In her salon-style presentation, Dr. Petty discusses the filmmaking legacy of Camille Billops and James Hatch. This event kicks off a joint programming relationship between Millennium Arts Salon and The Atlas Performing Arts Center. The evening includes a screening of the award-winning Hatch–Billops film Finding Christa and clips of another award winner, Suzanne, Suzanne.
About the film: Finding Christa
In 1961, Camille Billops made a painful decision: to put her four-year-old daughter, Christa, up for adoption. In Finding Christa, Billops is both filmmaker and subject as she tells the story of their separation and ultimate reconciliation.
About the film: Suzanne, Suzanne
This poignant documentary profiles a young black woman’s struggle to confront the legacy of a physically abusive father and her headlong flight into drug abuse. Suzanne, after years of physical and psychological abuse, is compelled to understand her father’s violence and her mother’s passive complicity, who suffered at her husband’s hands as well, as the keys to her own self-destruction. After years of silence, Suzanne and her mother are finally able to share their painful experiences with each other in an intensely moving moment of truth.
Dr. Miriam Petty earned her PhD from Emory University’s Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts and previously taught at Rutgers University in Newark, NJ and Princeton University in Princeton, NJ. Her first book, Stealing the Show: African American Performers and Audiences in 1930s Hollywood (University of California Press, 2016) seeks to perform a recalibration of studio-era Hollywood, by seriously considering the question of film stardom for black performers of this period; could these actors, primarily appearing in marginal roles, be “movie stars?” If so, what did their stardom look like, how did it function, and to whom did it speak? Petty’s book mobilizes a quintet of the 1930s “protostars” as case studies, mapping the complex contours of their onscreen performances and off-screen personae. The study also pays copious attention to the viewing practices of Black audiences, and to the politics and possibilities of Black spectatorship during this pivotal moment in early 20th century cinema history. Stealing the Show won the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Best First Book Award 2017, and was shortlisted for the Krasna-Krausz Foundation’s 2017 Best Moving Image Book Award.
An academic with a longstanding commitment to public scholarship, Professor Petty is also an avid producer of public programs; her recent projects include the 2012 symposium Madea’s Big Scholarly Roundtable: Perspectives on the Media of Tyler Perry at Northwestern University and the 2014 film retrospective Mama and Papa Lala: 30 Years of Hatch-Billops Films at Emory University.
She is currently at work on a book manuscript examining media mogul Tyler Perry’s stardom, his stage and screen productions, and his African American audiences’ nostalgic investments in such Black cultural forms as folktales, music, literature, and religious practice.