On May 13, 1985, the City of Philadelphia bombed the home of the radical black organization MOVE that was founded by John Africa in 1972. The military-style attack killed 11 occupants of the house, including 5 children, and destroyed almost two square blocks of a residential neighborhood, rendering 250 men, women and children homeless. In the midst of both contemporary protests responding to excessive police violence against African Americans and the military’s use of drone airpower, “Black Media Matters” returns our attention to the 1987 documentary, The Bombing of Osage Avenue, produced and directed by Louis Massiah, written and narrated by Toni Cade Bambara. Drawing on the archives of both Massiah and Bambara, this essay explores the film as a model of a media response to black political protest, death and suffering that resists spectacularization and oversimplification, and instead fosters historical awareness and critical reflection.
Black Media Matters: Remembering The Bombing of Osage Avenue
Karen Beckman is Jaffe Professor of Cinema and Modern Media at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Crash: Cinema and the Politics of Speed and Stasis (Duke University Press, 2010) and Vanishing Women: Magic, Film and Feminism (Duke University Press, 2003); coeditor with Jean Ma of Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography (Duke University Press, 2008) and with Liliane Weissberg of On Writing with Photography (University of Minnesota Press, 2013); and editor of Animating Film Theory (Duke University Press, 2014).
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Karen Beckman; Black Media Matters: Remembering The Bombing of Osage Avenue. Film Quarterly 1 June 2015; 68 (4): 8–23. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2015.68.4.8
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