Artists Space

Ganja & Hess

June 18, 2021, 8pm

Co-presented by The Luminal Theater and introduced by Curtis Caesar John. Stay tuned for a Q&A following the screening with Dennis Leroy Kangalee, Zena Sadé Dixon, Maxx Pinkins and Dr. Janus Adams.

This screening is presented as part of the The Films of Bill Gunn.

A woman screams as a trail of blood runs down her chin.
Still from Ganja & Hess, picturing Marlene Clarke, 1973. [A woman screams as a trail of blood runs down her chin.]

Inappropriately marketed as grindhouse blaxploitation and cut by timid producers, this eerie, sui generis work by iconoclastic director Bill Gunn (Personal Problems) is, in its original form, nothing short of a masterpiece of '70s American cinema. Night of the Living Dead's Duane Jones plays an anthropologist living in aristocratic splendor in the Hudson Valley who finds himself lusting for blood after being stabbed by Gunn as his unstable assistant. What proceeds from this is a baroque, atmospheric rumination on the clash between African-American and Euro-American culture, animist and Christian influences, and homo–and hetero–desire. With Marlene Clark and Sam Waymon, who also composed the film’s haunting score.

This version of Ganja & Hess, saved by scholar Pearl Bowser, represents the director’s cut of the film, restored by the Museum of Modern Art from a 35mm negative, with support from the Film Foundation, and released by Kino Lorber.

Ganja & Hess will be available online from Friday, June 18 – Thursday, June 24.

Special thanks to Curtis Caesar John and Jacqui Brown (The Luminal Theater), and Jonathan Hertzberg (Kino Lorber).

The Luminal Theater is a nomadic microcinema that centers its screenings of Black independent films in Black communities where the arts are underserved. By providing fully-curated exhibitions and perspectives of these diverse and complex films of the African diaspora, we allow these artists to present their work within our unique brand of shared audience experiences. By continuing the life of Black independent films beyond the art house, film festivals, and streaming services, The Luminal allows community members the opportunity to expand their minds, their bonds, and to imagine possible futures.

Luminal founder Curtis Caesar John sees cinema as the nexus for furthering our understanding of one another, even within our own cultures, and thus works tirelessly as an arts manager, advocate, and filmmaker. He is the Founder and Executive Director of The Luminal Theater, a nomadic microcinema that brings Black independent films directly to Black communities, as well as to general audiences interested and invested in the Black cinematic voices.

Dennis Leroy Kangalee is best known for his 2002 drama As an Act of Protest, an underground cinematic cult classic which drew a line in the sand against institutionalized racism, writer/filmmaker & educator Dennis Leroy Kangalee is a native New Yorker.

One of the youngest NYC actors to ever be accepted to Juilliard in 1994, he eventually abandoned Western classical theatre in favor of Black Revolutionary Drama and avant-garde ideas promoted by Antonin Artaud and Amiri Baraka. As a dramatist and critic, his work owes a debt to artists such as Bill Gunn, Wendell B. Harris, Robert Kramer, and John Berger.

He charted the demise of culture and social awareness in his 2011 punk-poetry project Gentrified Minds, simultaneously publishing his previous outlaw poems in Lying Meat. His latest screenplay “A Saintly Madness,” is about redemption and revolutionary suicide. Dennis is currently developing a radical film curriculum about "protest cinema" entitled Visual Liberation, a podcast and book is in the works to illustrate and explore the notion of what a revolutionary film is and can do.

Kangalee lives in NYC and is the architect of a proposal for a radical arts conservatory program he aims to implement in the next decade.

Zena Dixon is your best friend who loves horror movies! She's best known as Real Queen of Horror, which is the name of her over-the-top YouTube channel and website,

Maxx Pinkins is an actor and screenwriter. He studied acting with Bill Esper in New York, as well as the British Academy of Dramatic Arts in Oxford. He has appeared Off-Broadway in Don't Go Gentle” (Manhattan Class Company), and Your Mother's Copy of the Kama Sutra (Playwrights Horizons). He has also performed Shakespeare, in Pericles: Prince of Tyre (Old Globe). Pinkins has appeared in various films and television including NBC’s Law and Order: Criminal Intent, TBS’ Are We There Yet, and others. He has written seven feature film scripts, most recently adapting Bill Gunn's novel All The Rest Have Died into a screenplay.

Dr. Janus Adams is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, historian, author, and the host of public radio’s "The Janus Adams Show" and podcast. With more than 500 articles, essays, and columns to her credit, her work has been featured in Essence and Ms. Magazine, The New York Times, Newsday, USA Today, and The Washington Post. Her master’s is the nation’s first graduate degree in Black Studies. Dr. Adams was a close friend of Bill Gunn and worked on the production of Ganja & Hess.

Program support for Artists Space is provided by The Friends of Artists Space, Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, The Cowles Charitable Trust, The Cy Twombly Foundation, The David Teiger Foundation, The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The New York Community Trust, The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, The Willem de Kooning Foundation, The Danielson Foundation, The Fox Aarons Foundation, Herman Goldman Foundation, The Destina Foundation, The Luce Foundation, May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, VIA Art Fund, Arison Arts Foundation, The Chicago Community Fund, The David Rockefeller Fund, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, The Jill and Peter Kraus Foundation, The Richard Pousette-Dart Foundation.