Michael Boyce Gillespie leads a roundtable with scholars Jonathan W. Gray, Rebecca A. Wanzo, and Kristen Warner to discuss issues of medium, genre, fandom, and African American history in the highly regarded HBO series Watchmen . Characterizing the HBO series as a disobedient adaptation that modifies, extends, and redirects the world making of its source material—the famed twelve-issue comic-book series of the same name, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons (1986–87)—Gillespie et al. explore the ways in which Watchmen remediates American history, starting with the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 that serves as the historical and ideological trigger that sets the series in motion. In a wide-ranging conversation that encompasses subjects including fan fiction, adaptation, cultural mythology, and black superheroes, the authors argue for Watchmen 's significance as some of the most consequential television of the century so far.
Black death in contemporary cinema requires understanding how film blackness always means provoking new entangled measures of the aesthetic, political, social, and cultural capacities of black visual and expressive culture. As a result, the critical consequence of film blackness always entails issues of affect, narrativity, visual historiography, and genre/modalities. Black death, then, signifies both the violent injustice of African American deaths and the rendering of death in cinema. Three short films by black women filmmakers represent an ever-growing archive of recent works that merit critical attention as they advance cinematic practices that point to new political philosophies and circuits of knowledge related to black death and film form. Taken together as a “cinema in the wake,” the three—Leila Weefur's Dead Nigga BLVD (2015), Frances Bodomo's Everybody Dies! (2016), and A. Sayeeda Clarke's White (2011)—pose a range of formal propositions about black death that include animation, the racial grotesque, and speculative fiction. With distinct and compelling conceptions of black death, these three short films are deeply located in their contemporary American moment. Thinking with these films involves thinking through performing objects, the racial grotesque, and the futurity of social deletion. Together these films exquisitely suspend, disrupt, and disturb constituting distinct visual historiographies and strategies. As cinema in the wake, these films are stirred by incitements of film form, materiality, temporality, and conceptions of black being. But, more importantly, to think through black death across the formal experimentation and critical capacities of this work is to contend with an enduring urgency, the precarity of black life.
This special dossier for Film Quarterly comprises a selection of essays that share the central idea that the work ahead for scholars in the current moment must be to appreciate what has been an ever-increasing complication of the idea of black film and media over the last ten years. This dossier considers significant trends, film and media objects, and clusters of work related to issues of blackness and questions of aesthetics, historiography, industrial practice, collectivity, politics, and culture. It is compelled by a shared belief that requires scholars to remain open to contemporary and future enactments while at the same time recognizing the momentum of the past.