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Aero Theatre | Discussion with filmmaker Leslie Harris, scholar Dr. Courtney Baker, and Perpetratin’ Realism co-curator Dr. Felice Blake.
New 4K Digital Restoration!
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Home / Now Showing / JUST ANOTHER GIRL ON THE I.R.T.
When Leslie Harris’ Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. world premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1992, it won the Special Jury Prize for Outstanding Achievement in a First Feature, and marked the arrival of an extraordinary, stand-out directorial voice. Many of the films dubbed part of the “New Black Realism” cinematic movement of the 1990s foregrounded gritty depictions of Black masculinity, anti-Black racism, and violence. But too many of these films also relegated Black women’s experiences to the background. Leslie Harris was not having it.
“Some people hear about my neighborhood and assume some real fucked-up things, but I’m gonna to tell you the real deal.” In Just Another Girl on the I.R.T., Harris refigures “the real” by taking head-on the stereotypes of the “welfare queen” and “hoodrat” – images that still permeate throughout media today, and function to justify controlling and surveilling Black girls and their access to healthcare and reproductive autonomy. Released one year after the Crown Heights “riots,” Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. captures a pre-gentrified Brooklyn and also creates whole new possibilities for the experiences, stories, and lives of Black women on screen. The alchemy of Harris’ genre-defying vision and Ariyan Johnson’s riveting performance as Chantel turns Black respectability inside out and crystallizes something rarely seen on screen: Black girls producing their own freedom and autonomy to be just who they choose.
Miramax acquired Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. off its hot, award-winning debut, and Harris became the first Black woman to win a Special Jury Prize at Sundance. Harris was set to become Hollywood’s newest indie darling “it” director. Afterall, Miramax orchestrated the commercial success of other indie favorites at Sundance, launching the careers of Harris’s white, male counterparts: Steven Soderbergh (with Sex, Lies, and Videotape in 1989), Quentin Tarantino (with Reservoir Dogs in 1992), and Kevin Smith (Clerks in 1994).
Nearly 30 years after its release, Just Another Girl was digitally restored in collaboration between UCLA Film & Television Archive, the Academy Archive, and Sundance – after years of only a single 35mm print of the film available for screenings. Let’s discuss.
Join us for this special screening of Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. and a discussion with filmmaker Leslie Harris and scholar Dr. Courtney Baker, moderated by Perpetratin’ Realism co-curator Dr. Felice Blake.
In the early 1990s, a new wave of Black filmmakers drew audiences from around the world with their bold exploration of Black rage and desire. These films – dubbed by scholar / critic Manthia Diawara “new Black realism” – featured dynamic portrayals of Black people grappling with the hierarchies of power and the living legacies of white racism, gun violence, and illicit economies. From NEW JACK CITY to BOYZ N THE HOOD, these films were popular and profitable – attracting Black audiences to movie theatres…and sparking panic amongst white neighborhoods and business owners. These same Black audiences became the target of police surveillance and repression.
Despite their mixed critical reception, these films reimagined genre filmmaking (from coming-of-age dramas to heist thrillers and buddy comedies) by exposing the failed promises of racial progress and national inclusion. These stories of Black life, love, and friendship navigated complex and often contradictory representations of Black people – in news media, reality television, sitcoms, music, and fashion. This media landscape collapsed the distance between the image and the real – but Black filmmakers forced open and played in that space.
Perpetratin’ Realism reflects on Black visual culture and actual Black lives from this very same space.
– Dr. Felice Blake, Dr. Keith Harris, Dr. Roya Rastegar
This program was made possible by a generous grant from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association
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