Spike Lee was hardly the first African-American independent filmmaker; in fact, his early breakthrough was only made possible by pioneers like Charles Burnett and Melvin Van Peebles. Their bitterly impassioned movies are revived all too infrequently, perhaps because its painful to see how little has changed in the last four decades. Take Haile Gerimas heat-seeking Bush Mama (1976), a stark corrective to both bicentennial fever and the current of self-empowerment peddled by blaxploitation flicks. The Ethiopian director, who came to the U.S. in the late '60s and is best known for 1993s Sankofa, centers his blistering story on a Watts woman who gradually comes to see how the world really works when her husband a Vietnam vet is jailed for someone elses crime. Were used to being shocked by repressive police in Latin American movies, and entertained by Los Angeles' corrupt cops in period pieces such as L.A. Confidential or The Black Dahlia. Screening as part of the ongoing survey, 75 Years in the Dark: A Partial History of Film at SFMOMA, Bush Mama reminds us in case it somehow slipped our minds that to preserve and protect has a whole different meaning in the inner city.
Thu., March 11, 7 p.m., 2010