Past Film/Video

Samantha N. Sheppard

On Sporting Blackness

in conversation with Hanif Abdurraqib and David Filipi


Cinema and media scholar Sheppard (Cornell University) discusses her new book, Sporting Blackness—an analysis of race and representation in sports films and what it means to perform Blackness on screen—in conversation with Columbus author Hanif Abdurraqib and Wex Director of Film/Video David Filipi.

Employing close reads of the documentary Hoop Dreams (1994), the television series Friday Night Lights (2006–11), the romantic drama Love & Basketball (2000), and Haile Gerima’s experimental short Hour Glass (1971), among other works, Sheppard explores the idea of “critical muscle memories” as histories. Her rich approach to these subjects and more goes beyond a film’s plot to produce narratives about Black sporting experiences in American society.

Sporting Blackness: Race, Embodiment, and Critical Muscle Memory on Screen is published by University of California Press. Order your copy from the Wexner Center Store.

"Sheppard’s critical analysis is exquisite and groundbreaking…a highly original study of film and media that examines issues of embodiment, sports, history, and renderings of the black body."
Michael Boyce Gillespie on Sporting Blackness
Three people in a Zoom call each hold up the book Sporting Blackness.
The book cover for Sporting Blackness features a photo of a football player with a cape of chains, holding a helmet, and facing away from the camera

Image courtesy of University of California Press

The author of Sporting Blackness, Samantha N. Sheppard, is wearing a collared shirt and smiling.

Image courtesy of the author

About the Speakers

Samantha N. Sheppard chevron-down chevron-up

Dr. Samantha N. Sheppard is the Mary Armstrong Meduski '80 Assistant Professor of Cinema and Media Studies in Cornell University’s Department of Performing and Media Arts and the faculty director of the university’s Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program. Her research interests also include Black cultural production and production cultures, African American representation in cinema, and feminist media studies. She writes extensively on issues of race, gender, and representation in film, television, and digital media and teaches courses on global cinema, contemporary television, African American film history, popular culture, and women filmmakers.
Visit the author’s website
Review: “Black One Shot / Black 14,” ASAP Journal

Hanif Abdurraqib chevron-down chevron-up

A poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio, Hanif Abdurraqib has been published in the New York Times, New Yorker, FADER, and Pitchfork. His first full-length poetry collection, The Crown Ain't Worth Much (Button Poetry, 2016) was named a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award and nominated for a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. His first collection of essays, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us (Two Dollar Radio, 2017) was named a book of the year by NPR, Oprah Magazine, Los Angeles Review, and the Chicago Tribune, among others. His critically acclaimed Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest (University of Texas, 2019) is a New York Times Bestseller. His next book, A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance, is scheduled to be released March 2021.
Visit the author’s website
Essay: “How Basketball Briefly Saved Me from Politics,” Pacific Standard

David Filipi chevron-down chevron-up

David Filipi has been with the Wexner Center's film/video department since 1994 and served as its director since 2010. He has organized hundreds of events at the center, including visiting filmmaker retrospectives of Julia Reichert, Richard Linklater, Lucrecia Martel, Marie Losier, Claire Denis, Olivier Assayas, and Charles Burnett; overseen residency projects by Guy Maddin, Art Spiegelman, the Quay Brothers, John Canemaker, and Bill Morrison; and organized the publication of Paulo Emílio Salles Gomes: On Brazil and Global Cinema (2018). Since 2015, he has curated the center’s annual Cinema Revival: A Festival of Film Restoration. Filipi is a member of Ohio State’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum advisory board and regularly serves on panels and juries for arts and funding organizations.
Read full staff bio.

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Past Film/Video

Samantha N. Sheppard