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Black Cinema House Will Show Sun Ra Documentary Before Moving

By Sam Cholke | May 30, 2014 7:36am
 Black Cinema House will show one last film, "Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise," before moving to its new space in Kimbark Studios.
Black Cinema House Moving
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HYDE PARK — The Black Cinema House will show one last movie at its Woodlawn home before moving to a bigger and better space next month.

The independent theater will screen the 1980 documentary “Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise” at 4 p.m. Sunday at 6901 S. Dorchester Ave.

Director Robert Mugge will be on hand to talk about the music documentary of jazz composer Sun Ra that launched his career in filmmaking.

“He actually didn’t have a copy, but he had one made for the showing,” said Penny Duff, program manager of the Black Cinema Project.

Duff said she was able to track Mugge down in Ohio and he offered to get a Blu-ray version of the film made from the original master copy specifically for the showing.

After the showing, the Black Cinema House will shut down and reopen at 72nd Street and Kimbark Avenue in a warehouse that artist Theaster Gates has renovated into artists studios.

Duff said the new space will allow the theater to accommodate 80 visitors to screenings, double the current capacity, and will provide space for musicians to play and a new 16mm projector.

“There are some films that we want to show that have never been transferred from 16mm at all,” Duff said.

She said the theater will be able to expand its programs so live musicians can play to accompany a film.

The Black Cinema House will celebrate a housewarming on June 15 with a screening of “Purple Rain,” the 1984 rock musical by Prince.

The Black Cinema House occupies a portion of Theaster Gates’ Dorchester Projects, a group of converted homes on the 6900 block of South Dorchester that Gates uses for many of his community arts projects.

Duff said the theater will continue to show films by and about the people of the African Diaspora, but “Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise” will be the last film shown in the theater’s original home.

She said the documentary has rarely been seen because DVDs of the concerts and interviews were never broadly released in the United States and were only available in Europe.

The documentary follows Sun Ra and his “arkestra” during their time living in Philadelphia in the late 1970s living in a commune and running a bodega, and it captures live performances in Philadelphia; Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

“No doubt as with most of Mugge's film it will be revealing and penetrating,” said Sergio Mims, a film critic and a member of the Black Cinema House’s advisory committee. “Mugge is one of the few filmmakers today who exclusively deals with the importance and cultural impact of black music and musicians.”

After “Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise,” Mugge went on to make documentaries about the history of delta blues, the story of Alligator Records and a portrait of singer Al Green.

Space is limited for the Sunday screening, and attendees are asked to RSVP through the Black Cinema House’s website, blackcinemahouse.org/sun-ra-a-joyful-noise-june-1.

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