A coming-of-age comedy-drama about three African American women living in Brooklyn, Alma’s Rainbow explores the life of teenager Rainbow Gold (Victoria Gabrielle Platt) as she enters womanhood and navigates standards of beauty, self-image, and the rights women have over their bodies.
Written, directed, and produced by artist/educator Ayoka Chenzira — who was one of the first African Americans to teach film production in higher education and the first African American woman animator — Alma’s Rainbow was given its title by Chenzira’s mentor, the influential filmmaker (and former IU Cinema guest) Julie Dash. Back in 1994, when Chenzira and her team completed the film, distributors and exhibitors alike failed to understand it. As Chenzira recalls:
“I could write a book on the response to Alma’s Rainbow. The film took a long time to make. I raised all the money independently. Distributors came and looked at the film, and there was a real split between what the men thought about it and what the women thought about it. The response by women has been overwhelmingly positive. The response by men, who write the checks, was that it was not an action piece. There was no Black pathology; there was no movie point of reference for three Black women driving a story. They also see that it is not a linear narrative in the tradition of exposition, climax and resolution. The editing and storytelling are based on the emotions of the characters. This is something that women understood and men did not. We found a distributor who was not interested in selling it only to twenty-something White guys in the suburbs. Unfortunately, the arrangement with the distributor and our company did not work out; we did get the film back, however, unencumbered. This film grows out of mothers being afraid of their daughters’ own budding sensuality.”
Almost two decades later, thanks to a new 4K restoration by the Academy Film Archive, the Film Foundation, and Milestone Films, audiences and critics — including RogertEbert.com, IndieWire, The Wrap, and Screen Slate — are thrilled to rediscover this (almost) forgotten gem. Experience Alma’s Rainbow yourself at IU Cinema on September 8!
“A gorgeous clarion call for our young Black girls, heralding the community, creativity and confidence that is the pride of our culture.” – Ava DuVernay
A new 4K restoration of Alma’s Rainbow will be screened at IU Cinema with the short A Different Image on September 8 at 7 pm as part of the series Home Is Where the Heart Is: Black Cinema’s Exploration of Home.