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Poster for Pioneers of African American Cinema: Birthright (1938)

Pioneers of African American Cinema: Birthright (1938)

Opens on March 3

Director: Oscar Micheaux Run Time: 120 min. Rating: NR Release Year: 1938

Starring: Allen Lee, Columbus Jackson, Herbert E. Jelley, Laura Bowman, Tom Dillon

Country: United States
Language: English

Reception begins at 5:30 p.m. followed by opening remarks and a presentation of Oscar Micheaux’s Birthright (1938) and selected short films at 7:00 p.m. The evening will close with a musical performance by MojoFlo. Curated by Marshall Shorts, the featured exhibition “Duly Noted”  is open for viewing throughout the evening in The Gallery at Gateway Film Center.

Learn more about the Pioneers of African American Cinema series at Gateway Film Center here.

About the film:

An idealistic young man attempts to establish a school in a rural location, but encounters opposition from both the black and white communities. Micheaux himself was a former homesteader, and strongly believed that African Americans should establish rural communities rather than follow the urban migration. But it’s hard to resist the allure of the city when Micheaux allows energetic singers and dancers to take the nightclub stage for extended musical numbers.

The restoration of Birthright (1938) was derived from the only known surviving 35mm print, which is missing the first two of its nine reels – approximately twenty minutes of material. A description of the missing scenes has been compiled from a dialogue script submitted to the New York Censor Board on May 25, 1938, now preserved in the Motion Picture Scripts Collection of the New York State Archives. Birthright (1938) is a remake of Micheaux’s 1924 film of the same title. The earlier version is entirely lost.

Mastered in HD from 35mm film elements preserved by The Library of Congress. Digital reconstruction by Bret Wood. This digital restoration was made possible through the generous support of Matthew and Natalie Bernstein.

About the filmmaker:

Born in 1884, Oscar Devereaux Micheaux was an author, film writer and director, and independent producer of more than 44 silent films and sound films from 1919—1948. He is regarded as the first major African American feature filmmaker, a prominent producer of race films, and the most successful African American filmmaker of the first half of the 20th century. The groundbreaking auteur’s features include The Symbol of the Unconquered (1920), Body and Soul (1925), Within Our Gates (1920) and Birthright (1938). The latter two are presented at the Film Center as part of the Pioneers of African American Cinema series.

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