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Film series looks at the 1st black anthropologist

Director Q&A will follow Thursday night's screening

POSTED: March 17, 2011 1:30 a.m.
/For The Times

"Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun" is a documentary about the first black anthropologist in the country and will be showing tonight at Gainesville State College.

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After an 18-year journey through archives and histories, the story of the eccentric writer and first black anthropologist in the country will be told in film tonight at Gainesville State College.

"Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun" is a documentary about "an African-American lady who was really before her time," said Gladys P. Wyant, executive director of the Arts Council in Gainesville. "She was a precursor to Maya Angelou."

Writer and producer Kirstey Anderson, who will attend a Q&A after tonight’s screening, started heavily researching Hurston in 1989 when most of Hurston’s work was out of print or filed away in the depths of places like the Library of Congress.

It was in that specific library that Anderson found more than 40 minutes of unused footage of black culture that Hurston shot dating from 1927 to 1940.

"It includes (this) original footage," Wyant said, "and mixed in with the documentary are re-enactments of her life."

The film also has footage from other parts of Hurston’s life such as outtakes from filmed interviews including one with Maya Angelou herself.

The documentary is not only about the unique life Hurston led, but the documentary also focuses on her most passionate interest. "She travelled around the country," Wyant said, "and collected artifacts of black culture."

Born to former slaves and growing up in an era where racism was still an openly endorsed idea, Hurston was not afraid to endorse her heritage even at the cost of the ire of her own community at times.

"She was flamboyant and unpredictable," Wyant said, "but she was a pioneer in anthropology. She was always controversial until the end."

"Jump at the Sun" was chosen, like the others in the series, among hundreds of potential selections. "These are films that the broader audience might now be able to see," Wyant said.

The film screening is part of the Independent Filmmakers’ Series hosted by the Arts Council, Gainesville State College and South Arts. The showing will begin at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Continuing Education building at GSC.

A reception featuring light refreshments will immediately follow the screening. After this, Anderson will be joined by Jeff Marker, professor of media studies at GSC, for an hour-long Q&A session about the film.

Tickets are available at the door before the screening, over the phone at 770-534-2787 or online at www.theartscouncil.net. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.



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