American Microcultures on Film
programmed by Courtney Stephens
By Invitation Only
Looking to the diagonal of the American mainstream, this film series focuses on microcultures at the margins of American cultural life. These non-fiction films – all produced outside the purview of Hollywood – document regional cultures in America. We explore the world of Samoan street gangs in Los Angeles, gay black performance culture at the peak of AIDS, and the ecstatic street culture of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras festival. The films present peripheral America, as a site of deep displacement and ecstatic invention.
ALWAYS FOR PLEASURE | Les Blank, 1978
A celebration of costume, music, and food, this documentary bares joyous witness to the wild street celebrations in New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras. The documentary looks at different, longstanding groups, and the year-long preparation of floats, costumes and giveaway objects that culminate each year in this city-wide party.
Doors open at 9pm
PARIS IS BURNING | Jennie Livingston, 1990
This documentary, made at the height of AIDS, documents the underground gay culture of “balls” in New York City in the 1980s. Balls were makeshift performances / competitions which borrowed from the language of couture fashion, and which allowed mostly poor, mostly African American gay men to explore flexible identities, “passing” and new forms of dance in a moment when the community was deeply ostracized.
Doors open at 7pm
MY CRASY LIFE | Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1991
A look at a Samoan street gang in South Los Angeles, looks at the displocation of immigrants in American cities, and the corresponding production of new, ritualized cultures and rules.
Doors open at 5pm
Courtney Stephens is a filmmaker living in Los Angeles.
In 2007 she was awarded a Sloan scholarship to attend the American Film Institute, where she wrote a number of short narrative films, one of which, Equestrian Sexual Response, was nominated for the Student Academy Award. While there she assisted Peter Bogdanovich and Gore Vidal, and went on to assist Terrence Malick after graduation on The Tree of Life and To The Wonder while working on her own short non-fiction projects.
Her short documentary White Gloves looks at the history of a famed Oakland rummage sale through intersecting stories of women and objects, and is in the permanent collection of the Oakland Museum of California.
In 2012 she was awarded a Fulbright to India to research 200 years of female travelogues, looking at questions of female intrepidity and limits – currently in post production.
Her writing and photography has appeared in Cabinet, The New Inquiry, Modern Painters, Jaggery, and Two Serious Ladies, and she has programmed and guest lectured on film at the Royal Geographical Society, Clockshop, the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute in Calcutta, Rutgers University.
She co-curates a weekly film program in Los Angeles called Veggie Cloud (www.cargocollective.com/veggiecloud)