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AUGUST 18-24

The sight of gumbo bubblin’ on grandma’s stove in close-ups so tight you can smell the alligator sausage coming through the screen lets you know right away that Marlon Riggs’ Black Is…Black Ain’t definitely isn’t gonna be boring, didactic, or flavorless. In classic Riggs style, the filmmaker/activist explores themes of colorism, sexism, sexuality, and culture in a manner that is at once artful and direct. Scenes of choreographer Bill T. Jones and poet Essex Hemphill are interspersed between interviews with Angela Davis, bell hooks, and other leading intellectuals and cultural critics. This is Riggs’ last film: He died of AIDS while working on the project, which was subsequently completed by his crew. There are scenes that show Riggs in the hospital, clearly suffering, giving final directions for the film. It’s not clear whether he would have included this footage, but it gives us insight into the person that he was and how he was able to tackle such difficult questions with grace and passion—in his films and in his life. What does gumbo have to do with black consciousness? Riggs leaves us with this final question by way of an answer: “If a people is like gumbo, then you might ask what is the roux?” For Riggs, it’s essential. Like his Southern heritage, like his gay pride, like his undying love for black people. At the Biograph, 2819 M St. NW. (202) 333-2696. (Holly Bass)