Friday, March 18, 2011

KQED filmmaker Allen Willis dies

Allen Willis, a pioneering African-American filmmaker who documented significant periods in San Francisco Bay area history, died Feb. 23 in Oakland at age 94, according to Variety.

According to the East Bay Media Center, which houses his archives, Willis became the first African American in California broadcast journalism when he took a job at San Francisco's KQED television in 1963. Before that, he studied under photographer Ansel Adams.

Variety says that in Willis’ 25 years at KQED, he made films chronicling major events and cultural movements, including "The Other America," about Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1967 "white backlash" speech at Stanford; 1970 documentary "Stagger Lee," an interview with incarcerated Black Panther leader Bobby Seale; and a film exploring the psychedelic drug experience.

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