The backstory of how Melvin van Peebles came to make his debut feature film The Story of a Three-Day Pass is a reminder of how Paris was the centre of not just artistic expression, cultural renaissance, and radical politics but also a city where Black Americans writers, musicians and performers opposed American racism. At the same time Van Peebles was in Paris he was sharing the city with the likes of fellow American writers James Baldwin and Chester Himes. This was not a new phenomenon; Paris was always a more welcoming city for Black artists such as singer, dancer and civil-rights activist Josephine Baker and musician Sidney Bechet in the 1920s, writer Richard Wright in the 1940s, musician Miles Davis in the 1950s who brilliantly scored Louis Malle’s A Lift to The Scaffold and Dexter Gordon who released an album in the early 60s Our Man in Paris and also memorably was the lead in Bertrand Tavernier’s 1986 Round Midnight.
Writer and Curator Karen Alexander will be in conversation with Mark Cosgrove (Watershed/Cinema Rediscovered Curator) to explore the appeal of Paris to Black Americans and reflect on the range and legacy of their creative presence in the city of love.
Karen Alexander is an independent film and moving image curator, writer and researcher. She has worked with and for the BFI, the Royal College of Art, and as a consultant for a diverse range of cinemas, galleries and arts organisations. Karen works across media and culture. She is an art adviser for selected public and private arts organisations and a cluster of collectors. She is also a board member of the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation and a trustee of Longplayer. Currently, Karen works as a Lecturer at the University of the Arts, London and has been a guest curator and consultant at Cinema Rediscovered since its inception.