Tag Archives: bessie smith

The Kush Film Boutique 2015 (Overview of screenings)

23 December 2015




It’s the end of another year and it has been a satisfying one and we were able to accomplish one of our special goals in relaunching our film club the renowned Kush ‘Film Boutique’. The film club was ended in 2013 after 15 years of fantastic film screening events. It is the UK’s longest running urban film club which has created a platform for black filmmakers since 1998.

Originally known as The Kush Film Club, it was and still is the UK’s première exhibition platform where patrons were the first to enjoy première & exclusive film screenings for films like: The Players Club, Eye’s Bayor, Rush Hour, The Hurricane, Ghost Dog, Belly, The Best Man, The Brothers, Baby Boy, Romeo Must Die, Shaft, Me, Myself & Irene, Love & Basketball, Down To Earth, Roll Bounce, Bullet Boy, Ray, Coach Carter, Beauty Shop, Four Brothers, Hustle & Flow, Better Mus’ Come, Baggage Claim and too many others to mention right now (of course you can read the full list here biog here).

We would like to thank everyone that supported the September 2015 relaunch of the Kush ‘Film Boutique’. As stated in our publicity we wanted to place a special emphasis this time around on screening films that matter – films that focus on social injustice, community development along with other important global matters all with the aim of making a difference.

We screened two important films this year 3½ Half Minutes, 10 Bullets and Black Panthers: Vanguard of The Revolution and the support was fantastic and really, really appreciated by the staff here at Kush. It made it all worthwhile and we most definitely realised (once again) how important the film club was; and how much it was needed and appreciated by you the public.

We would like to THANK all those that turned out for our last special Film Boutique “Revolution” themed event showcasing the acclaimed documentary film ‘Black Panthers: Vanguard of The Revolution’ by master documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson. This event happened on the 17th November 2015 and all took hold of the revolutionary theme wholeheartedly and all came dressed to impress as revolutionaries for the night (berries, afro’s, leather jackets, gloves etc)

It truly was one of the best screenings Kush has organised for quite some time, the atmosphere was tremendous and powerful, it was a great turnout and the sense of comradeship was invigorating.

Watch the video highlights here:

Also if you attended and haven’t seen the pics yet here they are: https://www.dropbox.com/sc/4occp6yr43ckqdi/AACAeItUPKINBrRWl9oZ-HFTa

you can also get high resolution versions of yourself for quality printing from our photographer Sean ‘Love’ Jones at Photolab. Enquiries: Info@kushfilms.com

Also watch the video highlights from our powerful Film Boutique screening and panel debate on 28th September for the harrowing documentary film 3½ Half Minutes, 10 Bullets about the 2012 murder of young Jordan Davis and subsequent trial in Florida, USA.

Have a great Christmas, Kwaanza or just straight Happy Holidays – see you on the other side!
2016 here we come!!

Marlon Palmer

One Love!



Queen Latifah stars in new HBO biopic Bessie

Written by Graeme Wood




Queen Latifah will star as iconic blues singer Bessie Smith in the HBO Films drama ‘Bessie’ this May in the US. The film, directed by Dee Rees from a screenplay by Rees, Christopher Cleveland and Bettina Gilois, focuses on Smith’s journey from struggling singer to ‘The Empress of the Blues.

Smith hailed from Chattanooga, Tennessee and became one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s. She sang from childhood and performed in vaudeville; she was mentored by legendary blues vocalist Ma Rainey and eventually signed a recording contract in 1923 with Columbia. She soon after became one of the highest-paid black performers of her time with hits like ‘Downhearted Blues’. During her recording career she worked with many legendary jazz artists including Louis Armstrong, however, during the Great Depression her popularity fell, her marriage to Jack Gee broke down and she was dropped by Columbia. She continued to perform into the Swing Era but her comeback was curtailed when she died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in 1937.

Since her death her music has continued to win over new fans and she has been cited as a primary influence for many female vocalists including Billie Holliday, Aretha Frankling and Janis Joplin.

The HBO film will give an intimate look at the determined woman whose talent and love for music took her from vaudeville to the blues scene and international fame, capturing the professional Bessie_filmhighs and personal lows of her life. The cast includes Michael Kenneth Williams as Bessie’s husband Jack, Khandi Alexander as Bessie’s older sister Viola, Oliver Platt as photographer and writer Carl Van Vechten, Bryan Greenberg as record producer John Hammond and Mo’Nique as the legendary Ma Rainey.

The film is described as a labour of love for the filmmakers, Queen Latifah was approached by the producers 22 years ago when she was first launching her acting career and she eventually came on board as an executive producer.

In a recent interview Latifah revealed she was far more prepared to take on the role now, than when she had been at the height of her rap career;

“I had no idea who Bessie Smith was; to be honest with you…I had to become familiar with who she was in particular. I was just blown away…I could hear her voice in so many people who came after her…if there was a Bessie Smith alive today, she’d blow everyone else out of the water. I couldbessie_queenlatifah never match her true ability”. Asked why she had now decided to play the role Latifah continued; “The blues. I’ve gained such a great amount of respect for the blues…The blues are just as stunning to me now as when this first came to me. If anything I feel like I have a little more of the story of what Bessie had to say” Latifah also said the biopic will not shy away from the question of Smith’s sexuality – as she was known to have slept with both men and women. She said the film will show the singer’s strength of will and refusal to conform; ‘Bessie never walks around things. She just walks right through it’.

Bessie will debut on HBO USA May 16th no details yet have been announced regarding a UK TV screening yet.

Watch the first trailer for Bessie here:

And a character spot for Mo’Nique’s character Ma Rainey here:

And a character spot for Queen Latifah on playing Bessie here: