Award-winning filmmaker Connie Field to attend documentary screenings at IU Cinema

Connie Field will appear at IU Cinema June 18 and 19 for screenings of her films “The Bottom Line” and “Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine” as part of the International Association for Media and History conference being held at Indiana University Bloomington.

Connie Field

Connie Field has spent her career making documentary films on what she calls “hidden histories.”

She will provide an introduction each night, and after each screening will respond to audience members in question-and-answer sessions moderated by Brett Bowles, associate professor of French and history at IU Bloomington.

Field is known for making high-profile films that focus on human rights and social change. Over the course of her career, she has directed groundbreaking documentaries on the history of apartheid in South Africa, the U.S. civil rights movement and women’s experiences during World War II in “The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter.”

Her documentary feature “Freedom on My Mind,” which detailed the struggle to secure voting rights for Mississippi’s black citizens in the 1960s, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1995. It also won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

Commitment and impact

“Across a range of historical topics and scopes, Connie Field has demonstrated a commitment to the combination of personal stories and archival history as a means of communicating struggles for rights and justice,” said Joshua Malitsky, director of the new Indiana University Center for Documentary Research and Practice in The Media School.


Georgina Asfour and Ramzi Maqdisi portrayed Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr. in the play within “Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine.”

“She offers a voice in solidarity with her subjects as she articulates how political forces impact people’s everyday lives.”

Bowles described Field as “the perfect guest filmmaker” for the group’s 16th biennial conference.

He said that since its inception in 1981, the sponsoring association “has been a hub of dialogue between media scholars and practitioners, with a particular focus on historical fiction and historical documentary film.”

The end of apartheid

The Bottom Line,” which will be shown at 8 p.m. June 18, is a free-standing episode from Field’s sweeping, seven-part series on apartheid, “Have You Heard From Johannesburg?

“This was the largest and most globalized human rights struggle of the 20th century,” Field said in a 2010 New York Times article.


This Mayibuye Centre photo courtesy of “Have You Heard From Johannesburg” shows anti-apartheid leaders Oliver Tambo, left, and Nelson Mandela in 1962.

The project spanned more than a decade as she filmed more than 130 people and gathered more than 1,000 hours of archival footage. It also took her from her California home to South Africa and around the globe.

“The Bottom Line” focuses on how people from all around the world participated in a grass-roots campaign to hold large corporations responsible for their economic involvement in a racially divided South Africa. Public pressure and widespread boycotts led to disinvestment by businesses, and the resulting financial exodus helped bring down the oppressive government.

“When I focus on a history, I try to find one that will have a political relevance to current conditions,” Field said in a related 2011 interview for the Center for Media, Culture and History at New York University.

“I like to layer films so they operate on many different levels. I try to make my points very clear and have them made by the way the film is structured and not by a narrator.”

A dream in the West Bank

Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine” will be screened at 8 p.m. June 19.

Field’s latest film takes its name from the Arabic phrase for “the dream,” al helm. 

The documentary follows the Palestinian National Theatre and an African-American gospel choir as they travel together in the West Bank, performing a play about Martin Luther King Jr.

Al Helm

An American gospel choir traveled through the West Bank with the production of “Passages of Martin Luther King.”

“I was brought to Jerusalem by the playwright, Clay Carson, to just film a performance of his play. But what caught my eye was the African-American choir he brought with him,” Field said.

“They were very devoted Christians who all grew up in churches allied with Israel. This was their first visit to the Holy Land. I became fascinated by how this journey through the West Bank with Palestinian actors would affect them. So I just continued filming.”

On her travels, Field said she found that Carson’s play, “Passages of Martin Luther King,” struck a chord with Palestinians. The audience members identified with African-Americans and their history of oppression in the United States.

To see the films

Both films are free and open to the public, but tickets are required. Tickets can be obtained at the IU Auditorium box office from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or at IU Cinema one hour before any screening. IU Cinema ticketing also is available online with a $1 surcharge per ticket.

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