Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?
by Kathleen Collins
Kathleen Collins, one of the first African American women to write and direct a feature-length work, completed Losing Ground, her second (and final) movie, in 1982, though it did not receive a proper theatrical release until 2015. Loose and effervescent, the film stands as a superb portrait of a marriage between two ambitious members of the creative class. They're still in love after a decade together, yet strains in the union are beginning to show. Their conversations, with each other and with those in their larger orbit, are about art and ideas—topics rarely discussed on-screen, then or now, with the wit and intelligence evidenced in Collins's film. Perhaps cinema's first black-female-intellectual protagonist, Sara (Seret Scott), a philosophy professor, is currently researching "the ecstatic experience" and reads Saint Genet during her downtime; Victor (Bill Gunn, another under-celebrated genius), an abstract painter, drolly notes to Sara after selling one of his paintings, "Your husband is a genuine black success." The line has a sardonic bite, slyly underscoring Victor's uneasiness with the qualifying "black" in his boast.
Success of a sort has finally arrived for Collins, almost thirty years after her death (she succumbed to breast cancer in 1988, at age forty-six). Thanks to the rediscovery and restoration in 2015 of Losing Ground, which received a pitiful number of screenings in the years after it was made, a once-little-known film can now be appreciated as a crucial work of American independent cinema. And with the release of Collins's Whatever Happened to Interracial
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