Gordon Parks: Humanitarian, Visionary, Auteur
During his decades-long career, Gordon Parks (1912-2006) masterfully documented American life. Through photographs, writing, music and film, Parks chronicled the civil rights movement, urban and rural communities, disparities of gender, and the Black experience in our country. This four part retrospective honors Parks with a selection of critical works from his filmography, and concludes with the documentary A CHOICE OF WEAPONS: INSPIRED BY GORDON PARKS. This retrospective is presented with support by The Gordon Parks Foundation, Anthology Film Archives and Chicago Film Archives.
THE LEARNING TREE / Monday, November 8 / 7:45pm
With this tender and clear-eyed coming-of-age odyssey, the renowned photographer turned filmmaker Gordon Parks not only became the first Black American director to make a Hollywood studio film, he also served as writer, producer, and composer, resulting in a deeply personal artistic achievement. Based on Parks’s own semi-autobiographical novel, The Learning Tree follows the journey of Newt Winger (Kyle Johnson), a teenage descendant of Exodusters growing up in rural Kansas in the 1920s, as he experiences the bittersweet flowering of first love, finds his relationship with a close friend tested, and navigates the injustices embedded within a racist legal and educational system. Exquisitely capturing the bucolic splendor of its heartland setting, this landmark film tempers nostalgia with an incisive understanding of the harsh realities, hard-won lessons, and often wrenching moral choices that shape the road to self-determination of the young Black man at its center. (Criterion Channel)
LEADBELLY / Monday, November 15 / 7:45pm
In this energetic biopic, Parks chronicles the life of trouble-prone blues singer Huddie Ledbetter, better known as “Leadbelly”, as he works on chain gangs, travels with fellow blues man Blind Lemon Jefferson, and seeks to find a personal peace within his musical talent.
MOMENTS WITHOUT PROPER NAMES + FLAVIO / Monday, November 22 / 8:00pm
In his final film as director, Parks turned the camera upon himself and created a deeply personal and remarkably poetic self-portrait, blending his striking photographs, musical compositions, and personal reminiscences performed by a trio of esteemed actors: Avery Brooks, Roscoe Lee Browne, and Joe Seneca. Restored from the original camera negatives, MOMENTS WITHOUT PROPER NAMES offers a penetrating gaze into the life and mind of one of the 20th Century’s most celebrated artists.
Preceded by FLAVIO, Parks's short film about a young boy from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, who Parks photographed for Life Magazine (1964, 12 min.)
SHAFT / Monday, November 29 / 8:00pm
The mob wants Harlem back. But they're gonna get Shaft. Richard Roundtree stars as New York City private detective John Shaft. He's cool, tough and won't back down to anybody. But when the New York Mafia wants to take over the Harlem drug trade, they kidnap local crime lord Bumpy Jonas' (Moses Gunn) daughter. Now in the middle of a war between mobsters that's ready to ignite a racial tinderbox, Jonas hires the one man tough enough to get his daughter back - John Shaft.
A CHOICE OF WEAPONS: INSPIRED BY GORDON PARKS / Wednesday, December 1 / 8:15pm
A CHOICE OF WEAPONS: INSPIRED BY GORDON PARKS explores the power of images in advancing racial, economic, and social equality as seen through the lens of Gordon Parks, one of America's most trailblazing artists, and the generation of young photographers, filmmakers, and activists he inspired.