AFI Movie Club: POSSE | Institute of American Cinema

POSSE, Mario Van Peebles’ vibrant tribute to African-American heroes of the Wild West, will be screened from October 16 to 22 at the AFI FEST presented by Audi as part of the festival’s Cinema’s Legacy program. This year’s program, hosted by Dr. Racquel Gates, associate professor of film and media studies at the College of Staten Island, CUNY and author of “Double Negative: The Black Image and Popular Culture,” reframes and restores black stories as an integral part of American cinema history. GET A TICKET

Watch Racquel Gates announce the movie:

Movie Trivia on TODAY FILM

DID YOU KNOW? POSSE is based on the true story of African American settlers in the West who fought for constitutional rights to own land and vote. Although an estimated 8,000 black cowboys inhabited the Western Frontier, their stories had generally been left out of the traditional cultural vernacular until POSSE hit the big screen.

DID YOU KNOW? Most of the true black townships in the west were destroyed because of the “grandfather’s clause,” which prohibited African Americans from voting if their grandfathers were slaves. Colonists of Color were intimidated and lynched to prevent their full emancipation as citizens of the United States.

DID YOU KNOW? POSSE was loosely based on co-writer Sy Richardson’s grandfather, an evangelical Southern Baptist pastor who traveled to black communities in the late 19th century. POSSE marked Richardson’s first feature film as a writer, but he also worked as an actor in films such as REPO MAN and WALKER.

DID YOU KNOW? POSSE was filmed in Tucson, Arizona with a budget of $ 10 million. Filming began 28 years ago this month in October 1992.

DID YOU KNOW? POSSE was the first feature film released by Polygram Entertainment’s distribution company, Gramercy Pictures, which was eventually rebranded as Focus Features.

DID YOU KNOW? POSSE marked Mario Van Peebles’ second feature film as director, after NEW JACK CITY. He was previously known for his acting work and also starred in both films. His father, Melvin Van Peebles, was a prolific and revolutionary actor, screenwriter and director.

DID YOU KNOW? Although critically acclaimed, POSSE could not be screened at the Cineplex Odeon in Universal City, Calif., Apparently because a filming took place at the theaters when BOYZ N THE HOOD was released. Director Mario Van Peebles challenged the restriction and noted that fear of violence represented widespread Hollywood efforts to silence black filmmakers.

Learn more at AFI Catalog.

The film doesn’t stop at the credits: discussion questions suitable for families

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comments section below.
-POSSE begins with the character of an old man played by black actor Woody Strode, who in his youth was one of the very few African-American actors to star in classic Hollywood westerns. Why do you think the filmmakers used this narrative framing device? Does this make the story more authentic?

-Although POSSE was not the first noir western, it is dedicated to revising the Hollywood exclusion of African-American filmmakers and characters. Knowing that there were approximately 8,000 black settlers living in the west, and that an accurate historical account of this period would have included them, why do you think most Hollywood westerns have featured actors and crews entirely? white?

-When the gang arrives in the Black Township of Freemansville, they are recruited to help protect the residents of a nearby sheriff and his compatriots in the Ku Klux Klan, who covet the land for themselves. How does this mission change people?

-How does POSSE compare or contrast with traditional Western tropes and conventions featuring white stories and protagonists?

-POSSE depicts sex and extreme violence as a vehicle of male power. Do you think the film actually portrays its few female characters, or are they dehumanized and objectified to maintain male dominance? Do you think the violence was explicit for a purpose, or was it just as abusive?

-How would you rate POSSE?

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