Decolonizing Movies: Un-Tarzan Series (CCNY)

The City College Center for the Arts



From sites as different as Dakar, Manila, El Paso, and the Sea Islands of Georgia, these films can envision the struggles of the colonized as they seek freedom.

This film series explores these voices and their tales.

Each film will be screened in Aaron Davis Hall



Weaponry, from rifles to battleships, imposed European colonialism. Policies of church and state sustained it. And popular entertainment lent support for it.  The movies were never innocent in the colonial enterprise. The American West became an empty place waiting to be filled by settlers. The Orient proffered inscrutable forms of evil. And Africa needed Tarzan to manage its beasts and primitive tribes. Easy to imagine, stereotypes remain hard to erase.

Yet brave filmmakers continue to push back and create alternative decolonizing visions. A full house of humanity populates their stories. From sites as different as Dakar, Manila, El Paso, and the Sea Islands of Georgia, films can envision otherwise the struggles of the colonized as they seek freedom. Our series explores these voices and their tales. If only Tarzan could stop by to take a peek at other paths through the jungle.


Thursday, September 29, 2022

BLACK GIRL (Senegal/France)

Ousmane Sembène – Senegal, 1966

59 Minutes

Ousmane Sembène, one of the greatest and most groundbreaking filmmakers who ever lived and the most internationally renowned African director of the twentieth century, made his feature debut in 1966 with the brilliant and stirring Black Girl (La noire de . . .).  simple plot—about a young Senegalese woman who moves to France to work for a wealthy white couple and finds that life in their small apartment becomes a figurative and literal prison—into a complex, layered critique on the lingering colonialist mindset of a supposedly postcolonial world. Featuring a moving central performance by Mbissine Thérèse Diop, Black Girl is a harrowing human drama as well as a radical political statement—and one of the essential films of the 1960s.

Thursday, October 27, 2022


Gillo Pontecorvo – Italy, 1966

121 Minutes

One of the most influential political films in history, The Battle of Algiers, by Gillo Pontecorvo, vividly re-creates a key year in the tumultuous Algerian struggle for independence from the occupying French in the 1950s. As violence escalates on both sides, children shoot soldiers at point-blank range, women plant bombs in cafés, and French soldiers resort to torture to break the will of the insurgents. Shot on the streets of Algiers in documentary style, the film is a case study in modern warfare, with its terrorist attacks and the brutal techniques used to combat them.  Pontecorvo’s tour de force has astonishing relevance today.

Tuesday, November 15


Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 1976

110 Minutes

The Last Supper, centers on a delusional Cuban plantation owner who, on Easter Sunday, decides to host his own version of the Biblical Last Supper with himself in the position of Jesus Christ, and his plantation slaves as Christ’s disciples.  The film is politically loaded, mixing absurdist humor with a biting satirical commentary of colonialism and the Catholic Church, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea infuses the film with repeated pictorial allusions to depictions of The Last Supper, adopting an allegorical mode throughout the film.

Wednesday, December 7


Robert M. Young – United States, 1982

106 Minutes

Forced to run from the Texas Rangers after a heated misunderstanding leads to the death of a lawman, Mexican American farmer Gregorio Cortez sets off in desperate flight, evading a massive manhunt on horseback for days. Producer-star Edward James Olmos, seeking to shed new light on a historical incident that had been enshrined in a corrido (folk song), enlisted director Robert M. Young, a longtime practitioner of socially engaged realism, to helm this trailblazing independent film, a landmark of Chicano cinema. Shifting its perspective between the pursuers and the pursued, The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez is a thrilling chase film and a nuanced procedural that peels away the layers of prejudice and myth surrounding Cortez, uncovering the true story of an    ordinary man persecuted by the law and transfigured by legend.

Thursday, January 26, 2023


Lino Brocka – Philippines, 1975

125 Minutes

Lino Brocka broke through to international acclaim with this candid portrait of 1970s Manila, the second film in the director’s turn to more serious-minded filmmaking after building a career on mainstream films he described as “soaps.” A young fisherman from a provincial village arrives in the capital on a quest to track down his girlfriend, who was lured there with the promise of work and hasn’t been heard from since. In the meantime, he takes a low-wage job at a construction site and witness’s life on the streets, where death strikes without warning, corruption and exploitation are commonplace, and protests hint at escalating civil unrest. Mixing visceral, documentary-like realism with the narrative focus of Hollywood noir and melodrama, Manila in the Claws of Light is a howl of anguish from one of the most celebrated figures in Philippine cinema.

Thursday, February 23, 2023


Julie Dash – United States, 1991

112 Minutes

At the dawn of the 20th century, a multi-generational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands off of South Carolina – former West African slaves who adopted many of their ancestors’ Yoruba traditions – struggle to maintain their cultural heritage and folklore while contemplating a migration to the mainland, even further from their roots.   Cohen Media Group is proud to present the 25th anniversary restoration of director Julie Dash’s landmark, “Daughters of the Dust.” The first wide release by a black female filmmaker, “Daughter of the Dust” was met with wild critical acclaim and rapturous audience response when it initially opened in 1991.  Casting a long legacy, “ Daughter of the Dust” still resonates today, most recently as a major in influence on Beyonce’s video album “ Lemonade.” Restored (in conjunction with UCLA) for the first time with proper color grading overseen by cinematographer AJ Jafa, audience will finally see the film   exactly as Julie Dash Intended

Thursday, March 16, 2023


Tran Anh Hung – Vietnam, France, 1993

104 Minutes

An Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Tran Anh Hung’s “luxuriant, visually seductive debut” (New York Times) recreates antebellum Vietnam through both the wide eyes of childhood and the deep blush of first love. In 1951   Saigon, 10 year old Mui (Lu Man San) entered household service for an affluent but troubled Vietnamese family. Despite her servile role, Mui discovers beauty and epiphany in the lush physical details that envelope her, while earning the fragile affection of the household’s grieving matriarch. As she comes of age, the now grown Mui (Tran Nu Yen-Khe) finds her relationship with a handsome pianist she has admired since childhood growing in depth and complexity. Though steeped in writer-director Tran Anh Hung’s Southeast Asian heritage, The Scent of Green Papaya was realized entirely within a Parisian soundstage. The film’s heady, scrupulously detailed and wholly authentic depiction of a society in decline, a family in quiet turmoil, and lovers on the threshold of romance earned the Camera D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. A timeless evocation of life’s universal enchantment and a powerful portrait of a vanished world, The Scent of Green Papaya is “a film to cherish.” (Roger Ebert)

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

IXCANUL (Guatemala)

Jayro Bustamante – Guatemala, France, 2015

91 Minutes

The brilliant debut by Guatemalan filmmaker Jayro Bustamante is a mesmerizing fusion of fact and fable, a dreamlike depiction of the daily lives of Kaqchikel speaking Mayans on a coffee plantation at the base of an active volcano. Immersing us in its characters’ customs and beliefs, Ixcanul chronicles with unblinking realism, a disappearing tradition and a disappearing people.

Thursday, May 11, 2023


Ciro Guerra – United States, 2019

112 Minutes

A peaceful magistrate lives and works at a distant outpost in a sparsely populated settlement. As time passes, he begins to wonder whether his loyalty to the empire and its colonialism is worth the cost.

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For more information please contact the Aaron Davis Hall Box Office at or by calling 212-650-6900.