Book launch with Terri Simone Francis: JOSEPHINE BAKER'S CINEMATIC PRISM

A conversation with Terri Simone Francis, author of JOSEPHINE BAKER'S CINEMATIC PRISM, and Jan-Christopher Horak, film historian and archivist, moderated by film scholar Michael B. Gillespie


Josephine Baker, the first Black woman to star in a major motion picture, was both liberated and delightfully undignified, playfully vacillating between allure and colonialist stereotyping. 
Nicknamed the "Black Venus," "Black Pearl," and "Creole Goddess," Baker blended the sensual and the comedic when taking 1920s Europe by storm. Back home in the United States, Baker's film career brought hope to the Black press that a new cinema centered on Black glamour would come to fruition.

Josephine Baker's Cinematic Prism

In Josephine Baker's Cinematic Prism, Terri Simone Francis examines how Baker fashioned her celebrity through cinematic reflexivity, an authorial strategy in which she placed herself, her persona, and her character into visual dialogue. Francis contends that though Baker was an African American actress who lived and worked in France exclusively with a white film company, white costars, white writers, and white directors, she holds monumental significance for African American cinema as the first truly global Black woman film star. 

Francis also examines the double-talk between Baker and her characters in Le Pompier de Folies BergèreLa Sirène des TropiquesZou ZouPrincesse Tam Tam, and The French Way, whose narratives seem to undermine the very stardom they offered. In doing so, Francis artfully illuminates the most resonant links between emergent African American cinephilia, the diverse opinions of Baker in the popular press, and African Americans' broader aspirations for progress toward racial equality. 
Examining an unexplored aspect of Baker's career, Josephine Baker's Cinematic Prism deepens the ongoing conversation about race, gender, and performance in the African diaspora.


Indiana University Press is providing a 30% discount to celebrate the launch of Josephine Baker's Cinematic Prism, good from 3/15/2021 to 4/30/2021. The code is JOSEPHINE
The book is available here. 


Terri Simone Francis, Indiana University, author

Terri Francis

Terri Simone Francis teaches film studies courses and directs the Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University. She is a scholar of Black film and critical race theory whose work involves archival research, cultural history, and visual analysis, set within the vicissitudes of performance and representation. Francis published her research on Jamaican nontheatrical films as “Sounding the Nation: Martin Rennalls and the Jamaica Film Unit, 1951–1961” in Film History in 2011, and she guest edited a close-up on Afrosurrealism for Black Camera in 2013. Francis is the author of Josephine Baker’s Cinematic Prism (Indiana University Press, 2021), and her essays appear in Transition and Another Gaze. Francis has worked to animate the Black Film Center/Archive as a living, breathing center of new and offbeat ideas about Black film. She has curated the film series “Race Swap,” “Black Sun/White Moon,” and “Love! I’m in Love!” and the speaker series “Black Film Nontheatrical and before Representation.”

Jan-Christopher Horak, UCLA and Chapman University, archivist

Jan-Christopher Horak is an adjunct professor at UCLA and Chapman University.  He is former Director of UCLA Film & Television Archive. He received his PhD. from the Westfählische Wilhelms-Universät in Münster, Germany and his Master of Science from Boston University. He was previously Director of Archives & Collections at Universal Studios, Director of the Munich Filmmuseum, and Senior Curator, George Eastman Museum.

Jan Christopher Horak

He has held professorships at UCLA, the University of Rochester, the Munich Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen, the University of Salzburg. Named an Academy Scholar in 2006, he is also the recipient of the Katherine Singer Kovacs Essay Award (2007) and the Reinhold Schünzel Prize (2018). His book publications include Anti-Nazi-Films in Hollywood (1985), Lovers of Cinema (1995), Saul Bass. Anatomy of Film Design (2014)He is co-editor of The L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema (2015), and Hollywood Goes Latin (2019).

Michael B. Gillespie, City College of New York, moderator

Michael B. Gillespie is author of Film Blackness: American Cinema and the Idea of Black Film (Duke University Press, 2016); co-editor with Lisa Uddin of Black One Shot, an art criticism series on ASAP/J; and editor of Crisis Harmonies, a music criticism series on ASAP/J

Michael Gillespie

His research and writing focuses on black visual and expressive culture, film theory, visual historiography, popular music, and contemporary art. His recent work has appeared in Black Light: A Retrospective of International Black CinemaFlash ArtUnwatchableEnds of Cinema, ASAP/J, and Film Quarterly. He is Associate Professor of Film at the City College of New York and the Graduate Center, CUNY.

Black One Shot

Crisis Harmonies

Film Blackness: American Cinema and the Idea of Black Film