Many Generations Mourn the
Loss of the Great Pearl Bowser
Pearl created an engaged and intellectually rigorous community
In 1989, Pearl Bowser was the programmer of the Flaherty Film Seminar. She invited me to be an artist at the seminar and to screen my film Sermons and Sacred Pictures: The Life and Work of Reverend L.O. Taylor. Reverend Taylor was a filmmaker who shot from the inside out, a Black minister documenting his own Memphis community with his own Bolex 16mm camera and his own audio recording device. Of course, I was grateful to be part of the seminar with its focus on African Diaspora filmmakers. Over that week, Pearl subtly but emphatically created an engaged, intellectually rigorous community around the films and filmmakers that she had chosen to present. She invited author and filmmaker Toni Cade Bambara to instigate conversations after the films, to take us as a group into a truly metaphysical dialogue on cinema. Pearl also asked film scholar and theorist Teshome Gabriel to facilitate some of the conversations. Twenty-seven years old at the time, I was grateful for his encouragement and guidance.
I remained in touch with Pearl over the years. Our last deep interaction happened in 2015 when film curator Josh Siegel programmed Sermons as part of his series Tributaries: Zora Neale Hurston and Other Chroniclers of the South at the Museum of Modern Art. Pearl and I made a date to go to a matinée together. What a joy it was for me to spend this time with her, in the light, of course, but just as much in the dark of the theater. For those of us with a passion for the moving image, these shared hours without words allow us to feel another kind of connection to each other and to the beyond.