Visiting Filmmakers Series Brings ‘The New Black’ Director to Mason

Posted: October 14, 2013 at 5:01 am, Last Updated: October 16, 2013 at 6:30 am

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By Justin Lafreniere

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A still from “The New Black.” Image courtesy of Film and Media Studies

The George Mason University Film and Media Studies program will welcome award-winning documentarian Yoruba Richen and screen her new film, “The New Black” as part of the Visiting Filmmakers Series in an event that will explore the shifting relationship between race and sexuality in the United States.

The event will be held on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 4:30 p.m. in the Johnson Center Cinema. It is free and open to the public.

The Visiting Filmmakers Series is sponsored by the Film and Media Studies program. Cynthia Fuchs, associate professor of film and media studies and director of the Visiting Filmmakers Series, says the series is important because of its broad range of subject matters. “We see the series as an opportunity for discussions among students at Mason as well as community members, as we have different populations interested in the films and filmmakers.”

Creating a multidisciplinary community is important for the Visiting Filmmakers Series. Fuchs notes that previous films have been co-sponsored by groups ranging from the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), Latin American Studies students, athletes, war veterans and community activists.

“We seek to provide opportunities for viewers as well as art, theater and filmmaking students to meet with artists and filmmakers,” Fuchs says. Each film they select “touches on a different subject so it might appeal to a different subset of students and also might be supported by different departments or programs on campus.”

For “The New Black,” the Visiting Filmmakers series features co-sponsorship from many Mason departments, including African and African American Studies, the Honors College, the LGBTQ Resources Program, Women and Gender Studies and others. It was selected, according to Fuchs, because of its “local and ongoing newsworthiness of its subject matter,” as well as the buzz it has generated at various film festivals.

“The New Black” sets itself as an analysis of the forces taking place during the 2012 Question 6 referendum in Maryland that legalized same-sex marriage. Following activists, clergy and families, the film puts the divisive strain on the black community as homophobia in black churches and the exploitive members of the Christian right pursue an anti-gay political agenda under a lens, while still giving an objective account of both sides of the issue. The struggle of persons for and against Question 6 provides a context through which race, sexuality and politics can be discussed as civil rights.

Richen is a Guggenheim fellow, was recently awarded the Creative Promise Award at Tribeca All Access, and has worked for ABC News as well as producing and directing films on four continents. Her film, “The Promised land” received a Diverse Voices Co-Production fund award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. She is a graduate of Brown University and currently teaches at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

“The New Black” has been highly praised at national festivals, winning the Audience Award at the American Film Institute and Discovery Channel’s AFI Docs festival, as well as similar awards at both Philly Q Fest and Frameline37. It received an award for Best Documentary at Urbanworld Film Festival.

That praise continues in its selection for the Visiting Filmmakers Series. “We admire Yoruba’s consistent use of her work to explore and make visible difficult issues and to help audiences discuss these issues,” Fuchs says.

Following the event, there will be a question-and-answer session and discussion with Richen.

Write to Colleen Kearney Rich at ckearney@gmu.edu

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