Under the Influence of Ishmael Reed

Under the Influence of Ishmael Reed

(Co-presented with Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986

at the Film Society at Lincoln Center, February 6th-20th)

The Only Language She Knows


Carla Blank, 1992, 20 min.


Literary giant Ishmael Reed will grace the Maysles Cinema Thursday evening February 5th at 7:30pm to present the short film The Only Language She Knows, his collaboration with writer/poet/actor Genny Lim. The Only Language She Knows was directed by Carla Blank, who will also be on hand, and it was photographed by the late Allen Willis, who, for many years worked at PBS station KQED TV in San Francisco. The film’s music is composed by Francis Wong. Mr. Reed also will read from his intro to the forthcoming anthology that he edited about Black Hollywood, followed by a Q&A with Reed and Blank. Mr. Reed is also in town to present 1980's Black independent film classic Personal Problems, which he penned, and was directed by the late Bill Gunn (of Ganja and Hess which Spike Lee's upcoming Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is based on). Personal Problems will be screened, with a cast reunion, as part of "Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968-1986" at the Film Society at Lincoln Center (February 6th-20th) on February 7th at 8:00pm ( with Q&A with Ishmael Reed, Dr. Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, and Sam Waymon) and Tuesday, February 10th at 1:00pm at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.


Q&A with writer Ishmael Reed and director Carla Blank to following screening and reading.



Ishmael Reed is the winner of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship (genius award), the renowned L.A. Times Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Award. He has been nominated for a Pulitzer and finalist for two National Book Awards and is Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley; and founder of the Before Columbus Foundation, which promotes multicultural American writing. He also founded PEN Oakland which issues the Josephine Miles Literary Awards. PEN Oakland has been called “The Blue Collar PEN” by The New York Times. Ishmael Reed is the author of over twenty titles including the acclaimed novel “Mumbo Jumbo,” as well as essays, plays and poetry. Titles include: “The Freelance Pallbearers;” “The Terrible Threes;” “The Last Days Of Louisiana Red;” “Yellow Back Radio Broke Down;” “Reckless Eyeballing;” “Flight To Canada;” “Japanese By Spring,” and “Juice!.”

Carla Blank is a director, dramaturge, writer and editor. Besides directing Genny Lim’s mother/daughter kitchen drama, The Only Language She Knows (1992), her film credits include serving as researcher, archivist and interview subject for The Space in Back of You, a 65’ documentary by Richard Rutkowski that evolved out of their collaboration with Robert Wilson on KOOL- Dancing in my Mind, a live performance portrait inspired by legendary Japanese choreographer Suzushi Hanayagi, long time collaborator and dear friend of Blank and Wilson. It premiered at Lincoln Center’s 2012 Dance on Camera film festival. A film is currently in production documenting the story of “The Domestic Crusaders,” a two act play by Wajahat Ali about a Muslim Pakistani American family that Blank directed between 2003 and 2011, as it traveled from a staged reading in a Newark, California restaurant to the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. She was one of the friends of dancer Sally Gross interviewed in The Pleasure of Stillness (2007) by Albert Maysles and Kristen Nutile.

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