Billy Woodberry: And When I Die I Won’t Stay Dead
In Person: Billy Woodberry
Thursday, November 10, 2016, 7:00 pm
MOCA Grand Avenue, Ahmanson Auditorium, 250 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012
In his “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” Walter Benjamin essays the political necessity of remembering. “Even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins,” he wrote. “And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious.” Billy Woodberry’s newest film, And When I Die, I Won’t Stay Dead (2016) is not only a richly hued portrait of the important yet often overlooked Beat poet Bob Kaufman, it is a profound act of reclamation as well. Much more than a traditional “biopic,” it is an object lesson in what it means to live a life of resistance. Like Kaufman’s own life and work, Woodberry’s film is cyclical, lyrical, even musical, sketching for us a biography “shrouded in myth and legend” by using the cinematic equivalents of rhythmic runs and choruses. And When I Die, I Won’t Stay Dead seems to echo Kaufman’s own poetry when he writes, “Let the voices of dead poets/Ring louder in your ears… Listen to the music of centuries/Rising above the mushroom time.” Woodberry will be present to introduce and discuss the film.
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“The film as is epical, it holds its own ground... it is a major work that brings to light a resistance story of a community, which is told through an individual but a formidable artist.”—Haile Gerima
“AND WHEN I DIE, I WON’T STAY DEAD, title lifted from a line in one of Kaufman’s poems, is director Billy Woodberry’s inspired, moving meditation on Kaufman’s work and legacy. A seamless marriage of director and subject, the film is not only scored by but also moves to the rhythms of jazz and is itself a kind of poetry. —Ernest Hardy, CRAVE
Born in Dallas in 1950, Billy Woodberry is one of the founders of the L.A. Rebellion film movement. His first feature film Bless Their Little Hearts (1983) is a pioneer and essential work of this movement, influenced by Italian neo-realism and the work of Third Cinema filmmakers. The film was awarded with an OCIC and Interfilm awards at the Berlin International Film Festival and was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2013. His latest feature film And when I die, I won’t stay dead (2015) about the beat poet Bob Kaufman was the opening film of MoMA’s Doc Fortnight in 2016. Woodberry has appeared in Charles Burnett’s “When It Rains” (1995) and provided narration for Thom Andersen’s Red HOLLYWOOD” (1996) and James Benning’s “Four Corners”(1998).
His work has been screened at Cannes and Berlin Film Festivals, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Harvard Film Archive, Camera Austria Symposium, Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Tate Modern and Centre Pompidou. He received his MFA degree from UCLA in 1982 where he also taught at the School of Theater, Film and Television. Since 1989 Billy Woodberry is a faculty member of the School of Film/Video and the School of Art at the California Institute of the Arts.
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And When I Die I Won’t Stay Dead
By Billy Woodberry, 2015
Digital video, color and black and white, sound, 89 minutes
Born in 1925 and considered “the American Rimbaud”, Bob Kaufman contributes a singular voice to the poetic political imaginings of world literature. And When I Die, I Won't Stay Dead is a journey into the ferocious beauty of his work, and his insistence that poetry is fundamental to humanity’s moral survival.