8 bars with : ada babineaux
Our guest is filmmaker and Owner of Jezebel Filmworks, and Founder/ Director/Programmer of the Third Annual San Antonio Black Film Festival (SABIFF, September 30 - October 3, 2021), Ada Babineaux.
8 bars with is a series on educated guesses where we offer up 8 questions to a special guest for them to ponder and freestyle on. The questions aren't necessarily questions as much as they are prompts or linguistic ink blots meant to stimulate thought. The responses can be short and pithy, long and loquacious or somewhere in between.
Texas-born, Howard University-educated filmmaker Ada Babineaux has been a vital force in Black filmmaking for nearly four decades. A student of Howard’s film pioneer Haile Gerima, Babineaux worked his 1993, epic film Sanfoka (soon to be streamed on Netflix starting 9/24/21), and produced documentaries on jazz pianist/vocalist Shirley Horn, her own Texas/Louisiana family, Don' Been Through The Snake's Skin & Come Out Clean, and created the Nommo Speakers Bureau: a booking agency for Black filmmakers, authors, historians and scholars.
1. Creating SABIFF?
Why, because there was a Black Film dessert in San Antonio, so the need was obvious. When I returned home, the film scene for Black Creatives felt invisible. So I mustered up a few community folk who I thought would be interested. They affirmed my idea, and helped me bring the festival into fruition with a soft launch in the Spring of 2019, and our full inaugural festival that fall.
2. San Antonio?
San Antonio is [primarily] a Mexican American culture, so oftentimes it's hard to connect to the 7% African-American population dispersed throughout the city. My decision to be here is also based on the need to be present for my cherished Mother. My daughter and grandchildren reside in the DMV, so I’m still connected to my DC base: it’s where I grew up, formed a personal, and professional village, and came into myself as a creative person with a love for Black indie filmmaking. San Antonio will be the place that will benefit from the growth, resoures, and knowledge I obtained there.
3. Haile Gerima and Sankofa?
That film was my full entry into the world of Black indie filmmaking, "by any means necessary." I learned grant writing, casting, location scouting, and perfected my skills in multitasking, coordination, exhibition and public relations/community outreach. It was definitely a life-changing experience for me, from pre-production all the way to distribution. I took a scriptwriting class from Haile. I expressed my interest to work with him, and he got a small grant to hire me right after graduation in 1986. I’ll forever be grateful for that opportunity, because it taught me strength, endurance and fortitude. I came out of it and produced my own first film, Middle Passage -N- Roots!
4. Howard University?
OMG! The Mecca is a place where memories are indelible, and remain close to your heart throughout your life. But more than the place: it was the people there that enhanced my life and allowed me to mature and grow authentically into myself. I developed great friendships, mentors, social and professional work experiences; attending the bomb lectures, theater, church, concerts, and parties (many of which were at our off-campus commune/house), and HU’s environment challenged my brain with free thought, history, culture, and educational nuances shaped me beyond measure.
5. Black Entertainment (BET)?
BET was my first real corporate-like professional job post Howard and Sankofa. Like HU, I met amazing Creatives and made lasting friendships. Everyone was around the same age, so we were all peers, working together in a small cubicle environment creating quality television. I was challenged more to work under pressure with daily deadlines on a magazine show called "Screen Scene." I was in my twenties, and learned I could confidently write, field produce, and prepare edits acceptable for broadcast. I was young and willing to learn and contribute all that I could, so the indentured servitude, working from sunup to sundown routine, was welcomed and appreciated (LOL).
6. Film inspirations?
Haile's Sankofa Euzhan Palcy's Sugar Cane Alley, Charles Burnett's To Sleep With Anger, or Raoul Peck's Lumumba, and I'm Not Your Negro, are all classics that I cherish and adore. I love clever films that draw me in emotionally with a good story, unpredictability, believable acting, and plots. I am especially drawn to quality Black Cinema because I like seeing stories and perspectives that unapologetically reflect me, my people, my world.
7. Afrocentric and Afrofuturism Black films?
Those labels simply fine-tune what various Black Filmmakers have already been doing with various genres over the years. Afrofuturism is in a sense sci-fi with a Black twist, where Black filmmakers have allowed themselves the latitude to experiment and expand their imaginations to this preeminent genre and make it distinctively their own. As filmmakers, we should be free to create what we are passionate about, and our films should be allowed to be attract wide and diverse audiences. But there is still a lot of work to do to develop open-minded, and supportive audiences willing to see and pay for all types of films created from a Black perspective. My hope with SABIFF is that more people are exposed to the multitude of independent films and filmmakers from the African Diaspora.
8. I Don' Been Through The Snake's Skin & Come Out Clean?
My grandmother’s saying that is so relevant in balancing ‘life.’ I was fortunate to document my grandparents when they were alive and active well into their mid-eighties, and also interview my siblings memories of them. This documentary has been a priceless piece of history that remains omni-present whenever I want to hear or see them to this very day. I am keenly aware of family histories, traditions, foods, values, and mannerisms that are infused in my very existence: Gumbo, popcorn balls on rainy days, gardening, an appreciation for elders, giving back to our community, the importance of land ownership, and the necessity of making a house into a home … I have been blessed to be shaped by these influences by those who came before me in my family tree.
Your next projects?
I need to finish up a couple of documentaries that I've started: One is on Keter Betts, an extraordinary jazz bassist, and the other one is on John Coleman, a local San Antonio folk artist. I also have some ideas for drama series, and a documentary on my former house in D.C. that I'd like to do too. So many things to do, and so little time, money to accomplish; but as the song says... we shall overcome!
Ada’s social media links are: