Black Is . . . Black Ain’t

BAMPFA Collection

In Conversation

  • Nicole Atkinson Roach is an Emmy Award–winning producer, director, and writer and a former student of Marlon Riggs. She worked with Riggs on several of his films and coproduced Black Is . . . Black Ain’t.

  • Ryanaustin Dennis is an Oakland-based curator, artist, and writer whose practice is concerned with how histories of experimental performance, film, and writing are shaped by the metaphysics of blackness. Dennis and Chika Okoye cocurate the Black Life series at BAMPFA.

  • Chika Okoye is a historian of liberation movements and a theorist of freedom, working on a master’s degree in ethnic studies at San Francisco State University.

Black Is . . . Black Ain’t is Marlon Riggs’s bold and richly textured exploration of black American identity. In this final work (completed by colleagues after his death), Riggs shows how this issue has shaped relationships among African Americans, and how people who haven’t “fit” because of color, region, sexuality, gender, even speech, have felt excluded. Commentary includes cultural critics Angela Davis, bell hooks, Michele Wallace, Barbara Smith, and Cornel West; performances by Essex Hemphill and choreographer Bill T. Jones; and remembrances of African Americans from all walks of life. A critique of patriarchy and homophobia emerges as a central focus. When AIDS forces his hospitalization, Riggs’s struggle with his impending death makes his call for a more inclusive African American community all the more urgent.

Cornelius Moore
  • Marlon Riggs
  • Robert Shepard
Print Info
  • Color
  • 16mm
  • 87 mins
  • California Newsreel
Additional Info
  • Completed posthumously by Nicole T. Atkinson, Christiane Badgley