TCM Exclusive Clip: Reflecting on the L.A. Rebellion Black Film Movement—an Alternative to Classic White Cinema

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Tonja Renée Stidhum
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TCM Host Jacqueline Stewart, Billy Woodberry and Charles Burnett discuss The L.A. Rebellion
TCM Host Jacqueline Stewart, Billy Woodberry and Charles Burnett discuss The L.A. Rebellion

Being a Black person in the film industry often means having to create your own lanes in a highway filled with whiteness.

The 2021 TCM Classic Film Festival is coming in May and one of the specials in its lineup will focus on the L.A. Rebellion.

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The L.A. Rebellion (also known as the Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers) launched in 1967 by UCLA film students as a film movement consisting of young African and African-American filmmakers providing an alternative to classical Hollywood cinema. We all know what “classical” means—white cinema. As someone who studied film in undergrad as a Black woman, I absolutely know what it’s like to reckon with the fact that so much of what is included in mainstream historical film education looks nothing like me. I absolutely know what it’s like to learn about the technical significance of D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915), while also recognizing the stark KKK propaganda within.

Here’s more info about the L.A. Rebellion special, via TCM’s press release sent to The Root:

THE L.A. REBELLION

This late 1960s-early 1990s independent film movement was founded by Black film students at UCLA, including Charles Burnett, Julie Dash and Billy Woodberry and features influences by African cinema and Italian neo-realism.

Includes the films: Bless Their Little Hearts (1983), Daughters of the Dust (1991) and To Sleep with Anger (1990).

FESTIVAL EXTRAS

TCM Host Jacqueline Stewart, Billy Woodberry and Charles Burnett discuss The L.A. Rebellion

In an exclusive clip shared with The Root, Stewart prompts filmmakers Woodberry and Burnett to reflect on the provocative name of the movement—the L.A. Rebellion.

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“In retrospect, I can see how it would fit,” Burnett (To Sleep With Anger) says in the clip, also referencing the civil rights movement. “Because when we were at UCLA, we certainly were rebelling against the films Hollywood had been perpetuating from Birth of a Nation on...”

“I’m not apologizing or making any grand claims [about the name] and the better thing that happened was the work and the experience that we shared,” said Woodberry (Bless Their Little Hearts), one of the founders of the movement. “It lived for a time and it gave some support and encouragement to the people who came a bit after.”

The full lineup of the TCM Classic Film Festival will be available virtually via TCM and the Classics Curated by TCM on HBO Max on May 6-9. You can view the schedule and obtain more info at filmfestival.tcm.com.