In 2013, Amara Tabor-Smith organized a site-specific performance series honoring her late mentor, the San Francisco dancer and instructor Ed Mock. One of the participants was the artist and writer Brontez Purnell, who was awed to learn of another gay, black man with a bold vision of movement and performance who’d thrived and toiled in the Bay Area until his untimely death of AIDS-related illness in 1986. Purnell decided to continue Tabor-Smith’s campaign highlighting Mock’s legacy with a documentary, Unstoppable Feat: The Dances of Ed Mock. Part biography and part tribute, with archival footage, reminiscences from collaborators and new realizations of Mock’s work, the film also became a personal journey for Purnell, exemplifying the unique perspective artists bring to the secret histories of their predecessors.
“As a gay man, as a black man, it was really comforting to know that I had an ancestor,” Purnell says in the trailer to his film, which screens Thursday, Nov. 15 at the Landmark Piedmont Theatre in Oakland. “We’re still looking for maps, we’re still trying to map out our history, our present, and so many of our stories were lost with the AIDS epidemic.”
Billed as a free encore to the Frameline LGBTQ film festival, admission to the screening is first come, first served.