The Black Banana at Anthology Film Archives

Illustration by Tiffany Malakooti

The Black Banana
Ben Hayeem
1976, 71 minutes, 16mm, color

Together with Anthology Film Archives, Bidoun presented an encore screening of Ben Hayeem’s unmissable, unfathomable wonder. Born and raised in Bombay, Hayeem (1933-2004) made a number of well-regarded films and was close with experimental film pioneers Maya Deren and Slavko Vorkapich. Early in his career he joined the Living Theater group in New York and became the only Indian Jew to play a Chinese Priest with a Yiddish accent in a Brecht play. This comedic, cross-cultural experience must have set him down the path to the rather incredible and risque happenings in The Black Banana.

The original promotional notes inform us that, “In this zany, ribald Middle Eastern comedy, young Jews, Arabs and Texans revolt against the parental and conventional authority, represented by old-fashioned Jews, Arabs and Texans…Despite its message of peace and good will between Jew and Arab, The Black Banana has the distinction of being the only film ever banned in Israel because its mixture of nudity and religious satire offended the Israeli censorship board.” Hayeem protested the banning dressed only in Black Banana filmstrips until a compromise of partial magic marker censorship was reached.

The Black Banana was preceded by Ben Hayeem short films Papillote (1964, 10.5 minutes, 16mm) and Flora (1965, 6 minutes, 16mm) and introduced by Ben’s sister, Vilma, who plays the role of the paper bag in Papillote.

Tuesday, December 22 at 8:00 PM
Anthology Film Archives:
32 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10003