“There’s not a lot of occasions to bring these films out and show them to the public,” Gordon said. “They used to be seen incredibly widely: they used to be seen in classrooms, community centers and churches. The whole idea is to project these films and talk about what they were trying to do when they were made, and how they resonate with us now.”
The documentaries are 16 mm film and vary in topic: The first, titled “Felicia,” is a portrayal of the Los Angeles daughter of a Mexican American mother and a Black father.
“Behind Every Good Man” shows the life of a Black trans woman in L.A.
“Siu Mei Wong: Who Shall I Be” shows the life of a daughter of Chinese immigrants.
And the fourth film, “Goodbye to Carolina,” attempts to give a voice to Black students at North Carolina A&T. All four are between 10 and 30 minutes long.
“You see really candid interviews of students saying things like, ‘I love North Carolina, but if I’m going to be discriminated against then I’m not going to stay here,’” Johnson said of the fourth film. “You just see a really interesting awareness of that tension between wanting to improve one’s own economic prospects and leaving one’s community.”
These films were intended to educate: Rather than a typical Hollywood movie, these short documentaries were shown in communities to spark conversations, Johnson said. He is hoping the same can happen with the films today, despite them being made in the 1960s.
“Hollywood was and remains a really conservative industry,” Johnson said. “They don’t want to push things too far. So filmmakers who could made films that provoke conversation.”
Claire Mink is a sophomore in Johnson's documentary class who plans on attending the film performance.
“I think it’s really important to pay attention to different voices and different perspectives when it comes to film because everything is influenced by who you are and where you’re from,” Mink said. “The best films, in my opinion, are those that explore different people, different backgrounds, different races and ethnicities and different languages.”
Film is an important method for combating prejudice, Johnson said, because they offer us a real and raw glimpse into someone else’s life, something many other mediums are unable to do.
“We’re all really good at watching movies,” Johnson said. “We know how to sit in a theater and experience those emotional narratives. So I think that what film can do is bring us into someone else’s world and make us feel. Obviously we can’t be them entirely, but we can experience the world through their eyes, if even for only 10 minutes. And I think that’s really powerful.”
The event is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.
“I think these films offer us a glimpse of where we were 50 years ago,” Gordon said. “They’re a reminder of both how far we’ve come, and how far we still need to go.”