The Film Study Center and the Harvard Film Archive are pleased to announce that the pioneering Bissau-Guinean director Flora Gomes has been selected as the 2021-22 McMillan-Stewart Fellow in Distinguished Filmmaking. Inspired by his early life under Portuguese colonial rule and by the thought and example of liberation leader Amilcar Cabral, Gomes forged a powerful brand of revolutionary filmmaking that seeks to undo the imperialist narrative and give genuine voice to people and subjects that have long been ignored and oppressed.
Gomes’ time as a student of legendary Cuban filmmaker Santiago Alavarez, and as assistant to Chris Marker, were vital experiences that fed his early militant documentaries and his breakthrough film, Mortu Negra [Death Denied] (1988), a powerful retelling of the 1973 Guinea-Bissau war for independence through the eyes of a young woman who joins her husband on the battlefield. A sober reconsideration of the cost of war and the bitter struggles that follow victory, Mortu Negra is a complex and milestone film that also pays tribute to the resilience of African women. Gomes’ subsequent films include the acclaimed The Blue Eyes of Yonta (1992), a tender study of the post-independence generation, and his spellbinding masterwork Tree of Blood (1996), a fable-like film that enters deep into the realm of legend and myth. Gomes’ more recent films and works in progress extend his project to chronicle the still ongoing anti-imperialist struggle and to make legible the dynamics of power and oppression at work across the African continent.
The Film Study Center will be hosting Flora Gomes from March 21-28, with a full retrospective of his films at the Harvard Film Archive March 24 to April 3.
The McMillan-Stewart Fellowship in Distinguished Filmmaking was established at the Film Study Center in 1997 with a generous gift from Geneviève McMillan in memory of her late friend, Reba Stewart, to support outstanding filmmakers from Africa or the African diaspora. The endowment provides both a fellowship for the laureate, through which they visit Harvard and share their work with the University community, and also for the purchase of a representative example of the fellow’s oeuvre for preservation in the Harvard Film Archive. The McMillan-Stewart Advisory Committee for 2021-22 is comprised of Mahen Bonetti, Haden Guest, Dieudo Hamadi, Joana Pimenta, and Aboubakar Sanogo.