Kathleen Collins will receive the inaugural Icon Tribute posthumously during the 2021 Gotham Awards Ceremony
Kathleen Collins and Ronald Gray on the set of Losing Ground. Courtesy of Milestone Films and Gary Bolling. Photo by Gary Bolling.

Poet, playwright, writer, filmmaker, director, civil rights activist, and educator Kathleen Collins will receive the inaugural Icon Tribute posthumously during the 2021 Gotham Awards Ceremony. Nina Lorez Collins will accept the inaugural Gotham Icon Tribute on behalf of her mother.

The Gotham Icon Tribute was conceived by the Gotham Awards Advisory Committee this year on its thirty-first anniversary to serve as an elevated moment during the awards ceremony to call attention to the boldness, artistry, and impact of a filmmaker from a marginalized community whose work has not been previously recognized by organization in its 30 previous years.

“Kathleen Collins lived an inspirational life itself worthy of a film. She fought for civil rights then fought for the opportunity to tell powerful stories about people of color,” said Jeffrey Sharp, Executive Director of The Gotham Film & Media Institute. “She is an expert and nuanced storyteller who overcame a variety of systematic obstacles in order to tell stories that challenged stereotypes and featured nuanced depictions of marginalized communities. It is an honor to recognize this talented and dedicated individual who never got the appreciation she deserved.”

Born in 1942, raised in Jersey City, and educated at Skidmore and the Sorbonne, Kathleen Collins was an activist with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the Civil Rights Movement who went on to carve out a career for herself as a playwright and filmmaker during a time when black women were rarely seen in those roles. She was married twice, and had two children who she raised in Piermont, New York. She died young, at age 46, from breast cancer. Her most known work is the film Losing Ground, followed by two plays, In the Midnight Hour, and The Brothers.

Collin’s first film, The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy, started with an initial investment of a mere $5,000 from friends plus a line of credit from DuArt Labs. The 1980 film, which chronicled the adventures of three Puerto Rican brothers scraping by while contending with the ghost of their dead father, eventually won First Prize at the prestigious Sinking Creek Film Festival. Collins’s 1982 film Losing Ground – for which she raised $25,000 of the final production cost of $125,000 – starred Seret Scott, Bill Gunn, and Duane Jones. A comedic drama, Losing Ground was one of the very first fictional features by an African-American woman filmmaker. It tells the story of Sara Rogers, a brilliant and beautiful black philosophy professor (played by Collins’s close friend Seret Scott), and Victor, her outgoing artist husband, at a marital crossroad.

One of the first black American women to produce a feature-length film, she is considered to have “changed the face and content of the black womanist film.” Collins’ work is significant in that it conveys images of people of color, particularly women, in ways that even now are rarely seen in popular culture. She challenged stereotypes and explored the interlocking oppressions of gender, race, and class.

It was previously announced that Kristen Stewart will receive a Performer Tribute, Eamonn Bowles the Industry Tribute, the cast of The Harder They Fall the Ensemble Tribute and Jane Campion the Director’s Tribute.

The Premier Sponsor of the 2021 Gotham Awards is The New York Times and the Platinum Sponsor is GreenSlate. The Official Auto Partner is Cadillac, the Official Water Partner is FIJI Water, the Official Airline Partner is JetBlue, and the Official Wine Partner is Robert Hall Winery.

As the first major awards ceremony of the fall season, the Gotham Awards provide critical early recognition and media attention to worthy independent films and series and their writers, directors, producers, and actors with twelve competitive awards categories. The awards are also unique for their ability to assist in catapulting award recipients prominently into national awards season attention. The Gotham Awards Ceremony will take place on Monday, November 29, 2021 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.

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