Frameline Award: Rodney Evans

"I'll make me a world." That phrase, penned by the African American civil rights leader and songwriter James Weldon Johnson, springs to mind when considering the distinctive, wide-ranging creative work of this year's Frameline Award honoree, filmmaker Rodney Evans. Whether through revealing documentary profiles of creative artists or feature-length historical fiction, whether in documentary or narrative, Evans's ability to conjure a unique, culturally specific world on film places him as a next-generation avatar of such trailblazers as Marlon Riggs and Isaac Julien: bravely exploring what it means to be Black and queer, both now and in the past.

Born in 1971 in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, New York, Evans' breakthrough film was his 2004 feature Brother to Brother, which brilliantly toggles between the present day and the Harlem Renaissance to address the nature of Black gay identity and the calling of art. The film won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for four Film Independent Spirit Awards including Best First Feature, Best First Screenplay, and Best Debut Performance for Anthony Mackie. Even while diving into present-day romance and intimacy, as in his second feature, The Happy Sad (which saw its world premiere at Frameline37)—about two couples testing the boundaries of their relationships and sexualities—Evans has shown an abiding passion for dramatizing the particular lives and challenges facing queer artists. His 2010 fiction short Billy and Aaron (Frameline34) addressed the life of openly gay jazz musician Billy Strayhorn in the 1940s, while Persistence of Vision (Frameline40) offered a memorable portrait of contemporary blind photographer John Dugdale—a subject he returns to in his new and deeply personal work, Vision Portraits, in which Evans also confronts his own struggle as a visual artist living with a degenerative eye disease. For his own persistence of vision—for inventively and with extraordinary empathy revealing the lives and drives of Black and queer artists across generations, and in doing so proving himself worthy of that tradition—Frameline is honored to present Rodney Evans with the 2019 Frameline Award.

Rodney Evans will receive the 2019 Frameline Award immediately prior to the June 26 screening of Vision Portraits, 4:00 pm, Castro Theatre.

— PETER L. STEIN

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