In the late 1960s, in the aftermath of the Watts Uprising and against the backdrop of the continuing Civil Rights Movement and the escalating Vietnam War, a group of African and African American students entered the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, as part of an “Ethno-Communications” initiative designed to be responsive to communities of color (also including Asian, Chicano and Native American communities). Now referred to as the L.A. Rebellion, these mostly unheralded artists created a unique cinematic landscape, as—over the course of two decades—students arrived, mentored one another and passed the torch to the next group.
Some aspects of the story have been told before, in articles and in panel discussions, and at retrospective screenings of key films. Now, the UCLA Film & Television Archive has undertaken its L.A. Rebellion initiative to help illuminate previously unknown aspects of the story, the artists and the work, and facilitate a greater understanding of the whole.
The Archive’s initiative began with a desire to participate in the Getty Foundation funded “Pacific Standard Time" exhibition of post World War II Art in Los Angeles. Three years later, dozens of filmmakers have been identified as part of the L.A. Rebellion movement and the initiative has grown into a massive effort by all departments of the Archive to bring to light the contributions of these first generations of Black UCLA film students.
Current endeavors of the L.A. Rebellion initiative include:
- Collecting, cataloging, restoring and protecting a wide variety of film, video and digital works
- Recording the stories, experiences and interpretations of L.A. Rebellion by the filmmakers and others through an ongoing oral history project
- Curating the groundbreaking Los Angeles film exhibition, “L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema,” which screens October 7 – December 17, 2011
- Publishing a film exhibition catalog (PDF)
- Spearheading a landmark multi-discipline symposium featuring scholars from around the country on Nov. 12, 2011
- Creating an L.A. Rebellion blog featuring lively conversation about the work and its context
- Posting early student works from the filmmakers online, with the goal of posting many more films in the future
- And the ever-expanding online research area you’re visiting now, with information on films and filmmakers, photos, video and an interactive timeline.
The UCLA Film & Television Archive’s L.A. Rebellion initiative is already the most holistic and ambitious project we’ve ever undertaken, but it’s only the beginning of what we hope will be a continuing interaction between the Archive, the filmmakers and our audience.
Future plans for the L.A. Rebellion initiative include:
- Discovering, preserving and restoring additional L.A. Rebellion work
- Presenting an abridged film exhibition that will tour international film festivals and arthouse venues beginning in Summer 2012
- Editing a book of critical essays to be published by UC Press in 2013.
Beyond the work itself, what makes the L.A. Rebellion movement a discovery worthy of a place in film history is the vitality of its filmmakers, their utopian vision of a better society, their sensitivity to children and gender issues, their willingness to question any and all received wisdom, their identification with the liberation movements in the Third World, and their expression of Black pride and dignity.