Suzanne Suzanne

Sculptor Camille Billops and theater professor James Hatch, curators of a large collection of African-American memorabilia in Los Angeles, collaborated on these two short works, both centered on Billops’s family. The extraordinary Suzanne Suzanne (1982, 26 min.) focuses on Billops’s niece, who speaks frankly and wisely about her heroin addiction, the domestic abuse that drove her to drugs, and her hopes to stay clean. She and her mother open up about the drunken beatings they suffered at the hands of “Brownie,” the family’s just-deceased patriarch, and the filmmakers take the creative risk of posing mother and daughter in a highly composed two-shot as they compare notes, which results in a beautiful image of unbearably raw emotion. Billops and Hatch bring that taste for artifice to Finding Christa (1991, 55 min.), about the daughter Billops gave up for adoption two decades earlier, but the film is rambling and self-indulgent, a compendium of easygoing family anecdotes and precious visual conceits (in one staged shot, meant to illustrate Christa’s complaints about marriage, she mops a black-and-white-tiled floor in her elegant wedding dress).