In 1971, ten civil rights activists, including 24-year-old Rev. Benjamin Chavis of the United Church of Christ’s Commission on Racial Justice, were wrongfully convicted of arson in Wilmington, North Carolina. Through interviews with the parents of the Wilmington 10 (as well as political prisoner Assata Shakur, filmed just before her escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility), groundbreaking Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima (Bush Mama, Sankofa) exposes the human toll of injustice.
Nearly unseen for decades, Wilmington 10 – USA 10,000 screened at the Block in a new restoration from the Academy Film Archive on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022. Present to introduce the film was Allyson Nadia Field, Associate Professor, Department of Cinema and Media Studies at University of Chicago, author of Uplift Cinema: The Emergence of African American Film & The Possibility of Black Modernity (Duke University Press, 2015), co-editor of L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema (University of California Press, 2015). She was joined afterwards by Block Cinema Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts Michael Metzger. The event was presented with support from the Kaplan Humanities Institute at Northwestern University and shown in conjunction with the exhibition A Site of Struggle: American Art against Anti-Black Violence.
Gerima’s emphasis on collective memory as a powerful tool of counter-history constitutes, what a black newspaper called at the time of its release, “an extremely illuminating text of community action and conciousness.”—Allyson Nadia Field