L.A. Rebellion

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 quality Black Cinema that provides an alternative to classical Hollywood cinema.[1][2][3][4][5]

L.A. Rebellion
Years active1967–89
CountryUnited States
Major figuresCharles Burnett, Larry Clark, Julie Dash, Jamaa Fanaka, Haile Gerima, Billy Woodberry
InfluencesAfrican cinema, Cuban cinema, Cinema Novo, European art cinema, French New Wave, Italian neorealism, Latin American cinema


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 and received a master's degree at UCLA in 1967.[7] 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][8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

Identification of movement

Film scholar Clyde Taylor coined the term "L.A. Rebellion" to describe the filmmakers.[11][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


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[9]
  • Vantile Whitfield, an early African-American UCLA Film School graduate and founder of the Performing Arts Society of Los Angeles (PASLA)[7]
  • Teshome Gabriel, film scholar and Professor at UCLA[10]
  • 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

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.


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][15]

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

See also


  1. ^ 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. The group of Black filmmakers that have come to be known as the L.A. Rebellion created a watershed body of work that strives to perform the revolutionary act of humanizing Black people on screen.
  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. ^ a b Shinhoster Lamb, Yvonne (2005-01-23). "Arts Administrator, Playwright Vantile Whitfield Dies". Washington Post. Washington, DC. 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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. 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.
  11. ^ "What's in a Name? L.A. Rebellion | UCLA Film & Television Archive". www.cinema.ucla.edu. Retrieved 2018-09-06.
  12. ^ "The UCLA Rebellion". Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2011-10-29. This is a term coined by film scholar Clyde Taylor when referring to a group of African American and other minority students who attended film school at the University of California, Los Angeles during the 1970s and initiated a black independent filmmaking movement.
  13. ^ "Doc Films". Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago.
  14. ^ The Glass Shield, retrieved 2018-09-06
  15. ^ "Preview: "Spirits of Rebellion" - A Documentary Film About The L.A. Rebellion Film Movement". Indiewire. Retrieved 2011-10-02.

External links

Further reading

  • 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.
Alile Sharon Larkin

Alile Sharon Larkin (born May 6, 1953, in Chicago, Illinois) is an American film producer, writer and director. She is associated with the L.A. Rebellion (also known as the Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers), which is said to have "collectively imagined and created a Black cinema against the conventions of Hollywood and Blaxploitation film." Larkin is considered to be part of the second wave (or generation) of these revolutionary black filmmakers, along with Julie Dash and Bill Woodbury. Larkin also co-founded the Black Filmmakers Collective.

Barbara McCullough

Barbara McCullough (born 1945) is a director, production manager and visual effects artist whose directorial works are associated with the Los Angeles School of Black independent filmmaking. She is best known for Water Ritual #1: An Urban Rite of Purification (1979), Shopping Bag Spirits and Freeway Fetishes: Reflections on Ritual Space (1980), Fragments (1980), and World Saxophone Quartet (1980).

Barbara O. Jones

Barbara O. Jones, also known as Barbarao, Barbara-O, and Barbara O., is an American actor from Ohio best known for her work in the films of the L.A. Rebellion movement of 1970s black filmmakers, starring in films by Haile Gerima and Julie Dash. She also appeared on television alongside Muhammad Ali in Freedom Road and had smaller roles in other films including Demon Seed and on television.

Ben Caldwell (filmmaker)

Ben Caldwell (1945) is a Los Angeles-based arts educator and independent filmmaker.

Billy Woodberry

Billy Woodberry is one of the leading directors of the L.A. Rebellion (also known as the Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers). He is best known for directing the 1984 feature film, Bless Their Little Hearts (1984), which was honored at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Bush Mama

Bush Mama is an American film made by Ethiopian-American director Haile Gerima, part of the L.A. Rebellion movement of political and experimental black cinema in the 1970s. It was released in 1979 though made earlier, in 1975.

Carroll Parrott Blue

Carroll Parrott Blue is an African-American filmmaker, director and author noted for her documentary film and interactive multimedia works, particularly for her project "The Dawn at My Back: Memoir of a Black Texas Upbringing". She lives and works in Houston, Texas.

Charles Burnett (director)

Charles Burnett (; born April 13, 1944) is an American film director, film producer, writer, editor, actor, photographer, and cinematographer. His most popular films include Killer of Sheep (1978), My Brother's Wedding (1983), To Sleep with Anger (1990), The Glass Shield (1994), and Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation (2007). He has been involved in other types of motion pictures including shorts, documentaries, and a TV series.

Called "one of America's very best filmmakers" by the Chicago Tribune and "the nation's least-known great filmmaker and most gifted black director" by The New York Times, Burnett has had a long, diverse career.

Clyde Taylor

Clyde Taylor is an African-American writer and film scholar, who is an emeritus professor at New York University, and a contributor to journals such as Black Film Review and Jump Cut. He coined the term 'L.A. Rebellion' for the Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers movement. He wrote the documentary film, Midnight Ramble, and is the author of The Mask of Art: Breaking the Aesthetic Contract – Film and Literature (Indiana University Press, 1998).

