Kathleen Collins—the African American poet, playwright, writer, director, filmmaker, educator and civil rights activist—will be the recipient of the Icon Tribute at this year’s Gotham Awards Ceremony.

The ceremony is set to take place on Monday, November 29, 2021, at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City in front of a live audience. Collins, who passed in 1988 of complications from breast cancer, will be issued the Icon Tribute posthumously. Her daughter, Nina Lorez Collins, will accept the award on her mother’s behalf.

“Kathleen Collins lived an inspirational life itself worthy of a film. She fought for civil rights then fought for the opportunity to tell powerful stories about people of color,” Executive Director of The Gotham Film & Media Institute Jeffrey Sharp said in a press release. “She is an expert and nuanced storyteller who overcame a variety of systematic obstacles in order to tell stories that challenged stereotypes and featured nuanced depictions of marginalized communities. It is an honor to recognize this talented and dedicated individual who never got the appreciation she deserved.”

Collins became a pioneer in the film industry through her remarkable accomplishments. Her experiences growing up in New Jersey during the tumultuous 1940s and 50s, inspired her to pursue a career as a playwright and filmmaker, which broke the mold of the common and prejudicial perception of what a person in the position was supposed to look like. She was also one of the first African American women to produce a feature film, and most of her work broke went away from the negative stereotypes associated with people of color and instead highlighted those communities’ untold stories, particularly those of women.

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In 1980, Collins’ feature narrative The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy was released, ultimately winning First Prize at the Sinking Creek Film Festival in Nashville. She followed the success of her first film with 1982’s comedic drama, Losing Ground. At the time of its release, it was the first film to be directed by an African American woman in almost 60 years. Losing Ground also garnered critical acclaim, earning First Prize at the Figueroa Film Festival in Portugal.

The Gotham Icon Tribute was created to celebrate the unique vision and cultural impact of a filmmaker from a marginalized community whose work has not been previously recognized. Collins’ ability to challenge stereotypes and explore the oppression of gender, race, and class, made her the ideal candidate for the Tribute’s inaugural year.

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