Puppet Show + Mayday
Director: Josh Morton / May 1st Media
USA / 1970 / 9 min / 22 min
Last screened on Mon, Aug 24
Live Screening of new restorations introduced by writer and researcher Yasmina Price and followed by a discussion with Price and writer Tobi Haslett.
In 1970, the Yale student film collective May 1st Media made two 16mm works supporting the Black Panther Party’s New Haven chapter to help spread the word of their community-based activities. Puppet Show is a charming curiosity that sees the story of Panther Lonnie McLucas, who was convicted of murder in 1969, being performed for neighborhood children at the Party’s local headquarters. And Mayday—commissioned by Yale University’s president— documents the massive demonstrations that took place in New Haven during the spring of 1970, in response to the trials against national Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins, founder of the local chapter. With the rallying cries of “Free Bobby, Free Ericka” from demonstrators, who included New Haven residents, members of the Yale community, and scores of others from around the country, these protests—proclaiming that leaders of organizations working toward Black liberation couldn’t receive fair treatment within the U.S. legal system—proved an incendiary and polarizing episode in the tense climate of Richard Nixon’s early presidency.
Both films were preserved by the Yale Film Study Center in 2016, with laboratory work by Fotokem and audio restoration by Audio Mechanics and DJ Audio. Special thanks to Josh Morton and Brian Meacham.