Artists Space

Personal Problems

June 11, 2021, 8pm

Co-presented by Maysles Documentary Center as part of their series Made In Harlem: (Re)Considering Harlem Legacies & Futures and introduced by film programmer Andrea Battleground.

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

A man and a woman sit at a kitchen table for breakfast. The table is crowded with dishes and items like orange juice and a box of Raisin Bran.
Still from Personal Problems picturing Walter Cotton and Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, 1980. [A man and a woman sit at a kitchen table for breakfast. The table is crowded with dishes and items like orange juice and a box of Raisin Bran.]

Bill Gunn, actor, screenwriter, novelist, and the director of art-horror classic Ganja & Hess(1973), teamed with writer Ishmael Reed and producer Steve Cannon to produce what Reed has called a “meta-soap opera,” an exceptional ensemble piece shot on consumer-grade video circa 1980 exploring black working-class lives in New York City with candor and emotional intensity, featuring a who’s who of major artists, including Walter Cotton, Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, Jim Wright, and Sam Waymon, with music by Carman Moore, and cinematography by Robert Polidori. Finally available in it's originally-intended full-length version, restored by Bret Wood at Kino Lorber, from the original camera tapes excavated by Jake Perlin and Ishmael Reed.

In addition to the online broadcast, a special in-person screening will be presented simultaneously on Friday, June 11th at 8pm at Maysles' Sidewalk Cinema (343 Malcolm X Blvd). Sidewalk Cinema is an opportunity for the community to gather for a socially-distant and masked viewing of a film on Fridays at sunset in front of Maysles Documentary Center.

Personal Problems will be available online from Friday, June 11 – Thursday, June 17.

Special thanks to Emily Apter, Aliyah Blackmore, and Inney Prakash (Maysles Documentary Center), Jonathan Hertzberg and Bret Wood (Kino Lorber) and Andrea Battleground.

The second installment of this year’s Made In Harlem series widens the scope of what is considered a “Harlem story,” and reconsiders when that story ends. The three entries in this series feel as if they begin in medias res and end in a minor key. Regardless of length, of genre, of time period, this triptych presents Harlem tales as told by people who are living them. They are intimate, specific, and complicated. They are disinterested in myth; the reality is so much more interesting.

Made In Harlem: (Re)Considering Harlem Legacies & Futures will stream on Maysles Virtual Cinema from June 11–18. The series is curated by Andrea Battleground.

Andrea Battleground is a film programmer and archival researcher based in Harlem, New York. She has created or presented film programs with Maysles Documentary Center and Film Forum in New York City. She has conducted media preservation efforts at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the History Makers oral history archive, the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum, and The Gates Preserve and Archive. Battleground is also a writer and editor who has held positions with The A.V. Club, Buzz Feed, and the Uncovered Classics collection.

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.