Back Inside Herself
Described by S. Pearl Sharp as “a visual poem on identity”, Back Inside Herself shows a Black woman finding her own sense of self and rejecting hegemonic societal expectations of who she should be and how she should behave.
Through simple acts like taking off her wig and kicking off her shoes, the protagonist embodies a sense of freedom. Inspired by the filmmaker’s poem of the same name, a single line is repeated again and again to create a rhythmic mantra and voices become a unified chorus that soundtracks the work.
Barbara-O is perhaps most widely known for her performance in Julie Dash’s film Daughters of the Dust (1991). Here she plays the titular ‘herself’ with a magnetism that undeniably evokes the spirit of the LA Rebellion. A wave of creativity and collaboration by Black filmmakers across the USA in the late 70s and early 80s, the LA Rebellion found new ways to reimagine and reframe Black life by putting subjectivity at the centre of their work. —Myriam Mouflih
S. Pearl Sharp (1942, USA) is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, activist and actress based in Los Angeles. In the 60s she studied acting in New York and attended John O. Killens’ Writers Workshop at Columbia University. During her studies, she completed two volumes of poetry and her first play, The Sistuhs, in addition to forming the literary performance troupe Poets & Performers. Sharp then studied film production at Los Angeles City College. In her work, she uses the medium of film to address community issues. She is one of the co-founders of the Black Anti-Defamation Coalition, which directly challenged the entertainment industry on the Black image in the media, and edited the group’s newsletter, Media Matters. Her published written works include The Evening News – Essays And Commentaries From NPR And Other Clouds, Black Women For Beginners (non-fiction) and two poetry w/jazz CDs.
Blood Bank. (2021), Fertile Ground: Stories from the Watts Towers Arts Center (2005), The Healing Passage/ Voices From The Water (2004), Central Avenue Live! (1996), It’s OK to Peek (1996), Picking Tribes (1988), Life Is A Saxophone (1985), Back Inside Herself (1984)
One Way or Another
Made by pioneering Cuban filmmaker Sara Gómez, One Way or Another is a bold work of revolutionary feminism. It is also a compelling and complex picture of Cuban life under socialism. The film is radical in its honest and unflinching assessment of the difficulties of living in a newly formed socialist society. It astutely shows the struggles of marginalised communities adapting to revolutionary ideals, whilst casting a critical lens on the machismo, class and race discrimination that was still present in Castro’s post-revolutionary Cuba.
Hybrid in form, One Way or Another blends ethnographic documentary techniques with narrative fiction, and the film shifts fluidly between these modes. Gómez achieved a unifying low-key aesthetic by using 16mm film throughout. This is further emphasised by how she embeds her main characters in non-fiction settings with non-professional actors who drew on real-life experiences.
Set in the Miraflores housing development, an area on the outskirts of Havana built to replace slum housing, the fictional story centres on a romance between factory worker Mario and middle-class schoolteacher Yolanda. Over the course of the film and their fractious relationship, the pair are forced to confront their values, prejudices and contradictions. Mario’s old macho ways are put to the test, while Yolanda’s prejudices surface when teaching underprivileged children.
In One Way or Another, Gómez challenges Cuba to live up to its utopian revolutionary values and strives for a society free of class discrimination, racial inequality and outdated patriarchal traditions. The first feature film to be directed by a Cuban woman was to sadly be Gómez’s last work. Gómez died during post-production and the film was completed by her colleagues Tomas Gutierrez Alea and Julio Garcia Espinosa. A timely and much-anticipated restoration by Arsenal is presented here. —Alice Miller
Sara Gómez (1942 – 1974, Cuba) was a pioneering Cuban filmmaker. Born in Havana, Gómez studied literature, piano and Afro-Cuban ethnography and worked as a journalist before turning to filmmaking. In 1961 Gómez became the first woman to join the newly-formed Instituto de Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC). At the ICAIC she worked as an assistant director to filmmakers Jorge Fraga, Tomas Gutiérrez Alea and Agnès Varda. She made several short documentaries before directing her first feature film De Cierta Manera (One Way or Another) in 1974. Gómez’s work used documentary and fiction to represent the Afro-Cuban community and highlight the class, race and gender inequalities in revolutionary Cuba.
De cierta manera (1975), Sobre horas extras y trabajo voluntario (1973), Atencion prenatal; Año uno; Mi aporte (1972), Un documental a proposito del transito; De Bateyes (1971), Isla del tesoro; Poder local, poder popular (1970), Una isla para Miguel; En la otra isla (1968), Y tenemos sabor (1967), Guanabacoa: Crónica de mi familia (1966), Excursion a Vueltabajo (1965), Ire a Santiago (1964), Solar habanero (1962), Plaza Vieja; Fábrica de tabacos; El solar; Historia de la piratería; Solar habanero (1962)