Illusions with America

Illusions with America

Looking back to 1940s Hollywood, Julie Dash’s short film scrutinizes the sexist, racist practices of the entertainment industry through the experience of Mignon Duprée (Lonette McKee), a white-passing Black woman employed at National Studios. Selling her illusion of whiteness to maintain her employment, Mignon is tasked with dubbing a voice of a Black singer over a white female performance in a film, creating a dual subversion and the primary tension of the piece. Our protagonist’s experience is not just an evocation of Franz Fanon’s “by any means necessary” ethos; her actions are also Dash’s emotional commentary on survival and self-preservation. 

DIRECTED/WRITTEN BY: Julie Dash. WITH: Lonette McKee, Rosanne Katon, Ned Bellamy, Jack Rader. 1982. 34 min. USA. B&W. English. 16mm. Preservation print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 

“So much of the spirit of this piece,” Garrett Bradley has said about her stunning short work America, “is about disrupting the symbols and the iconography around how America is defined.” Asking us to acknowledge the fact that Black history cannot be separated from the history of this country, Bradley (who also edited the film) intersperses scenes from the never-completed Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1913), considered the oldest project boasting an all-Black cast, with contemporary documentary footage of Black youth for one poignant vision of a Black future.  

DIRECTED BY: Garrett Bradley. WITH: Charles Adams, Donna Crump, Victoria Hardway, Edward Spots. 2019. 27 min. USA. B&W. English. DCP. 

Academy Museum film programming generously funded by the Richard Roth Foundation. 

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