TCM, AAFCA team up for ‘The Black Experience on Film’ throughout September

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) have partnered to bring viewers "The Black Experience on Film", a month-long programming initiative showcasing portrayals of African-Americans throughout cinematic history – from the 1920s through the 1990s.

Hosted by 13 different members of the AAFCA, the programming airs every Tuesday and Thursday in September, with four films showcased per night. In addition to exploring black identity, the series will explore a different topic each night – from confronting racism in film to black coming of age flicks. Classics such as “Carmen Jones,” starring Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte, and “A Raisin in the Sun,” starring Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee, are part of the lineup. View the full schedule here.

Turner chatted with Charlie Tabesh, SVP – Programming and Production, TCM, about this first-time initiative for the network and the partnership with AAFCA to bring the idea to life.

Charlie Tabesh

Charlie Tabesh

Turner: Tell us more about the genesis of this TCM/AAFCA collaboration. How did TCM and AAFCA members go about selecting the 32 films that are being showcased?

Charlie Tabesh: There was close collaboration with their team throughout the entire process. Initially, we started off talking with them about how we program, how we thought programming might shape up through the month, and also gave them some parameters to work with. We thought it would be smart to have different themes for each night, such as coming of age, romance, and strong black women to name a few. They came back to us with a list of themes and a list of films within each theme, and then we figured out what films we had under license and went from there.


T: Why now? Why did you choose the month of September and not Black History Month?

CT: There are a couple of reasons. First, Black History Month also happens to be when our 31 Days of Oscar programming is happening. With the Oscars now in February rather than March, we have that conflict. Second, early in TCM's existence and early in my career at TCM, we did a series on African-American directors, called A Separate Cinema. That happened in May and got a lot of positive feedback. Black history isn’t just celebrated in February. It’s something to celebrate any time of the year.

T: In the lineup, you have classics such as “Carmen Jones” and “A Raisin in the Sun.” If you had to pick one film from the lineup, what would you say is your personal favorite?

CT: Even though it’s probably the most well-known, I love “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

T: Are there any hidden surprises in the lineup? Perhaps a lesser-known film you would consider a must-see? 

CT: There’s a film called “One Potato, Two Potato.” It's an independent, low-budget film made in the early 1960s about an interracial romance. It doesn't have big stars, but it is a really important and moving story about a black man and white woman who love each other and the struggles that they have keeping their relationship and their family together through legal and cultural challenges.

T: What did TCM most want to achieve with this programming initiative?

CT: This is what TCM is all about. Our mission is to program for all of our fans watching the network and dig deep into film history. There are an infinite number of ways that you can look at Hollywood history. I think it's important that we explore different perspectives – how films are perceived by different audiences, at different times, and through different lenses.

You don't get that when you just show the films. You only get that when you have a conversation in and around the films. You need that explanation, that context.

Take “Gone with the Wind,” for example. It is now being understood and talked about as a film that’s perceived much differently in the African-American community than it may have historically been perceived by the white community.

Coming up next from TCM…

  • Women Film Pioneers I Nov. 1 and Nov. 8
  • Veterans Day programming I Nov. 11

TCM’s "The Black Experience on Film" airs every Tuesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. ET in September. View the full schedule here.