dir. Bill Gunn
run-time. 110 mins
£6.00 (£4.50 conc.)
Ganja and Hess earnt director Bill Gunn a standing ovation at Cannes in 1973. Gunn, an actor, playwright and novelist, subverted blaxploitation stereotypes and created what critic Scott Foundas has described as a "landmark indie that used vampirism as an ingenious metaphor for black assimilation, white cultural imperialism and the hypocrisies of organized religion."
Anthropologist Dr. Hess Green (Duane Jones) is stabbed by his assistant (Bill Gunn) with an ancient ceremonial dagger, and becomes cursed with immortality and a thirst for blood. Ganja Meda (Marlene Clark), the assistant's wife comes looking for her husband but quickly falls in love with Hess and joins him in bloodlust. The film’s elliptical style weaves narratives of mythology, privilege and addiction into this tale of romance and horror.
Soon after the film was released it was doctored to focus on the most sensual scenes and renamed Blood Couple to align with the ‘blaxploitation’ films of the time. Gunn disowned the result. This edition represents the original release, which was restored by The Museum of Modern Art with support from The Film Foundation, and mastered in HD from a 35mm negative in May 2018.
Our screening of Ganja and Hess will feature an introduction by Tega Okiti.
Tega Okiti is a Film Festival Consultant and Creative Producer. She is currently working as Programme Assistant at arts agency LUX and Programme Advisor for Sub Saharan Africa at London Film Festival. Tega's recent curatorial projects include, 'Unbound: Visions of the Black Feminine' at BFI Southbank and 'I Don’t Protest' the first solo exhibition from award-winning artist filmmaker and animator Jessica Ashman. As a writer, Tega explores the intersections of race, gender and popular culture on African and diasporic image making.
Programmed by Priya Jay and Qila Gill, with support from Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts).
Iniva has compiled a list of publications and films from the Stuart Hall Library’s extensive collection in response to the themes of the film.
The complete list is available here.