At age 13, Misty Copeland was attending the Boys and Girls Club of San Pedro, California, when a dance instructor asked if she’d be interested in participating in a ballet class.
At age 15, Misty was one of the top ballet prospects in California and was being profiled in a PBS documentary on a state wide arts competition.
At age 17, Misty was in New York City and a member of the American Ballet Theatre, one of the world’s leading ballet companies. She danced the title role of the Firebird at the Metropolitan Opera House, making her the first black woman to play that signature character in a major ballet company. Making this accomplishment that much more impressive, she performed this part with six stress fractures in her shin.
This journey would have been unique in the world of dance on its own. Learning ballet at such an “advanced” age and making it to a premiere company made Misty an anomaly. But Misty was also a black woman with womanly curves which, based on the standard popularized by the father of American ballet, George Balanchine, meant she didn’t have the body for ballet. The skinny, long limbed swan with a thin neck and European features has been the ballet standard for half a century.
Misty’s career is a challenge to every stereotype of what the ballerina symbolizes and should be.
A BALLERINA’S TALE, directed by Nelson George, will look at the values of a European cultural expression that has tried to maintain its values in the face of an aging audience base and its increasing irrelevance to mainstream culture. Misty’s life embodies a number of themes that speak to the larger culture and her personal challenges. Race, body image and Euro-centric perspective are mixed in with her own physical challenges.
Misty will narrate the film, bringing us intimately into her world. Several of Misty’s favorite ballets will be filmed in multiple camera shoots that will bring us close to dance in ways less frantic and more realistic than the popularized Hollywood film, Black Swan.
The goal is $40,000. They currently have $14,598 and 13 days to go.
She would’ve been 80 today. Celebrate her life.
Nina Simone Live (1961-1962) <- includes rare performances
Nina Simone - The Great Show (Live in Paris, 1968) <- audio only
Nina Simone Live at Olympia (1969) <- low audio
This film is just…
Very Young Girls is an exposé of the commercial sexual exploitation of girls in New York City as they are sold on the streets by pimps and treated as adult criminals by police. The film follows barely adolescent girls in real time, using vérité and intimate interviews with them, documenting their struggles and triumphs as they seek to exit the commercial sex industry. The film also uses startling footage shot by pimps themselves, giving a rare glimpse into how the cycle of exploitation begins for many women.
Since his incarceration in 1982 for allegedly shooting a Philadelphia policeman to death, Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal awaited execution on Death Row (until 2011), protesting his innocence. Currently an author of five books and an on-air personality who broadcasts over the phone from prison, Abu-Jamal carries the support of no less than Nelson Mandela and the administrators of Amnesty International, who believe in and fervently argue his innocence.
This documentary witnesses William Francome, a British man who was born on the same day as the shooting, traveling to the prison where Abu-Jamal is held to investigate the details of the case. Francome learns about the initial events of that terrible night that led to Abu-Jamal’s arrest and conviction, the allegations that the trial itself was unfair, and the city where it all happened - and investigating the moral and ethical dilemmas that have turned Abu-Jamal into a touchstone for the global crusade against capital punishment. Participants in this documentary are Angela Davis, Noam Chomsky, Mos Def, Snoop Dogg, and Alice Walker to name a few.