Wednesday, July 27, 2016, 8:00 pm
LA Metro and Los Angeles Filmforum present
Passing Through and Notions of Freedom
At Union Station, free!
Jesse Sharps, Ulysses Jenkins and Nathaniel Taylor in person!
The second in our film series in collaboration with LA Metro, we are pleased to present Passing Through (1977), directed by Larry Clark. Upon being released from prison after murdering a music-industry mobster, a jazz saxophonist searches for his mentor while trying to reunite his band. The allegorical narrative works to define jazz as the musical expression of the Black experience, with its African roots and its American battles with appropriation and exploitation. The film also leaves plenty of time for the music itself, from the onscreen appearances by Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra to the performances by Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Sun Ra on the soundtrack. By combining music, allegory and analysis, “Passing Through” has achieved canonical status as one of the few great jazz films, while also being one of the great Los Angeles films.
“Notions of Freedom” (2007), a short by Ulysses Jenkins, traces the history of Jazz, the first true American art form, showing the migration of the music from New Orleans northward to the big cities, with a special tribute to Miles Davis. This video incorporates the technique of motion capture animation. Dance by Cheryl Banks-Smith, former dancer with the Sun Ra Arkestra; and dance collaboration with Ulysses Jenkins. Featuring an original score by UCI Music professor, Kei Agaki; former pianist in Miles Davis' last live performance band.
*Special introductions by Jesse Sharps, Ulysses Jenkins and Nathaniel Taylor
Musician Jesse Sharps first came on the Los Angeles jazz scene in the late 1960s with Horace Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. Along with other Arkestra musicians, Sharps helped shape South Los Angeles jazz that would proliferate in the decades to come.
Ulysses Jenkins is a video/performance artist. He teaches video art production and performance art and serves as an affiliate professor with the African-American Studies program in the Department of Humanities at UC Irvine.
Metro Art Presents showcases free arts and cultural programs at historic Union Station. Produced by Metro Art, the diverse, all ages programming is designed to creatively activate the landmark station, engage the Los Angeles community and attract new riders.
Los Angeles Filmforum is the city’s longest-running organization dedicated to weekly screenings of experimental film, documentaries, video art, and experimental animation. 2016 is our 41st year.
Memberships available, $70 single, $115 dual, or $50 single student
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Directed, Produced, Edited by Larry Clark.
Written by Ted Lange and Larry Clark.
Starring Nathaniel Taylor, Clarence Muse, Pamela Jones, Johnny Weathers.
Eddie Warmack, an African American jazz musician, is released from prison for the killing of a white gangster. Not willing to play for the mobsters who control the music industry, including clubs and recording studios, Warmack searches for his mentor and grandfather, the legendary jazz musician Poppa Harris. Director Larry Clark theorizes that jazz is one of the purest expressions of African American culture, embodying the struggles of generations of Blacks going back to slavery times, but now hijacked by a white culture that brutally exploits jazz musicians for profit. The opening seven-minute credit sequence is accordingly an homage to jazz and jazz musicians, privileging the raw energy of the music, while the concert footage appears virtually abstractly as a riot of blues, reds and whites. The film repeatedly returns to scenes of various musicians improvising jazz, as well as flashback scenes (in black-and-white) in which Poppa teaches Warmack to play saxophone, leading a French critic to call Passing Through “the only jazz film in the history of cinema.”
It is the Africanism of Poppa, as the spiritual center of Passing Through, that ties together Black American jazz and the liberation movements of Africa and North America. In the early flashback sequences in sepia, Clarence Muse appears in African dress and teaches saxophone under the sky. Poppa teaches Warmack that the music comes from the soil, from the earth, leading Womack to bury his saxophone to improve his playing. The film’s final montage incorporates shots of African leaders with a close-up of Poppa’s eye and close-ups of Black hands holding the soil, thus semantically connecting jazz, Africa and the earth in one mystical union, and by extension justifying the liberation of the earth through violent struggle, whether in Africa or Los Angeles.
Clark completed the film while participating in the fellows program at the American Film Institute. The film’s world premiere took place at “Filmex,” the Los Angeles Film Festival in 1977, subsequently won a special jury prize at the Locarno Film Festival (Switzerland) and played film festivals in Edinburgh (1978), Perth (1978) and Moscow (1979).
Notions of Freedom
By Ulysses Jenkins, 2007
The history of Jazz, the first true American art form, showing the migration of the music from New Orleans northward to the big cities, with a special tribute to Miles Davis. This video incorporates the technique of motion capture animation. Dance by Cheryl Banks-Smith former dancer with the Sun Ra Arkestra; and dance collaboration with Ulysses Jenkins. Featuring an original score by UCI Music professor, Kei Agaki; former pianist in Miles Davis' last live performance band.