A fortuitous chain of events brought Kathleen Collins’ work as a filmmaker back to the public eye almost 30 years after her untimely death from cancer in 1988. Manhattan’s DuArt Film and Video was closing its processing lab in 2010 and contacted Collins’ daughter, Nina, to ask if she wanted the surviving prints of her mother’s sole feature, Losing Ground (1982). Nina worked with Milestone Films to restore what would turn out to be a revelation when it opened the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 2015 festival of Black independent films. Collins, who studied French literature and film at the Sorbonne in Paris, got into filmmaking at the urging of a student, Ronald K. Gray, who served as cinematographer on her debut short The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy (1980) and her sole feature.
Losing Ground examines the plight of an African American college professor trying to finish a major paper while summering with her artist husband (Bill Gunn) in Nyack, New York. The film focuses on issues of female empowerment and independence. Although the film was hailed at the few festivals at which it screened, it was never given a commercial release until after its successful screening at Lincoln Center.