“Movies make magic. They change things. They take the real and make it into something else right before our very eyes.” bell hooks (Reel to Real: Race, sex and class at the movies)
Films make us feel, they make us think. This is at the heart of bell hooks’ inspired, radical and incisive writing about films; making us reflect on the subversive role that films can play but also the power of cinema in maintaining the status quo.
Recognised globally as a feminist theorist and activist, cultural critic, public intellectual and educator, Gloria Jean Watkins aka bell hooks (1952 – 2021) would have been 70 this year.
Her expansive body of work is of course much broader than films, encompassing everything from literary and art criticism, children’s fiction, self-healing, poetry, tackling topics such as feminism, racism, capitalism, intersectionality, gender roles, love, and spirituality.
Inspired by her trailblazing collection of essays and interviews Reel to Real, we revisit some of the films and makers featured, focusing on the image makers that moved and provoked her; from Charles Burnett, Julie Dash and Spike Lee to Isaac Julien and Trinh T. Minh-ha. Her writing and conversations, like the best films of our time, provoke thought and create a context for dialogue. In that spirit, we will also explore the ebb and the flow that surrounded bell hooks’ encounters with filmmakers and thinkers across both sides of the Atlantic.