L.A. Rebellion

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L.A. Rebellion
Years active1967–1989
CountryUnited States
Major figuresCharles Burnett, Larry Clark, Julie Dash, Zeinabu Irene Davis, Jamaa Fanaka, Haile Gerima, Alile Sharon Larkin, Billy Woodberry
InfluencesAfrican cinema, Cuban cinema, Cinema Novo, European art cinema, French New Wave, Italian neorealism, Latin American cinema

The L.A. Rebellion film movement, sometimes referred to as the "Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers", or the UCLA Rebellion, refers to the new generation of young African and African-American filmmakers who studied at the UCLA Film School in the late-1960s to the late-1980s and have created a black cinema that provides an alternative to classical Hollywood cinema.[1][2][3][4][5]


In June 1953, Ike Jones became the first African American to graduate from the UCLA Film School.[6] In the next 15 years, the numbers of African-American filmmakers remained small. One of those was Vantile Whitfield, who founded the Performing Arts Society of Los Angeles in 1964[7] and received a master's degree at UCLA in 1967.[8] By the late 1960s, in the midst of affirmative action, the number of black students steadily increased. Among this new crop of artists were Charles Burnett, an engineering student who had attended Los Angeles City College, and Haile Gerima, an Ethiopian filmmaker who had recently moved from Chicago. Unlike their predecessors, they eschewed Hollywood conventions and were influenced by films from Latin America, Italian neorealism, European art films, and the emerging cinema of Africa. They were among the first of what became known as the "Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers."[3][9]

In the wake of the Watts Riots and other forms of social unrest, such as a 1969 shoot-out on the UCLA campus involving Ron Karenga's US Organization, Burnett and several other students of color helped push the university to start an ethnographic studies program.[5] Elyseo J. Taylor, who was the only Black instructor at the UCLA Film School in the early 1970s, was an influential instructor in that program.[10]

UCLA Us Organization shoot out was actually not a "shoot out" since there was no gun fire exchange. Two armed Us Organization members ambushed and killed two unarmed leading Black Panther Party members; Alprentice "Bunchy" Carter and John Huggins. This scenario is well documented in Ward Churchill's Agents of Repression (1988).

Teshome Gabriel, a film scholar and historian, began teaching at UCLA in 1974 and became both a colleague and mentor to many filmmakers associated with the movement.[11]

Identification of movement[edit]

Film scholar Clyde Taylor coined the term "L.A. Rebellion" to describe the filmmakers.[12]

In the spring of 1997, Doc Films, a student-run film society based at the University of Chicago, hosted one of the first retrospectives of L.A. Rebellion films. Jacqueline Stewart, an associate professor at the university, helped coordinate the program. This series included works by Charles Burnett, Haile Gerima and Julie Dash.[13]

In Fall 2011, UCLA Film and Television Archive programmed a major retrospective of these films entitled, "L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema." The series was funded by the Getty Foundation as a part of Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980.[2][5] Preceding the program, the UCLA curatorial team conducted oral histories, identifying nearly fifty filmmakers, many of whom had remained invisible for decades. Papers and films by the filmmakers were collected and numerous films were preserved before screening. A catalog was also published, "L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema (Los Angeles, 2011), which accompanied the touring program through more than fifteen cities in North America and Europe.

List of important figures of the L.A. Rebellion movement[edit]


Many of the filmmakers listed below, while primarily known as writer/directors, worked in multiple capacities on various film productions through their early careers.


The following actors appeared in various L.A. Rebellion films and are to some degree associated with the movement:


The following have supported the work of L.A. Rebellion filmmakers as mentors and/or scholars:

  • Clyde Taylor, film critic, coined the phrase "L.A. Rebellion" to describe this movement
  • Elyseo J. Taylor, filmmaker and instructor at UCLA[10]
  • Vantile Whitfield, an early African-American UCLA Film School graduate and founder of the Performing Arts Society of Los Angeles (PASLA)[8]
  • Teshome Gabriel, film scholar and Professor at UCLA[11]
  • Ntongela Masilela, film scholar
  • Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, film scholar and Associate Professor at Northwestern University
  • Allyson Nadia Field, Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies and African American Studies at UCLA
  • Jan-Christopher Horak, Director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive

List of notable L.A. Rebellion films[edit]

The following is a chronological list of short and feature-length films from the L.A. Rebellion filmmakers that are generally considered to be seminal or notable.

Influence and legacy[edit]

A documentary, Spirits of Rebellion: Black Cinema at UCLA, features interviews with many filmmakers associated with the movement. Directed by Zeinabu irene Davis, it was screened as a work-in-progress on Saturday, October 8, 2011 as part of "L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema."[2][19]

L.A. Rebellion films that have been inducted onto the National Film Registry: Killer of Sheep (1990), Daughters of the Dust (2004), Bless Their Little Hearts (2013) and To Sleep with Anger (2017).

