Location: Bartos Screening Room
Dir. Bill Gunn. 1980. 165 mins. Digital projection. With Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, Sam Waymon, Jim Wright, Walter Cotton. This entirely African American conceived and produced ensemble drama is the result of a collaboration of a pair of pioneering Black artists: writer Ishmael Reed and filmmaker Bill Gunn, who wrote and directed the underground classic Ganja & Hess and wrote the screenplay for Hal Ashby’s The Landlord. This “meta soap opera,” as Reed called it, about the struggles of a working class African American couple in New York City, was originally intended to air on public television in 1980, but it went unseen for many years. This restoration, based on the original tapes, makes the full-length version available for the first time in decades.
“This is a work that looks as if it were evolving even as portions of it were completed. That’s entirely appropriate. For all its rough edges, Personal Problems retains a vitality and an integrity that practically bounds off the screen.”—Glenn Kenny, The New York Times
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