French New Wave

New Wave (French: La Nouvelle Vague) is a French film movement which emerged in the 1950s and 1960s. It is a form of European art cinema, and is often referred to as one of the most influential movements in the history of cinema. New Wave filmmakers were linked by their self-conscious rejection of the traditional film conventions then dominating France, and by a spirit of iconoclasm. Common features of the New Wave included radical experimentation with editing, visual style, and narrative, as well as engagement with the social and political upheavals of the era.The term was first used by a group of French film critics and cinephiles associated with the magazine Cahiers du cinéma in the late 1950s and 1960s, who rejected the Tradition de qualité ("Tradition of Quality") of mainstream French cinema, which "emphasized craft over innovation, privileged established directors over new directors, and preferred the great works of the past to experimentation." This was apparent in a manifesto-like essay written by François Truffaut in 1954, Une certaine tendance du cinéma français, where he denounced the adaptation of safe literary works into unimaginative films.Using portable equipment and requiring little or no set up time, the New Wave way of filmmaking presented a documentary style. The films exhibited direct sounds on film stock that required less light. Filming techniques included fragmented, discontinuous editing, and long takes. The combination of objective realism, subjective realism, and authorial commentary created a narrative ambiguity in the sense that questions that arise in a film are not answered in the end.

Haile Gerima

Haile Gerima (born March 4, 1946) is an Ethiopian filmmaker who lives and works in the United States. He is a leading member of the L.A. Rebellion film movement, also known as the Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers. His films have received wide international acclaim. Since 1975, Haile has been an influential film professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He is best known for Sankofa (1993), which won numerous international awards.

Jacqueline Stewart

Jacqueline Najuma Stewart (born 1970) is a University of Chicago professor of cinema studies and director of the nonprofit arts organization, Black Cinema House. She has published on the history of African Americans in the production of film, including, Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity (2005), co-authored, L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema (2015), and co-curated, Pioneers of African-American Cinema (2016).

Jamaa Fanaka

Jamaa Fanaka (born Walter Gordon; September 6, 1942 – April 1, 2012) was an American filmmaker. He is best known for his 1979 film, Penitentiary, and is one of the leading directors of the L.A. Rebellion film movement. Fanaka died on April 1, 2012.

Julie Dash

Julie Ethel Dash (born October 22, 1952) is an American film director, writer and producer . Dash received her MFA in 1985 at the UCLA Film School and is one of the graduates and filmmakers born out of a time known as the L.A. Rebellion. After she had written and directed several shorts, her 1991 feature Daughters of the Dust became the first full-length film directed by an African-American woman to obtain general theatrical release in the United States.Daughters of the Dust is a fictionalized telling of her father's Gullah family who lived off the coast of the Southeastern United States. The film features black women's stories, striking visuals shot on location and a non-linear narrative. It's included in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for its cultural, historical and aesthetic significance." Dash has written two books on Daughters of the Dust—a "making of" history co-written with Toni Cade Bambara and bell hooks, and a sequel, set 20 years after the film's story.

"Daughters of the Dust" was named one of the most significant films of the last 30 years, by IndieWire.Dash has worked in television since the late 1990s. Her television movies include Funny Valentines (1999), Incognito (1999), Love Song (2000), and The Rosa Parks Story (2002), starring Angela Bassett. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center commissioned Dash to direct Brothers of the Borderland in 2004, as an immersive film exhibit narrated by Oprah Winfrey following the path of women gaining freedom on the Underground Railroad. In 2017, Dash directed episodes of Queen Sugar on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

At the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, it was announced Dash's next project will be a biopic of civil rights icon Angela Davis, to be produced by Lionsgate.

Larry Clark (filmmaker)

Larry Clark (born January 19, 1948) is one of the leading directors of the L.A. Rebellion (also known as the Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers). He directed the feature films Passing Through (1977) and Cutting Horse (2002). He is also a film professor in the Cinema Department at San Francisco State University.

Opera film

An opera film is a recording of an opera on film.

S. Torriano Berry

Steven Torriano Berry is an American film producer, writer and director. He directed Noh Matta Wat!, the first Belizean dramatic television series, which first aired on November 28, 2005.

William Crain (filmmaker)

William Crain (born June 20, 1949) is an American film and television director. He was one of the first black filmmakers from a major film school to achieve commercial success.

Crain was born in Columbus, Ohio. A graduate of UCLA's film school, Crain, unlike many of the so-called "L.A. Rebellion" filmmakers who made films of a deeply personal or political nature, made work consisting almost entirely of mainstream and genre driven works. Throughout the 1970s he directed TV shows and movies.

In 1972, he directed Blacula. While largely ignored by critics, the film has become somewhat of a cult favorite and made a name for actor William Marshall who played the title character. Crain did other films, then returned to TV show installments which he continues to do today.

Many sources confuse him with another Bill/William Crain who produced educational short films in the 1970s, and directed Mirage (1990) and Midnight Fear (1991).

Zeinabu irene Davis

Zeinabu irene Davis is an African-American filmmaker and professor of the Department of Communication at the University of California, San Diego. Her works in film include narrative, documentary and experimental film.

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