This article traces the development of Afrocentric feminist aesthetics within the LA Rebellion, a film movement made up primarily of Black film students at UCLA from 1970 to the late 1980s. It argues that these aesthetics are integral to the movement’s heterogeneous but radical politics, even as the filmmakers express them through widely different means. The article focuses primarily on three films that span the final decade in which Rebellion filmmakers were active at UCLA: Barbara McCullough’s Water Ritual #1: An Urban Rite of Purification (1979), Alile Sharon Larkin’s A Different Image (1982), and Zeinabu irene Davis’s Cycles (1989). Each of these films’ renderings of Afrocentric feminist aesthetics—through attention to African oral and mythical traditions, African and Pan-African-inflected mise-en-scène, rich col-oration and film stock, and play with nonlinear, nonteleological time—register at once the sedimented condition of patriarchal anti-Blackness in the United States and Black feminists’ ongoing projects of freedom that perdure within and despite that condition. In many ways, such representations anticipate contemporary Black feminist grapplings with recent Black studies scholarship that orbit around Afro-pessimist theories of Black ontology and social death. Through their expressions of Afrocentric feminist forms of communal, caring, and creative living, the films represent a form of Black social life that expresses value systems and ways of being that are incompatible with social death, even when they are inevitably moored within its ontological structure.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.