Passing Through

  • Directed by Larry Clark
  • United States, 1977, 111 mins., English

Passing Through, a critical film in cycle of LA Rebellion films produced at UCLA from the late-70s through the mid-80s, follows Eddie Warmack (Nathaniel Taylor), a jazz saxophonist just released from prison for killing a white gangster in his past. Eddie, intent on creating a new kind of jazz outside the confines of the white-dominated major record labels, seeks out his grandfather, Poppa Harris (Clarence Muse), who is also a legend in the jazz scene. Eddie’s form of new jazz subsequently takes on formal and spiritual characteristics that link it to the Black liberation movements of Africa. Featuring a cacophony of impassioned performances and a killer soundtrack nearly unprecedented in the history of cinema (the likes of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Eric Dolphy, Sun Ra, Bennie Maupin, Jesse Sharps, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago show up), Passing Through is a deep look into jazz as a way life and cinema as a pure form of resistance and site of racial and artistic struggle. “If you look at Passing Through, the first 15 minutes of that film is what I call Africana cinema. What African American cinema is capable of, it’s a jazz cinema literally. It’s a cinematic structure that is jazz. You can see for the first time in the history of film, that an African American filmmaker makes a film: You see the colours of musical instruments transcribed into colour.”—Haile Gerima. “Original and thoughtful, this is a very special first feature, with a feeling for the music that’s boldly translated into film style.”—Jonathan Rosenbaum.

Resources:

In Media Res Project on Passing Through

Liquid Blackness page on Passing Through

Genres: Drama