Theme Month! February 2017: Pioneers of African-American Cinema

What do you get when you combine rare films, passionate historians and a whole lot of crowdfunding? In this case, the Pioneers of African-American Cinema box set.

While I gave the box a quick once-over when I received it, I think it deserves a deeper dive. Throughout the month of February, I’ll be reviewing selections from the set.

Here are some details that will make this particularly interesting:

The films were made by African-Americans for an African-American audience.

The films were made outside the mainstream studio system, which meant the creators were cut off from certain resources but also had great freedom as they were unfettered by studio politics and traditions.

The films cover every genre of silent cinema, from comedy to melodrama to adventure to religious drama.

And, yes, of course we will be including at least one title from Oscar Micheaux.

This is my first foray into the world of independent, silent African-American cinema but early indie filmmakers are quite a passion of mine. To get an idea of how I do things, check out my review of The Curse of Quon Gwon, the earliest surviving Chinese-American independent production (and it was produced, written and directed by a woman). I also reviewed East and West, the earliest surviving Yiddish film. It stars stage legend Molly Picon and husband Yonkel Kalich.

This is going to be a fun, informative journey!


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  1. popegrutch

    Hooray! Later this month, I’m traveling up to Portland for a screening of “Within Our Gates” by Micheaux at the Hollywood Theater. I believe it’s one of the films in that collection as well.

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      Yes, it is. Lovely to see it live, though it’s quite an intense experience. I was fortunate enough to have stumbled on it early in my silent film career and I can think of no other picture to better throw cold water on any flickering embers of Griffith apologism. Plus, it rather neatly kills the notion that “people just weren’t offended” by racism in silent films.

  2. Marie Roget

    We received this boxed set at Yuletide from the same family member who gave us The Daughter of Dawn. Love all the films you have chosen to review!

    Truly envious of popegrutch for being able to view Within Our Gates on the big screen. Please do let us all know in the threads how screening went, how it played to a large audience for instance, if convenient.

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