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Stanley Nelson retrospective
African American filmmaker and 2002 MacArthur genius fellow Stanley Nelson has explored the history of black Americans for decades. Freedom Riders, his feature about 1960s activists fighting for civil rights in the South, and Look for Me in the Whirlwind, about Jamaican revolutionary Marcus Garvey, examine major themes we’ve all read about in history books. Nelson doesn’t stop there. His films also reach into lesser-known corners of experience that have directly or indirectly impacted black Americans. In A Place of Our Own, he focuses on an affluent African American living in Martha’s Vineyard. Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People’s Temple puts a microscope to the mass suicide of a multiracial congregation.
In many ways, what makes Nelson interesting is he’s mostly stayed away from biopics. He’s bypassed the stories of “great men,” as he put it in a 2011 New York Times interview, as well as broad historical issues. Instead, he’s favored tales about everyday people who are sometimes put in extraordinary situations—stories about the black press, methadone, businesswomen and domestic workers. That said, he isn’t entirely immune to pop culture. In the same Times interview he hints at an upcoming documentary on James Brown.
Stanley Nelson’s movies play at various times throughout the festival. Go to bigskyfestival.org for showtimes.