Sag Harbor Cinema will host a special screening of Kathleen Collins’ Losing Ground, one of the first fictional features directed by an African American woman, followed by a conversation with the filmmaker’s daughter, Nina Lorez Collins, November 5th at 6pm. The film celebrates its 40th anniversary, and what would have been Kathleen Collins’ 80th birthday, with a brand new 4K restoration.
A writer, activist, academic and intrepid filmmaker, from the beginning, Collins offered a different approach to the portrayal of Black and minority communities. Her first film, The Cruz Brothers and Ms. Malloy (1980) told the story of three Puertorican brothers facing their father’s ghost. Losing Groundcenters around a couple of Black professionals –a university professor and her artist husband– and their world, a milieu rarely portrayed in mainstream media at that time. Completed in 1982, the film struggled to find a distributor. It was not released theatrically and virtually disappeared. It resurfaced for one showing on WNET’s Independent Focus, in 1987. It won First Prize at the Figueroa International Film Festival in Portugal and garnered some international acclaim, but received little notice in the United States. In fact, the first substantial coverage that Collins received in the New York Timeswas her obituary, following her untimely death at 46, in 1988.
“Nina Collins has been the force behind the rediscovery of her mother’s trailblazing work –both her films and her writings. She had approached me in the Spring with the idea of screening Losing Ground –which of course I welcomed. I knew the film but never had a chance to see it on the big screen. When I learned that there was a restoration in the works we decided to wait,” says Sag Harbor Cinema’s Founding Artistic Director, Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan.
“The new restoration of my mother’s 1982 film, LOSING GROUND, is a gift to film history and preservation. I’m very honored to be able to share her work with my community on the East End,” Lorez Collins says of the event.
Kathleen Collins wrote a collection of short stories in the 1970s. They could not find a publisher at that time, but instead served as the inspiration for her second film’s title, “Losing Ground.” Initial funding for this totally independent production came from a grant from The American Film Institute in association with The National Endowment for the Arts and amounted to $25,000. The final cost of the film was $125,000, which like much minority filmmaking of the time, was funded by German television with rights to show the film for three years in Germany and Austria. This turned out to be the film’s biggest public, while distributors in the U.S. could not imagine a target audience for it.
Collins has cited Éric Rohmer, the French New Wave director, as her only filmmaking inspiration. She remarked in an interview that this was likely because he was a very literary filmmaker and not afraid of language in film.
Nina Lorez Collins, who is a part time resident of the East End, will join Sag Harbor Cinema’s Founding Artistic Director, Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan, for a Q&A following the screening of the film.
Restoration by Yale Film Archive, The Film Foundation, and Milestone Films, supervised by Brian Meacham, with transfer supervised by Ronald K. Gray. Funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation. Lab: Colorlab. Audio Restoration: Audio Mechanics. Thank you to Nina Collins, Terri Francis, Michael Lloyd, Michael Minard, John Polito, and AJ Rohner. A Milestone and Kino Lorber release.