The L.A. Rebellion has continued to influence on aspects of contemporary Black music across the country. In 2009, popular Brooklyn-born rapper and activist Yasiin Bey, released an album titled, The Ecstatic. The Ecstatic's album cover photo is a still image taken directly from a shot in Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep but overlain with a purple filter. Mos Def had named Killer of Sheep as one of his favorite films in a Pitchfork interview.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Movie movements that defined cinema: L.A. Rebellion|Movies|Empire
  2. ^ a b c "L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema". Los Angeles, California: UCLA School of Theater, Film & Television. Retrieved 2011-10-02. Beginning in the late 1960s, a number of promising African and African-American students entered the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, recruited under a concerted initiative to be more responsive to various communities of color. From that first class through the late 1980s, and continuing well beyond their college days, these filmmakers came to represent the first sustained undertaking to forge an alternative black cinema practice in the United States. Along the way, they created fascinating, provocative and visionary films that have earned an impressive array of awards and accolades at festivals around the world, in addition to blazing new paths into the commercial market.
  3. ^ a b Hornaday, Ann (2007-06-03). "From L.A. Hotbed, Black Filmmakers' Creativity Flowered". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-10-02. In 1967, after studying electrical engineering at Los Angeles Community College, Burnett arrived at UCLA to study film. For the next 10 years, UCLA students would develop a fecund, cosmopolitan and politically engaged movement that came to be unofficially known as the Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers.
  4. ^ "The L.A. Rebellion". Film Reference. Retrieved 2011-10-02. Armed with a knowledge of "traditional" film history now infused with an introduction to the Third Cinema movement and exposure to revolutionary films from Latin America and Africa, these filmmakers took advantage of their "outsider" positioning, reinvigorating the push for a politically driven cinema...
  5. ^ a b c Patterson, John (2011-10-06). "L.A. Rebellion:Creating a New Black Cinema". L.A. Weekly. Los Angeles, California. Retrieved 2011-10-10. This collection of the highlights of the legendary but only partially understood African-American film explosion at UCLA in the '70s and early '80s is a priceless work of excavation and restoration, and as an L.A.-specific filmic event it's unlikely to be surpassed in the near future.
  6. ^ Johnson, John H., ed. (October 16, 1952). "Football Player To Pioneer In Hollywood Films". Jet. Chicago, Illinois: Johnson Publishing Company, Inc. 2 (25): 54.
  7. ^ Blaine, John; Baker, Decia, eds. (1973). "Neighborhood Arts Centers". Community Arts of Los Angeles (Report). Los Angeles Community Art Alliance. p. 32. hdl:10139/2728. OCLC 912321031.
  8. ^ a b Shinhoster Lamb, Yvonne (2005-01-23). "Arts Administrator, Playwright Vantile Whitfield Dies". Washington Post. Washington, DC. Archived from the original on 2019-04-28. Retrieved 2011-11-13. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in theater and design from Howard University in 1957 and a master's degree in film production from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1967. In the years between colleges, he started community theaters.
  9. ^ Norton, Chris. "Black Independent Cinema and the Influence of Neo-Realism". Images: A Journal of Film and Popular Culture. Retrieved 2011-10-02. Most notable of these filmmakers were Charles Burnett, Billy Woodberry, Haile Gerima and Julie Dash. Drawing on their own experiences in the black community and varied political and social discourses of the time including black nationalism, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women's Movement, anti-war rhetoric and Marxist doctrine, these filmmakers sought an aesthetic and mode of representation and narration that spoke to the realities of black existence and the state of the black family under a hegemonic rule of white racism and subordination.
  10. ^ a b "Black Art, Black Artists (1971); Festival of Mask (1982); Varnette's World: A Study of a Young Artist (1979); Trumpetistically, Clora Bryant (1989)". UCLA Film & Television Archive. Retrieved 2011-10-02. As the only Black faculty member in UCLA's film school, Elyseo Taylor was an influential teacher and advocate for students of color.
  11. ^ a b "Cinema & Media Studies professor was an internationally recognized expert on Third World Cinema". Los Angeles, California: UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. 2010-06-10. Archived from the original on 2010-07-08. Retrieved 2011-10-03. As a faculty member and student at TFT in the 1970s and early 1980s, Gabriel was both a colleague of and a mentor to the African-American and African student filmmakers whose work came to define the Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers, also known as the "L.A. Rebellion." The group included such soon-to-be-celebrated artists as Charles Burnett, Larry Clark, Julie Dash, Haile Gerima, Ben Caldwell, Billy Woodberry, Alile Sharon Larkin, Jacqueline Frazier, Jamaa Fanaka and Barbara McCullough. The UCLA Film & Television Archive is currently preparing a major film exhibition scheduled for 2011 which will explore this key artistic movement.
  12. ^ "What's in a Name? L.A. Rebellion | UCLA Film & Television Archive". www.cinema.ucla.edu. Retrieved 2018-09-06.
  13. ^ "Doc Films". Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago.
  14. ^ Several Friends (1969) - IMDb
  15. ^ Several Friends|UCLA Film & Television Archive
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Notebook Sountrack Mix #11: L.A. Rebellion —— The Unity, Resistance & Love Mixtape on MUBI
  17. ^ American Neorealism Now|Current|The Criterion Collection
  18. ^ The Glass Shield, retrieved 2018-09-06
  19. ^ "Preview: "Spirits of Rebellion" - A Documentary Film About The L.A. Rebellion Film Movement". Indiewire. Archived from the original on 2013-01-26. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
  20. ^ Mos Def Returns With The Ecstatic|Pitchfork

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Field, Allyson Nadia; Horak, Jan-Christopher; Stewart, Jacqueline Najuma, eds. (2015). L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema. Oakland, California: University of California Press.