9 years ago today was the release of Town Hall, a fascinating documentary created by the incredible Jamila Wignot.
Jamila Wignot is an American filmmaker and producer known for her informative and impactful documentaries. Town Hall, released in 2014, was the first feature-length doc that she directed. The film offers an inside look into the worlds of Katy and John, two Tea Party activists in rural Pennsylvania. The film follows the two of them as they attempt to create a grassroots movement to prevent Obama’s re-election in 2012. Though the viewpoints of the subjects are controversial and often outright hateful, Jamila clearly did not make the film to support those views. Instead, with Town Hall, she offers those of us on the other side a rare chance to try to understand why radical conservatives think the way they do.
In 2021, Jamila directed Ailey, another documentary about the choreographer Alvin Ailey, one of America’s most well-known Black choreographers. Mixing archival and contemporary footage, Ailey chronicles Alvin Ailey’s life from his teenage-hood to his tragic death from complications from AIDs at the age of 58.
In Ailey, Jamila shows how Alvin Ailey inspired other Black dancers and, in particular, created a special space within the dance community for Black women.
Alvin Ailey was an incredible and unique choreographer, but he was also an activist, and he employed Black dancers at a time when it was hard for them to find work. Ailey is inspiring and profound in as many ways as Alvin was as a person. In a review of the film, FF2 contributor Nicole Ackman states, “Alvin Ailey is not only an important figure in the dance world, but in both American and world culture more generally. In Ailey, Jamila shows how he inspired other Black dancers and, in particular, created a special space within the dance community for Black women. While the work of the AAADT keeps his legacy alive today, this documentary is also a fitting tribute to him as an extraordinary man as well as a great artist.”
Jamila has also produced for several important films and TV series; most recently, she was the producer for Riotsville, U.S.A, a film which explores the militarization of police in the 1960s in “Riotsvilles,” Army-built towns where police were trained to respond to civil unrest. As with Town Hall, the content of Riotsville can really be hard to watch, and was likely challenging to make for Jamila as a filmmaker. However, it also provides necessary information as to what was really happening on the other side of the protests in the 60s.
With a tenacious commitment to informing society about the most important topics in the US—the good, the bad, and the ugly—Jamila is a truly heroic filmmaker.
© Julia Lasker (5/31/2023) FF2 Media
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Read Nicole Ackman’s review of Ailey here.
Learn more about Riotsville, USA here.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured Photo: Jamila Wignot at Ailey‘s 2021 Opening Night Gala. Photo by Donna Ward obtained from Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.
Bottom Photo: A scene from RIOTSVILLE, USA, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.