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Phyllis R. Klotman, Scholar and Archivist of African-American Cinema, Dies at 90

Phyllis Klotman, right, with Frances Stubbs and Gloria Gibson at the Black Film Center/Archive in 1986. (Indiana University Black Film Center/Archive)
Phyllis Klotman, right, with Frances Stubbs and Gloria Gibson at the Black Film Center/Archive in 1986. (Indiana University Black Film Center/Archive)

Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES

NEW YORK (The New York Times)—Phyllis R. Klotman, a film scholar who helped unearth lost treasures of African-American cinema and established a major archive devoted to their preservation and study, died on March 30 at her home in Manhattan. She was 90.

Her daughter, Janet K. Cutler, confirmed the death.

At her death, Professor Klotman was an emeritus professor in the department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University in Bloomington. There, in 1981, she created the Black Film Center/Archive, the first significant repository of its kind in the United States.

Professor Klotman, who wrote and lectured widely on black cinema, founded what became the journal Black Camera. She convened symposiums and screenings, and championed the work of contemporary black filmmakers.

“She was one of the first to preserve black independent films, and in doing that, she encouraged us,” Charles Burnett, one of the most acclaimed black independent filmmakers of the postwar period, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “One of the first forums that we had was at her school. And for many of us, it was the first time that we had some exposure on this level, in a university setting.”

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