On February 22, the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center hosted a film screening of Amazing Grace in partnership with the Black Film Center and Archive (BFCA). According to BFCA's Interim Director Akin Adeṣọkan, Amazing Grace marries Neal-Marshall's theme of the Black Church with the BFCA's mission of film preservation.
This concert film follows Aretha Franklin during the 1972 two-night recording session of her famous gospel album of the same name. Unfortunately, due to technical and legal issues, the film did not premiere until 2018 before being released worldwide in 2019 to critical acclaim.
"It was incredible to see," Gloria Howell, the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center director, said. "Witnessing the gift that is Aretha Franklin during that time, in her element, and I would like to thank the Black Film Center and Archive for their incredible partnership."
The BFCA was founded in 1981 by Phyllis Klotman, a film theorist, archivist, professor, and dean for women's affairs at Indiana University Bloomington, who recognized that films by Black filmmakers were not being preserved or distributed on the festival circuit compared to films by white filmmakers.
According to the BFCA's website, "After years of studying Black authorship in literature, Professor Klotman sought the products of Black creativity in film. Her vision was to create an archive for preserving the independent Black films she had begun to collect and a center to share these resources with the community."
The BFCA is located in the Wells Library and contains a variety of historical films, technology, and memorabilia in their collection, such as the prop handcuffs from the movie The Flying Ace. Cited as one of the inspirations for the Tuskegee Airmen, The Flying Ace is the only surviving film made by Norman Studios—a silent film production company that produced films for Black audiences with an all-Black cast. The airmen were the first African American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces. To view a complete list of their collections, click here.
For more information on the BFCA, please visit their website. In addition, the film Amazing Grace is now streaming for free on Hulu.