but they did mark real progress and we are excited to celebrate and discuss this on October 7th.
If you’d like to come see both films, we have a double bill offer which means that if you buy tickets for Coffy and Cleopatra Jones at the same time, you’ll receive 20% off.
Fashion was very important in Blaxploitation films and one of the reasons why Tamara Dobson was so iconic was because she was a supermodel who redefined beauty standards and wore her hair in a natural afro style and took control of the portrayal of her character as Cleopatra Jones in what she would wear. We’re keen to celebrate fashion on Women’s Day, so we’re encouraging everyone to dress to impress in Blaxploitation era finest for a casual fashion competition on the day. We’re also honoured to be joined by the wonderful Ebony Milestone who will host a trendy and culturally rich pop up boutique that will celebrate the iconic style and attitude of the Blaxploitation era. This unique store will be a homage to the bold and influential fashion trends that emerged alongside the genre’s iconic films in the 1970s. Displaying and selling pre-loved items, African inspired prints, statement jewellery and an array of items that represent a sense of empowerment and cultural pride. If you’d like to learn more about Ebony Milestone, our partners, Women of the Lens, have interviewed them about their business and their thoughts on Blaxploitation which you can read here.
Another exciting guest we will be joined by on the day is Jennifer G. Robinson from Women of the Lens. We greatly admire her festival’s work in ensuring more Black women are seen on and off camera in the film industry.
We are also hugely excited that Blaxploitation genre expert, Josiah Howard, will be flying over from America to talk on the day. Josiah wrote the influential Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide and helped to curate our Black Again! Fifty Years of Blaxploitation programme.
As well as October being Black History Month, it is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In recognition of this, we have decided to donate 20% of proceeds from Women’s Day to the Leeds charity, Beyond Cancer. The Beyond Cancer charity was established by a group of mainly African/Caribbean women, three of whom were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. The charity is diverse, and it provides support and a listening ear to anyone in Leeds during their stages of a cancer diagnosis, appointments and treatment. You can learn more about the charity on their website.