Lost Black Cinema Classic ‘Losing Ground’ Streams for Free via BAMPFA

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Bill Gunn and Seret Scott in Kathleen Collin's 'Losing Ground,' 1982. (Courtesy BAMPFA)

Starting Friday, May 28, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive presents Losing Ground, a 1982 film by Kathleen Collins. Selected in 2020 by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry, Losing Ground was one of the first feature films directed by an African American woman since the 1920s. The film streams online as part of Black Life, the museum’s multidisciplinary series exploring the breadth of culture across the African diaspora.

Although most of her work was unseen and unpublished at the time of her death in 1988, two volumes of Kathleen Collins’s short stories and plays have been published since the restoration of Losing Ground in 2015 due to the efforts of her daughter Nina Collins. Starring Seret Scott in the role of philosophy professor Sara Rogers, and Bill Gunn in the role of Victor, an impulsive painter who is married to Rogers, the film explores existential and aesthetic themes through the tensions and conflicts within their marriage.

In conjunction with Losing Ground, the Oakland Theater Project will stage Collins’s never-before-produced play Begin the Beguine: A Quartet of One Acts from May 28 to July 3 as a series of drive-in performances starring Dawn L. Troupe. A recording of a conversation between Seret Scott, Troupe and writer Neyat Yohannes is available on BAMPFA’s website, and a upcoming talk on June 1 includes Nina Collins discussing her mother’s work.

‘Losing Ground’ is available to stream online for free beginning May 28 on the BAMPFA website. Tickets for ‘Begin the Beguine: A Quartet of One Acts’ are available on the Oakland Theater Project website for $5–$50.