William Greaves: Filmmaking as Mission

William Greaves: Filmmaking as Mission

William Greaves: Filmmaking as Mission

William Greaves: Filmmaking as Mission


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William Greaves is one of the most significant and compelling American filmmakers of the past century. Best known for his experimental film about its own making, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One, Greaves was an influential independent documentary filmmaker who produced, directed, shot, and edited more than a hundred films on a variety of social issues and on key African American figures ranging from Muhammad Ali to Ralph Bunche to Ida B. Wells. A multitalented artist, his career also included stints as a songwriter, a member of the Actors Studio, and, during the late 1960s, a producer and cohost of Black Journal, the first national television show focused on African American culture and politics.

This volume provides the first comprehensive overview of Greaves’s remarkable career. It brings together a wide range of material, including a mix of incisive essays from critics and scholars, Greaves’s own writings, an extensive meta-interview with Greaves, conversations with his wife and collaborator Louise Archambault Greaves and his son David, and a critical dossier on Symbiopsychotaxiplasm. Together, they illuminate Greaves’s mission to use filmmaking as a tool for transforming the ways African Americans were perceived by others and the ways they saw themselves. This landmark book is an essential resource on Greaves’s work and his influence on independent cinema and African-American culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231199599
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 06/01/2021
Pages: 496
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Scott MacDonald is director of cinema and media studies and professor of art history at Hamilton College. His books include The Garden in the Machine: A Field Guide to Independent Films About Place (2001), Avant-Doc: Intersections of Documentary and Avant-Garde Cinema (2015), and The Sublimity of Document: Cinema as Diorama (2019).

Jacqueline Najuma Stewart is professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies and director of Arts + Public Life at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity (2005) and the coeditor of L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema (2015). She is the host of “Silent Sunday Nights” on Turner Classic Movies.

Table of Contents

Preface. William Greaves: Renaissance Man and Race Man
Note on Style
1. William Greaves, Documentary Filmmaking, and the African-American Experience, by Adam Knee and Charles Musser
2. Meta-interview with William Greaves (an Audiobiography), by Scott MacDonald
3. Interview with Louise Archambault Greaves, by Scott MacDonald
4. Interview with David Greaves, by Scott MacDonald
5. The Efficacy of Acting, by Katherine Kinney
6. POEM/1965, by William Greaves
7. The First World Festival of Negro Arts: An Afro-American View, by William Greaves
8. Views Across the Atlantic: An American Vision of the First World Festival of Negro Arts, by Joseph L. Underwood
9. Sisters Inside Still a Brother: Inside the Negro Middle Class—Black Women Through the Lens of William Greaves, by Jacqueline Najuma Stewart
10. The Documentary as Sociodrama: William Greaves’s In the Company of Men (1969) and The Deep North (1988), by J. J. Murphy
11. Pugilism and Performance: William Greaves, Muhammad Ali, and the Making of The Fight, by Alexander Johnston
12. Black Journal: A Few Notes from the Executive Producer, by William Greaves
13. 100 Madison Avenues Will Be of No Help, by William Greaves
14. Black Journal: A Personal Look Backward, by St. Clair Bourne
15. “By, For and About”: Black Journal and the Rise of Multicultural Documentary in New York City, 1968–1975, by Charles Musser
16. William Greaves, Black Journal, and the Long Roots of Black Internationalism, by Celeste Day Moore
17. Government-Sponsored Film and Latinidad: Voice of La Raza (1971), by Laura Isabel Serna
18. Afterthoughts on the Black American Film Festival, by William Greaves
19. Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice: Personal Production Notes, by Michelle Duster
Dossier on the Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Films
20. Proposal: Theatrical Short Subject, by William Greaves
21. Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One Rediscovered: A Conversation with Dara Meyers-Kingsley, by Scott MacDonald
22. The Country in the City: Central Park as Metaphor in Jonas Mekas’s Walden and William Greaves’s Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One, by Scott MacDonald
23. “Just Another Word for Jazz”: The Signifying Auteur in William Greaves’s Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (Excerpt), by Akiva Gottlieb
24. Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2, by William Greaves
25. Some Concepts and Logistics in Shooting the Two Excerpts of Take 2½, by William Greaves
26. The Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Effect on Filmmaking Dynamics, by William Greaves
27. The Symbio Cinematic Environment: An Aesthetic yet Scientific Theory for the Film, by William Greaves
28. The Daring, Original, and Overlooked: Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One, by Richard Brody
29. Still No Answers, by Amy Taubin
30. “We’re Not Raping Bill”: Race and Gender Politics in Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One and Take 2½, by Joan Hawkins
31. Symbiopsychotaxiplasticity: Some Takes on William Greaves, by Franklin Cason, Jr., and Tsitsi Jaji
32. A Guy Who Could Think Around the Corner: Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey, by Patricia R. Zimmermann
33. Revealing Greaves: Unhiding His Archive, by Shola Lynch
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