EXCLUSIVE: Filmmakers Camille Billops and James Hatch, who explored African American cultural life in a series of highly acclaimed documentaries, will receive the first worldwide theatrical retrospective of their work together.

Third World Newsreel announced today it will launch the retrospective on February 3 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, featuring a 4K restoration of the couple’s Suzanne, Suzanne, originally released in 1982, and 2K digitizations of their five succeeding films, culminating with their last film together, 2002’s A String of Pearls [scroll down to see a trailer of the retrospective].

“Centering Black cultural life and storytelling on screen,” a release from Third World Newsreel noted, “these autobiographical films innovate documentary form and artfully weave together personal histories and social issues.”

Suzanne, Suzanne was named to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2016. The documentary “focuses on Billops’ niece unpacking her past abuse and how it reverberates throughout her family. Through confronting these difficult emotions, the film provides a catharsis for the participants. Author and activist bell hooks said that the film ‘remains one of the most powerful documentaries of domestic life.’”

Finding Christa from 1991, finds “Billops facing her own reckoning,” Third World Newsreel observed. “Billops documents her reunion with her daughter whom she gave up for adoption, along with the complex circumstances and feelings that both led to that decision, and also resulted from it.”

In a statement, Third World Newsreel executive director J.T. Takagi said, “The work of Camille Billops and James Hatch defiantly challenges documentary norms and is a revelatory experience of their lives, Black families and all families – while forcing viewers to rethink their assumptions of motherhood, older sexuality, domestic violence, race and gender roles. This is the first time that their work is being released in a theatrical retrospective – and we hope that new audiences will be entranced by their work – and through this, led to the work of other BIPOC documentary filmmakers as well.”

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.

“Outrageous and committed, Camille Billops and James Hatch challenged the white art establishment, promoted other Black and POC artists, and produced years of interviews in video and books to highlight BIPOC creatives,” the released stated. “As Camille put it, ‘Who else will do it?’”

Billops and Hatch made half a dozen films together. These are the documentaries that make up the retrospective:

Suzanne, Suzanne (1982) – 4K Restoration
Older Women and Love (1987) – 2K Digitization 

Finding Christa (1991) – 2K Digitization
The KKK Boutique ain’t Just Rednecks (1994) – 2K Digitization 

Take Your Bags (1998) – 2K Digitization
A String of Pearls (2002) – 2K Digitization


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