In this talk, Racquel Gates presents her experience working as consulting producer on the Criterion release of Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films.
A legendary filmmaker whose unique personality is just as well-known as his body of work, Van Peebles made an indelible impact on both Black film and independent cinema. How, then, to present new insights on Van Peebles in a way that built on viewers’ existing familiarity with the filmmaker and his work while avoiding cliches and hagiography? In “Reintroducing Melvin Melvin Van Peebles,” Gates considers the history of her own research on Van Peebles’s films, and details the pleasures — and challenges — of trying to create a bridge between the worlds of academic film studies and more public facing consumer film culture.
Gates is an Associate Professor of Film and Media at Columbia University. Her research focuses on blackness and popular culture, with special attention to discourses of taste and quality. She is the author of Double Negative: The Black Image and Popular Culture (Duke, 2018), and is currently working on her second book, titled Hollywood Style and the Invention of Blackness. In 2020, she was named an Academy Film Scholar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.