We’ve certainly talked a lot about this new Kino Lorber five-disc Blu-Ray/DVD set, “Pioneers of African-American Cinema,” but we wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t so vital and important.
Nearly 500 independently produced black films exclusively made for black audiences – better known as “race films” – were made in the United States between 1915 and 1952, and shown in over 1000 movie theaters across the country; although most of them are now lost due to neglect and poor preservation.
Black filmmakers such as Oscar Micheaux, Spencer Williams, Zora Neale Hurston, and James and Eloyce Gist (as well as a few white filmmakers) wanted to present alternative, more realistic and honest images of African-Americans on screen, than how Hollywood depicted black people at the time – typically as criminals, or simple minded “layabouts,” and “lecherous savages.”
The five-disc set, which will go on sale starting Tuesday, July 26, was executive produced by Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky), and curated by historians Prof. Jacqueline Najuma Stewart of the University of Chicago, and Charles Musser of Yale University. Twenty-five films were restored from HD masters (transferred from archival elements preserved by several leading archives, including the Library of Congress) to produce the first major collection of these race films to be remastered.
If you want a sampling of what this massive set contains, be sure to watch Turner Classic Movies cable channel on Sunday July 24th, and next Sunday, July 31st, both starting at 8PM Eastern (7PM Central), because the network will show several of the films in the collection.
The schedule of screenings follows below.
On Sunday July 24:
8 PM BIRTHRIGHT (1938) Dir: Oscar Micheaux .74 mins,
9:30 PM TEN NIGHTS IN A BARROOM (1926) 64 mins,
10:45 PM REV. S.S. JONES HOME MOVIES (1924-1926) 16 mins,
11:10 PM WE WORK AGAIN (1937) 15 mins,
11:30 PM VEILED ARISTOCRATS (1932) Dir: Oscar Micheaux 44 mins,
12:30 AM Within Our Gates (1920) Dir. Oscar Micheaux 74 Mins
And on Sunday July 31:
8:00 PM BLOOD OF JESUS (1941) Dir: Spencer Williams 56 mins,
9:15 PM DIRTY GERTIE FROM HARLEM U.S.A. (1946) Dir: Spencer Williams 60 mins,
10:30 PM HEAVEN-BOUND TRAVELER (1931) Dir: James Gist 15 mins,
10:30 PM VERDICT NOT GUILTY (1933) Dir: Eloyce Gist 9 mins,
11:00 PM COMMANDMENT KEEPER CHURCH, BEAUFORT SOUTH CAROLINA, MAY 1940 Dir: Zora Neale Hurston 16 mins,
11:30 PM MERCY, THE MUMMY MUMBLED (1918) 14 mins,
11:30 PM TWO KNIGHTS OF VAUDEVILLE (1915) 11 mins,
12:00 AM SCAR OF SHAME (1927) Dir: Frank Perugini 87 mins
Also Prof. Stewart herself will appear on both programs to introduce and discuss the films being shown.