Michelle Materre, who promoted Black women’s voices in film and released numerous influential independent movies by Black creators, passed away on March 11, the New York Times reports. She was 67.
Her cause of death was oral cancer as confirmed by her close friend Kathryn Bowser.
Born on May 12, 1954, in Chicago, she graduated from Boston State College with a B.S. in and earned a master’s in educational media from Boston College.
She founded KJM3 Entertainment Group in 1992, which distributed major films such as Julie Dash’s classic Daughters of the Dust, the first feature film by a Black woman to have a wide release. The film was inducted into the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry in 2004.
The company also distributed L’Homme Sur Les Quais, also known as The Man by the Shore, in 1993, a drama by the famed director Raoul Peck, who went on to direct I Am Not Your Negro in 2016.
KJM3 Entertainment released 23 films before it closed down in 2001.
By then, Materre had launched Creatively Speaking, which packaged short films from underrepresented filmmakers into full-length programs organized around themes. She held screenings at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and sponsored educational panels about diversity in filmmaking at the New School in Manhattan and other venues.
In a 2019 interview with the New School, Materre said she started Creatively Speaking because of the lack of opportunities for Black creatives.
“I found that there weren’t very many outlets for filmmakers of color and women filmmakers who hadn’t reached the possibility of making feature films yet,” she said. “They were making short films—all these amazing short films—but nobody was ever seeing them.”
Not only did Materre help with distributing films, but she also organized panels and screenings that put the spotlight on up-and-coming Black filmmakers.
She served on the boards of the Black Documentary Collective and the New York Women in Film and Television . She also taught classes on diversity and inclusion in media at the New School.
In a remembrance written for The New School Free Press written by Terri Bowles, she said that Materre, “radiated a love of media and cinema, immersing her students, colleagues, and friends in the vernaculars of the image, its myriad presentations, and its critical importance.”
Matelle Materre is survived by her sisters, Paula and Judi Materre.
We send our prayers and deepest condolences to her family and to her friends.