Gordon Parks: Start of Motion


Black Cinema House, Chicago Film Archives, South Side Community Art Center, and The Gordon Parks Foundation present three early films by the legendary African American photographer, Gordon Parks. A humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice, Parks left behind a body of work that documents the highs and lows of American culture from the early 1940s up until his death in 2006, with a focus on race relations, poverty, Civil Rights, and urban life. He was also a celebrated composer, author, and filmmaker – most known for his films, THE LEARNING TREE (1969) and SHAFT (1971).
This film program presents the birth of Parks’ moving-image career with three rarely screened documentaries made by Parks for public television broadcast. Like Parks’ renowned photographic essays for Life Magazine, these films focus on individuals and environments affected by a larger story. We travel to Black Harlem, down to Brazil and back up to Spanish Harlem, gaining glimpses of individual struggles and the collective search for a better world. All films presented in 16mm.

DIARY OF A HARLEM FAMILY, Gordon Parks (narrator, photography), 1968, B&W, Sound, 20 min., 16mm. (print from the Minnesota State University Collection)

A plea for poverty relief and equal opportunity, this photomontage film documents the life of the Fontinelli family who live in a Harlem tenement in New York City.

FLAVIO, 1964, Gordon Parks (Director and screenplay), B&W, Sound, 11.5 min., 16mm. (print from the Chicago Public Library Collection)

A day in the life of a twelve-year old Brazilian boy named Flavio, one of a family of ten living on a squalid, impoverished hillside across the bay from Rio de Janeiro. Gordon Parks depicts the details, moods, and tensions that affect the boy who, though suffering from tuberculosis, keeps the house going and represents a possible hope to his family. Based on a 1961 Life Magazine series by Parks.

WORLD OF PIRI THOMAS, 1968, Gordon Parks (Director), B&W, Sound, 60 min., 16mm. (print from the Chicago Public Library Collection)

Gordon Parks along with writer and poet, Piri Thomas, lead us on a journey through New York City’s Spanish Harlem. Parks guides our eyes through El Barrio, while Thomas reads from his best-selling memoir, “Down These Mean Streets.” These sights and sounds record the grim and crumbling life of the neighborhood and its inhabitants, but also provide a glimmer of hope for “survival and triumph over the ghetto.”

Gordon Parks: Start of Motion
Program by Anne Wells.
Followed by a discussion led by photographer and Columbia College Professor Dawoud Bey.

Sunday, November 17th at 4pm

Black Cinema House
6901 S. Dorchester Ave.