Bryan Dematteis’ documentary film “The Black Artists’ Group: Creation Equals Movement,” which will premiere at the 2020 St. Louis International Film Festival from November 5-22, was a long time in the making. Dematteis began working on the film in 2014, and the Black Artists’ Group dissolved back in 1972, so this movie took either six years or a half-century to be made, depending on how you look at it.
Dematteis told The American that he canned more than 50 hours of on-camera interviews for this lean, 48-minute film. The new interviews he conducted – of BAG principals such as Oliver Lake, the late Hamiet Bluiett, Malinke Elliott, the late Shirley LeFlore, Portia Hunt, George Sams and the late Charles “Bobo” Shaw – form a valuable contribution to the history of black artist movements and of St. Louis. The interviews all look and sound great, and the subjects are eloquent. Given how long Dematteis worked on this film, he captured what must have been the last on-camera interviews for some people we have since lost, such as Bluiett, LeFlore and Shaw, that the public is now seeing for the first time after they are gone.