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Film & Media Archive Receives Grant to Preserve Rare Gordon Parks Documentary

Washington University Libraries’ Film & Media Archive has received a National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) Basic Preservation Grant to preserve and digitize the film Listen to a Stranger: An Interview with Gordon Parks (1973). The NFPF awarded a grant of $4,960 to support the project.

Listen to a Stranger spotlights esteemed writer, photographer, and filmmaker Gordon Parks, Sr., who discusses his life and career in the documentary. An in-depth portrait of an iconic African-American artist, the film is an early example of the work of Henry Hampton’s groundbreaking production company, Blackside, Inc., which later created the seminal civil rights documentary series Eyes on the Prize (1987).

Gordon Parks, Sr.

Former Blackside employee Romas Slezas donated the completed 16mm film of Listen to a Stranger—a rare, possibly one-of-a-kind print—to the Washington University Libraries. Slezas directed the production while at Blackside, Inc. The film was originally commissioned by the Education Development Center as part of their “People and Technology” educational curriculum. It provides unique insights into the work of Gordon Parks, Sr., the film production process, and the history of African-American filmmaking. No other original elements to the film are known to exist.

The NFPF is a nonprofit organization that was established by Congress to help preserve the nation’s film heritage. In July, it announced grants to preserve 74 films at institutions around the country.

Once the preservation and digitization of Listen to a Stranger are complete, the Film & Media Archive will make the documentary widely available for educational purposes. It will be streamed through Washington University’s unrestricted online repository and made accessible on Vimeo. Access copies will be created for loan to outside institutions wishing to use the film for educational purposes.

For more information about the film and the project, contact Tyler Bequette, film preservationist with the Film & Media Archive.

About the Film & Media Archive

A unit of Washington University Libraries’ Julian Edison Department of Special Collections, the Film & Media Archive collects, preserves, and makes accessible documentary film and other media that chronicle political and social injustice of the 20th century and beyond. The Archive also preserves the documentary filmmaking process in its entirety through the acquisition of production elements and supporting materials, such as original filmed interviews and outtakes, rare stock footage, photographs, producers’ research and notes, treatments, scripts, storyboards and correspondence. The Archive was established in 2001 after the Libraries acquired the collections of Blackside Inc., the largest African-American-owned film production company of its day.