Indiana University Cinema welcomed Maya Cade, the creator and curator of the Black Film Archive, as part of the Jorgenson Guest Filmmaker Lecture Series on Friday, Sept. 30. Cade discussed her inspiration behind the project as well as the movies that caused her to fall in love with motion picture media.
The Black Film Archive is a living register of Black films. It includes films made from 1898 to 1989. Cade began building it in June 2020 and launched it in August 2021. Every description is researched and written by her.
Along with being the creator of the Black Film Archive, Cade curated five programs for IU Cinema as an introduction to her project “Home Is Where the Heart Is: Black Cinema’s Exploration of Home.” It took place throughout the month of September and focused on films made since 1979 that expressed the idea of “home.”
She sat down with past Jorgenson guest and filmmaker Isabel Sandoval on Friday to discuss the creation of the Black Film Archive, along with other passions.
Cade said often, she would hear about the scarcity of Black film collections when asked about her initial motivations.
“I don’t blame people for not knowing something,” Cade said, referencing the limited knowledge the general public may have on Black media. “I think that’s a vicious way to look at the world.”
She said it was that optimism which helped her curate the archive. Cade said she wanted to be able to supply people with the resources to consume Black films. She has done just that as the site now offers hundreds of movies.
Cade's definition of Black film has admittedly expanded since the launch of the site, her technical term now being any movie which has something to say about the Black experience.
She discussed how Black filmmakers and actors have been able to define themselves in more expansive ways, which leads to a wider range of what classifies as a film that would belong in the Black Film Archive. To her, this is something both fascinating and monumental to witness.
Cade said every reaction came as a surprise following the release of the archive. She did not consider how it would be received and was just happy to see it reach her desired audience.
“We all have to do our part,” Cade said, in reference to people’s rediscovery of decades-old Black films. “Black film’s future requires us all to care.”