Skip to page content

About this Piece

“I first encountered McCullough’s work back in 2019 at The Black Archives in Amsterdam while performing at the Dutch National Opera. Along with a moderated conversation with McCullough herself was a screening of these two films: Water Ritual #1: An Urban Rite of Purification (a 6 mins short made in 1979) and Shopping Bag Spirits and Freeway Fetishes: Reflections on Ritual Space (an hour long documentary from 1981). They were raw, humorous, touching, about music, movement, poetry, women’s empowerment and self-actualization—particularly evident in the short where the female protagonist urinates in the LA demolition site (or urban ruin). It was such a clear representation of cleansing… and release. Although I didn’t think either film required explanation, McCullough mentioned how surprised she was that she received backlash from members of the more conservative B/black community about this statement of purification—because for McCullough and performer Yolanda Vidato, it was a reflection of emancipation, not defacing or debasing anything. I only shook Barbara McCullough’s hand and said, “thank you” after the screening a few years ago, but her gentle manner of communicating and her films stayed with me. After looking up more about this LA-based director who was associated with the members of the L.A. Rebellion (or Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers); her dedication to promoting other Black women directors; and acknowledging the reality of the many roles artists take on in our lives, she’s left a tremendous and profound impression. For anyone present for this screening, I hope you’ll find Barbara McCullough’s work as fierce and resonant as I did upon first viewing. Because I love them and am so glad to have the opportunity to share these films—which are so deeply rooted in LA—during this festival!”

—Julia Bullock