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Poster for Take Your Bags (1998) 2K Restoration & A String of Pearls (2002) 2K Restoration
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Take Your Bags (1998) 2K Restoration & A String of Pearls (2002) 2K Restoration

Opens on April 9

Director: Camille Billops, James Hatch Run Time: 70 min. Release Year: 1998

Starring: Camille Billops, Keita Erskine

Country: English
Language: United States

Double Feature presented as part of the retrospective series A String of Pearls: The Films of Camille Billops and James Hatch

Take Your Bags (1998) 2K Restoration

Camille Billops explores the legacy of slavery and the theft of cultural memory. In Take Your Bags (1982), the filmmaker shares her take on slavery, “when the Africans boarded the ships bound for America, they carried in their bags all their memories of home. When they arrived in the New World, their bags had been switched… Many generations later, the children of these Africans toured the Museum of Modern Art to see the sculptures and art of Picasso, Braque and Matisse. Lo! There were the beautiful icons of their ancestors, the images that had been stolen from their bags.” This film was commissioned by the National Black Arts Festival and by filmmaker Louis Massiah, the founder and director of Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia.

A String of Pearls (2002) 2K Restoration

In the final installment of her acclaimed Family Trilogy, which also includes Suzanne, Suzanne (1982) and Finding Christa (1991), Camille Billops turns the camera on four generations of men in her family and considers the ways in which urban violence, unemployment, and the early deaths of their own fathers have shaped their lives.

About the filmmakers:

Camille Billops (1933-2019) was a fearless filmmaker, artist, sculptor, historian, archivist, and staunch supporter of Black art and artists. Billops came into her own within the converging contexts of the 1960s civil and human rights struggles, New York’s emerging Black artists movement, and her personal struggles for affirmation. Her work is autobiographical, interpretive, and challenging. Without apology, she successfully drew from her life’s experiences, her education, and her observations of the world around her to carve out a space for her voice to be heard. She and her husband James made their loft in SoHo a hub for artistic collaborations, collecting thousands of books, documents, photographs, and ephemera related to Black culture. They held salons with Black artists, performers, and musicians, and recorded more than 1,200 oral histories, which were published in an annual journal called Artist and Influence.

James V. Hatch (1928-2020) was a historian of Black theater who taught English and theater at the City College of New York for three decades. He has written and co-written more than a dozen books, including “The Roots of African American Drama: An Anthology of Early Plays, 1858-1938” (1990), which he edited with Leo Hamalian, and “Sorrow Is the Only Faithful One: The Life of Owen Dodson” (1993), about the titular Black poet and playwright.

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National Endowment for the Arts
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