Can black love on television not be political? That is the question black filmmakers aim to answer with the Black Intimacy series at the New York City Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) this October.The series will explore the intersectionalities between the personal and the political, addressing age-old questions about the representation — or lack thereof– of platonic, queer, familial, and romantic relationships between black people in cinema.
There’s been a recent upsurge in the portrayal of candid black relationships on television — with Oprah’s Black Love series shedding light and bringing much needed depth to the challenges faced by black couples in their marriages. The dense and rich political history of blackness in America– as it pertains to love and everything else, has not afforded artists much freedom to make work that separates the personal from the political, until recently. Something of an affront to the usually two-dimensional black love experiences depicted in the mainstream cinema, Issa Rae’s Insecure has received much acclaim and criticism for its incredibly relatable and raw depiction of the relationships between its characters.
Comprising 16 films, two shorts, and a television episode, the series highlights the various ways in which love and relationships are colored by the political, across a wide spectrum of perspectives. Several of the films—Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, for instance—deal with a particular kind of black male figure and pay close attention to black male identity and struggle; films like Claudine, A Warm December, and The Inkwell portray very different types of black romances and family structures to illustrate a broader scope of love and relationships; the notion of how black women are treated as love interests and how their needs are explored and honored is at the heart of Loosing Ground; and black queer identity, intimacy, and vulnerability are front and center in Looking for Langston and The Water