Trailblazing artist and polymath Camille Billops and her partner in life and work, James Hatch, left behind rich legacies as archivists of Black cultural life and as courageous independent filmmakers who chronicled the ups and downs of their own lives and family histories, and found in them the temperature of their times. The films they made together, while grounded in documentary, use a range of techniques including reenactments, dramatization, and satire to illuminate the ways in which race, gender, and class shape everyday life, and despite their heavy subject matter, exude compassion, humour and humanity.
Billops died in 2019 at the age of 85. In addition to filmmaking, she was an important sculptor, ceramicist, printmaker, archivist and writer. Some of her work as a photographer and sculptor is currently on display in an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Hatch, her husband, was a playwright, screenwriter, professor, and archivist in addition to documentary filmmaker. He died in 2020 at the age of 91.
The second programme in our short selection of independent films by Camille Bishops and James Hatch includes what is probably their masterpiece, Finding Christa, a deeply personal film about Camille’s relationship with the daughter she gave up for adoption as a child.
TAKE YOUR BAGS (1998, 11 min)
Camille Billops explores the legacy of slavery and the theft of cultural memory as she gently runs a young boy through his history lessons, with pointed asides on Picasso and Matisse.
New 2k restoration
An efficient gloss on the violence of imperial expropriation, Take Your Bags is a meditation on the spiritual, intellectual, and artistic pillage—the stealing of ’dreams and memories’—that accompanied the theft of people.” Yasmina Price
FINDING CHRISTA (1991, 55 min)
Plumbing the depths of her vulnerability from the height of her artistic powers, Billops creates an autobiographical record of her reunion with the daughter she gave up for adoption twenty years before. Unapologetic and deeply complex, Finding Christa made Billops the first Black woman awarded Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize and is widely considered her masterpiece.
Terrifically artful… a big, joyous consideration of some of the contradictions that have shaped Camille, Christa and those who are important to them. Finding Christa is a densely packed amalgam of feminism, individualism, interracial relations, art and show business. Camille and Christa act out their feelings in staged sketches, including one in which Camille yodels… The movie has the manner of an immensely convivial family reunion at which everyone talks, some people perform and others offer not always polite criticism… It’s a rich and haunting film.” Vincent Canby, New York Times
Camille Billops & James Hatch
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Dear Jackie (Free Screening)
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James Baldwin Abroad: Istanbul - Paris - London
These three short docs, from 1968 - 1973, offer sharp, piercing glimpses of Baldwin in private and public, sometimes in repose and relaxed but more often holding forth, embroiled in the thorny discourse of racial politics, identity and self expression.
"This Time It's Personal" Films by Camille Billops & James Hatch (Programme 1)
Trailblazing artist and polymath Camille Billops and her partner James Hatch were courageous independent filmmakers who chronicled the ups and downs of their personal lives and family histories, and found in them the temperature of their times.
Our Dance of Revolution
Award-winning documentary on the history of Black queer activism in Toronto, on communities that have faced every adversity from invisibility to police brutality.
The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings
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Under the Cherry Moon (35mm)
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