Borrowing a lyric from Chaka Khan’s anthem “I’m Every Woman,” It’s All in Me celebrates both a wide range of representations and potent expressions of growth and self-assertion by black women and girls in films drawn entirely from MoMA’s collection, spanning from 1907 to 2018.
Revolving around themes of introspection, agency, and community, these films counter mainstream cinema’s historical failure to authentically depict black women’s realities and imaginations. Focused on resonant portrayals of black women’s ideas, desires, and ambitions, the series highlights works across multiple genres and countries, often revealing compelling links between the women onscreen.
Actresses including Fredi Washington, Josephine Baker, Diana Sands, Rosalind Cash, and Ruby Dee showed astounding ingenuity as artists while maintaining unwavering integrity as outspoken individuals and activists. The Angolan revolution-set Sambizanga and the Brazilian comedy Xica da Silva observe the burgeoning anti-colonial consciousness of two women born centuries apart. After years of exploitation, the working-class protagonists of Support the Girls and Jackie Brown firmly decide to turn their lives around—one through an exhale of resignation and the other through an inspired scheme. The willful, elegant stars of the performance piece Deafman Glance and the B-horror movie Night of the Cobra Woman are eerily beguiling and ruthless at the same time. And, in the face of destruction wrought by biological warfare and unchecked technology, respectively, the no-nonsense sci-fi heroines of The Omega Man and Strange Days are also each film’s compassionate center.
Documentaries like The Body Beautiful and On Becoming a Woman examine intimacy and understanding between mothers and daughters, while Pick Up Your Feet: The Double Dutch Show captures the exhilarating inventiveness of teenage girls. The young nonprofessional actors leading Thirteen and The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun embody a strengthening drive and resolve that the tireless Eartha Kitt (in All By Myself) and Lillian Folley (in Lillian) exhibit as middle-aged women. Featured silent era and race films, animation, experimental works, and revisionist films by directors like Julie Dash and Cheryl Dunye further inscribe the possibility of a black women’s alternative history of cinema.
Organized by Steve Macfarlane, Guest Assistant, Film, Department of Visitor Engagement; Dara Ojugbele, Guest Assistant, Film, Department of Visitor Engagement; and Marta Zeamanuel, Department Assistant, Department of Film.
Special thanks to Ron Magliozzi and Anne Morra, Department of Film; Women Make Movies.