One of the earliest collections that arrived at CFA’s door was from William Cottle and Mike Gray of The Film Group. The work of Don Klugman (Nightsong), JoAnn Elam (Everyday People) and DeWitt Beall (Lord Thing) followed closely behind. The appointed stewardship of these collections invigorated our own understanding of CFA’s mission to preserve, highlight, and amplify the voices and histories of traditionally marginalized groups, which are reflected in these films and many others that have followed since. We quickly came to understand that the subjects of these works can best represent themselves – that their voices need to be heard whenever possible. CFA remains committed to ensuring the continued accessibility of this vital archive, which sheds tremendous light on the recent protests against police brutality.
The Film Group’s donation of their collection to CFA helped us to uncover important historical documents that trace movements of social change during another turbulent era. From thereon, we have worked hard to ensure their preservation. In 2005 and 2006, CFA photochemically preserved seven films contained in the Urban Crisis and the New Militants Series from the Film Group Collection. This was accomplished through the support of the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF). In 2006, CFA produced “To Bear Witness: The Question of Violence” – one of our earliest programs designed to include the voices of those who are represented in the films in this collection. The program was presented at the ICE Theater in Chicago’s south side Chatham neighborhood, followed the next evening by a presentation at the now-defunct LaSalle Bank Cinema on Chicago’s north side.
“To Bear Witness” began with the screening of three newly preserved films from the Urban Crisis series: Cicero March (1966), Black Moderates and Black Militants (1969), and The People’s Right To Know: The Police vs. Reporters (1968). It was followed by a discussion moderated by Tracye Matthews, with a panel that included photojournalist Paul Sequeira, community activist and leader of the 1966 Cicero March for fair housing Robert Lucas, and Black Panther Bobby Lee. You will find the 2006 discussion in full at the top of this page.
CFA is proud that the entire Film Group Collection has since been photochemically preserved. This includes feature films American Revolution II (1969; in partnership with the NFPF and the Rebuild Foundation) and The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971; in partnership with the NFPF and the UCLA Film and Television Department). You can watch our preservation of AR2 here.
It is important to remember that the moment we are in is not a moment. Racial injustice and the subjugation of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement has persisted as an ugly stain on our national conscience for far too long. American Revolution II and The Murder of Fred Hampton are testaments to the ongoing struggle, and to the voices and minds that have stood up and demanded deep and true change.
We will work hard to preserve these essential films, and ensure their continued accessibility to the general public via our website, social media platforms, and through future public programming. Like many other organizations across the nation, we are taking this time to reflect and evaluate the ways in which we can be of better service to our community. We recognize the fact that we can and should do more. If you have any ideas or simply want to connect and share your thoughts and feelings about these films, we urge you to get in touch with us via social media or send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, please consider getting involved or making a donation to Chicago Community Bond Fund, Black Lives Matter Chicago, Assata’s Daughters, Brave Space Alliance, BYP100, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Safer Foundation, and other organizations that uplift Black voices & seek justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Laquan McDonald, Rekia Boyd, and other victims of police brutality.