Tuesday, June 4, 2019 at 7pm
Louis Massiah's The Bombing of Osage Avenue

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Introduced by Hilton Als

The Bombing of Osage Avenue, Louis Massiah, 1986, digital projection, 58 mins

On May 13, 1985, the Philadelphia police department orchestrated a military-style raid on the communal home of the black liberation organization MOVE, dispatching a small army of almost 500 cops to the residential neighborhood of Cobbs Creek and assaulting their building with automatic gunfire, tear gas, and bombs dropped from a helicopter. Six adults and five children were murdered; the ensuing fires—left intentionally to burn—destroyed more than sixty nearby homes. Writer Toni Cade Bambara moved to Philadelphia not long thereafter, and within a year she began collaborating on a film about the MOVE bombing with director Louis Massiah, who had produced the television broadcast of public hearings organized by the city to investigate the event.

Bambara and Massiah’s The Bombing of Osage Avenue would ultimately provide a radically different perspective from the standard narrative around the confrontation that emerged across national media. Massiah served as director and producer, shooting the film’s interviews and obtaining news footage; Bambara worked as researcher, screenwriter, and narrator. The resulting film is not merely about the bombing itself, but also the history of state-sanctioned racist violence in America that led up to it, the effects of MOVE’s presence on the neighborhood prior to the bombing, and accounts of the aftermath of the destruction. Bambara and Massiah eschew a straightforward summary of the episode in favor of a more elliptical chronicle, focusing on the testimony of local black residents as a way to articulate “the dismemberment of a community, the relation of a people to a place, ruptured.”

In addition to offering a crucial counter-narrative, The Bombing of Osage Avenue also exerted a notable influence, particularly on the work of John Akomfrah and Black Audio Film Collective. “Because it was Toni, a widely respected writer of stature, we immediately paid attention to what she was bringing in Osage as different from the standard voice of documentary,” Akomfrah has explained. “Before seeing The Bombing of Osage Avenue, I had not questioned the standard type of narration, where the narrator serves to describe the visual and tells you through their eyes what is being viewed. Toni’s narration provided space for the viewer to walk with Toni and see people and events with their own eyes.”

Tickets - $8, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 6:30pm.