New York Women in Film & Television is deeply saddened to announce that former NYWIFT Board Member, longtime NYWIFT member, mentor, educator, and pillar of the New York film community Michelle Materre passed away this weekend after a battle with cancer, surrounded by family and friends. Tami Gold and I visited her at the White Plains Hospital on Wednesday March 9, 2022, and she was peaceful and recognized our presence.
Michelle’s insight and guidance impacted countless lives and careers, and her consistent and creative championing of Black creators from development to distribution and beyond helped shape our industry. We extend our condolences to all in our community whose lives she touched.
In addition to holding a position as associate professor of Media Studies and Film at The New School where she had been teaching since 2001, Michelle Materre was the director of the Media Management Graduate program in the School of Media Studies. Materre’s professional background spanned more than 30 years of experience as film producer, writer, lecturer, arts administrator, distribution/marketing specialist, film programmer, media consultant, film scholar with a focus on African American cinema and the Global South.
In 1992, Materre co-founded one of the first African American-owned film distribution companies, KJM3 Entertainment Group, which directly managed the marketing, positioning and distribution of more than 23 films by filmmakers of African descent including “Daughters of the Dust,” the highly acclaimed film by Julie Dash, as well as “L’Homme Sur Les Quais (The Man by the Shore)” by Raoul Peck.
Her critically acclaimed film series, Creatively Speaking, featuring work by and about women and people of color, spanned over two decades. In 2015, Creatively Speaking co-presented the unprecedented film series “Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in NYC 1968-1986,” with The Film Society of Lincoln Center, which was awarded the Film Heritage Award by the National Society of Film Critics. A second series presented in March 2017 at BAMcinematek, “One Way or Another: Black Women Filmmakers 1970–1991,” was acknowledged by Richard Brody, of The New Yorker Magazine, as “The Best Repertory Series of 2017” as well as awarded the “Film Heritage” award of 2017 by the National Society of Film Critics. In addition to serving on the NYWIFT Board, Michelle was also most recently a board member at Women Make Movies.
Michelle brought her insight into Black film history and distribution to a relatively recent NYWIFT program, our 2020 Member Screening of “Illusions.” The virtual Q&A with Michelle can be watched here in its entirety.
Her intelligence, warmth, and generosity of spirit will be greatly missed.
Details of how her family and The New School will commemorate her passing are still forthcoming. As soon as we know the specifics, we will post so those NYWIFT members that would like to attend would be welcome.
In love and light,
Cynthia Lopez, executive director, New York Women in Film & Television