Sisters in Cinema | Chicago Reader

Sisters in Cinema

Yvonne Welbon (Living With Pride: Ruth C. Ellis @ 100) wrote and directed this warm and expertly crafted video documentary (2003) about the history of black women in American cinema, from Zora Neale Hurston's ethnographic projects in the 1920s to current indie directors like Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou) and Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust). In the process she spotlights some forgotten pioneers—like Eloyce King Patrick Gist, a Texan who produced race films in the 30s—and elicits sharp observations from people like Neema Barnette and Jessie Maple, who broke into the business via TV in the 60s. Welbon ends on an upbeat note, predicting even more breakthroughs in the next decade. But when Chicago's own Coquie Hughes appears near the end, her street dialect (“You know what I'm sayin'?”) contrasts dramatically with the “white” English of the more successful interviewees, suggesting that, for all the celebration of “new voices,” some accents aren't yet welcome in the mainstream.


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