Kathleen Collins

Biography of Kathleen Collins

Kathleen Collins (March 18 1942 - September 18 1988) (also known as Kathleen Conwell, Kathleen Conwell Collins or Kathleen Collins Prettyman) was an African-American playwright, writer, filmmaker, director, and educator from Jersey City, New Jersey. She is considered to have "changed the face and content of the black womanist film" and to be the first black American woman to produce a feature-length film. Influenced by Lorraine Hansberry, she wrote about African-American subjects as human beings rather than solely as subjects of race.

Collins graduated from Skidmore College in 1963 and Paris-Sorbonne University in Paris in 1966 with an MA in French literature and cinema. She joined the faculty of City College at the City University of New York and became a professor of film history and screenwriting, where cinematographer Ronald Gray encouraged her to go ahead with a screenplay she had adapted from a Henry Roth short story. That film became The Cruz Brothers and Mrs. Malloy, which eventually won First Prize at the Sinking Creek Film Festival. This was followed in 1982 by Losing Ground (starring Seret Scott, Bill Gunn, and Duane Jones), which she wrote and directed. Losing Ground won First Prize at the Figueroa International Film Festival in Portugal and garnered much international acclaim. Both films were shot in Rockland County, NY, and are currently being distributed by Milestone Films. She wrote many other plays and screenplays, but her two most well-known theatrical plays are In the Midnight Hour (1981) and The Brothers (1982), both of which are available through Samuel French. Themes frequently explored in her work are issues of marital malaise, male dominance and impotence, freedom of expression and intellectual pursuit, and her protagonists are cited as "typically self-reflective women who move from a state of subjugation to empowerment."

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