Personal Problems (The Movie)

Featuring the talents of Bill Gunn (Ganja & Hess), Vertamae Grosvenor (Daughters of the Dust), Ishmael Reed, and many others, Personal Problems was originally intended as “an experimental soap opera” for WNET, the public broadcast station in New York. It never aired and was thought lost for many years, but the film has been newly restored by Kino Lorber and will be traveling theatrically soon, beginning with a run at Metrograph. Written by Ishmael Reed and shot in 1979, Personal Problems stars Vertamae Grosvenor as Johnnie Mae, a nurse’s aide at Harlem Hospital who’s having an affair behind the back of her uptight transit worker husband Charles (Walter Cotton). In the March/April 2018 issue, Howard Hampton writes about this incredible work, a “motion picture [that] is inventing its language as it goes along—a series of building blocks of different shapes, tones, and materials creating a homemade Cubist mosaic. Personal Problems balances hands-on and hands-off approaches.” Tobi Haslett, contributor to N+1, 4Columns, and The New Yorker, speaks with FC Digital Producer Violet Lucca about this distinctive work.