Big things are afoot for Sol Sisters Rising, the newly formed brainchild of Ingrid Banks, Gaye Theresa Johnson, and Kim Bluitt. Since partnering up earlier this year, the women have articulated and honed a vision that’s aiming to change the face of Hollywood, not to mention bring some stellar cinematic programming to Santa Barbara.
“We were all friends and all talking about doing something different,” said Johnson via phone earlier this week. “We all have backgrounds in black women’s politics and representation and in doing service to the communities of women of color that we have studied and written about.”
Guided by Johnson’s and Bluitt’s former roles in and around Hollywood, the trio quickly narrowed their focus and got to work. What they came away with was a vision for a small collective interested in not only educating and informing people about the relative lack of women of color in mainstream cinema but also helping to change it.
Step one: A launch party at UCSB’s Pollock Theater, which takes place this week with a screening of Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, Shola Lynch’s 2012 documentary about a young college professor whose social activism lands her in the midst of a botched kidnapping attempt. The event also features a post-film Q&A with subject and star Angela Davis.
“It’s current, it’s a wonderful film, it’s made by a filmmaker we love and whose work we have taught before,” said Johnson. “We just thought it would be an incredible way for us to announce who we are in terms of our politics and the type of work we’re going to do.”
Step two, Johnson and Banks explain, involves creating the first and only online archive for independent films featuring and made by women of color. It’s a huge project and one that’s only in its infant stages, but it’s destined to change the way the film industry operates for people in and outside Hollywood’s Big Six.
“Of all of the six gigantic companies who are responsible for generating 90 percent of film content around the world, they’ve only made five films directed by black women — ever,” said Johnson. “It’s an incredible moment to understand why these women don’t have the resources to represent themselves, especially in terms of a digital divide. There’s no centralized website for women of color to promote themselves or stream their films. We see ourselves as the curators of that historical legacy.”
In the coming months, Banks, Johnson, and Bluitt will begin cataloging more than 1,000 films, as well as setting up a web-based platform for women-of-color filmmakers to connect with agents, publicity firms, and actors.
“We talk a lot about the term ‘minding the gap,’” said Banks, “but we don’t just want to mind it and recognize it — we want to close it.”
Sol Sisters Rising present Free Angela and All Political Prisoners at UCSB’s Pollock Theater on Thursday, October 10, at 7 p.m. Call (805) 893-4637 or visit solsistersrising.com for info.