Peter Rutkoff, professor of American Studies at Kenyon College, has selected another compelling film for us to discuss over brunch. Julie Dash’s short film Illusions may have been made in the 1980s but its message is no less relevant today. Set in Hollywood in 1942, it tells the story of an African American woman passing as white so that she can work in the film industry. Illusions are essential to the film industry, with sets, props, and sleights-of-hand creating images that may not exist in reality. However, some illusions are used to marginalize and erase parts of America from American culture. Dash’s exploration of race, gender, and culture brings attention to the illusions that are crafted in order to survive in a world that wants to deny your existence. (Julie Dash, 1982, 34 minutes)
PETER RUTKOFF is a founding member of the Department of American Studies at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. He is the author of Fly Away, and other recent non-fiction works that examine African-American art and culture, as well as several novels, most recently Irish Eyes and Before Che. He is a regular summer visitor to Cooperstown, which is also the setting of his book of short stories, Cooperstown Chronicles. He will again lead the Sunday Brunch Film discussion, which this year is on the Julie Dash film Illusions. Rutkoff is a member of the steering committee for Glimmerglass Film Days.