The movies from the New Negress Film Society 

IU Cinema will highlight Black female voices in film

click to enlarge Seventh Grade
  • Seventh Grade

IU Cinema is devoting the next two weeks to the work of female filmmakers. This Friday at 6:30 p.m., the theater will show seven short films from the New Negress Film Society, which formed two years ago “out of a need to create community in an industry where Black female voices and stories are often suppressed.”

Before the screening, associate professor Terri Francis will interview two of the group’s filmmakers — Ja’Tovia Gary and Stefani Saintonge, who are coming all the way from New York City. Until this appearance, we will let their work speak for them. Here are reviews of the short films they’ll be sharing.

An Ecstatic Experience

An exhilarating free fall through found footage of a ’50s-era Black church service, a slave narrative performed by ’60s starlet Ruby Dee and incidents during the recent Baltimore riots. Director Ja’Tovia Gary combines this footage with scratchy animation that makes the film look like it’s burning before your eyes. An Ecstatic Experience is an incendiary piece of work about catharsis in the midst of cruelty and chaos. Like the rest of the films in this screening, it’s a short yet unforgettable trip through Black history and its repeating cycles of repression and rebellion.
click to enlarge Cakes Da Killa: NO HOMO
  • Cakes Da Killa: NO HOMO

Cakes Da Killa: NO HOMO

Although he raps about “sex and politics — the juice of life,” Cakes Da Killa doesn’t have an agenda. He considers his music personal rather than political. Director Ja’Tovia Gary follows suit, focusing on the life behind his lyrics. Obviously a friend of Cakes, Gary gently pries into his past, getting him to open up about coming out of the closet in third grade, dealing with bullies in high school and healing himself through humor and art. The film is an intimate, insightful documentary portrait of an edgy, unapologetic artist — much like Gary and her fellow filmmakers in the New Negress Film Society.

La tierra de los adioses 


The film’s title translates to “the land of goodbyes” — a fitting name for a small town in Oaxaca, Mexico where 80 percent of the men have migrated to America. We hear their harrowing tales of crossing the border and see the struggles of the mothers, sisters, wives and daughters they left behind. Director Stefani Saintonge doesn’t push too hard for sentimentality. It unfolds as softly as Sinuhé Padilla-Isunza strums his guitar over the documentary footage. Like its interview subjects, this film is subdued yet strong. 

Seventh Grade


An endearing coming-of-age story, Seventh Grade taps into the tension between adolescent innocence and sexual awakening. The film follows Patrice, a late bloomer who plays with Barbie dolls while her friends fill their cell phones with flirtatious messages. Writer-director Stefani Saintonge creates a timeless atmosphere, underscoring Patrice’s sexual curiosity with romantic ’60s doo-wop music amid the modern-day setting. Seventh Grade is a funny and poignant portrayal of puberty and growing pains. This film could easily grow into a feature-length look at the romantic melodrama of middle school, which all viewers can relate to, regardless of their race.

When and where:

Friday, Sept. 4

Ja’Tovia Gary and Stefani Saintonge, 3 p.m. 
The New Negress Film Society Short Film Program, 6:30 p.m. 
Both events are free but ticketed. 
IU Cinema, 1213 E. 7th St., Bloomington 

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