Celebrating the Pioneers of African American Cinema
- Thu, Jan 5
Director: Oscar Micheaux Run Time: 74 min. Rating: NR Release Year: 1920
Starring: Charles D. Lucas, Evelyn Preer, Flo Clements, Jack Chenault, James D. Ruffin
Country: United States
Celebrating the Pioneers of African American Cinema — Opening night reception, beginning at 5:30 p.m. with remarks from award-winning author Wil Haygood to begin at 7:00 p.m. The Gallery at Gateway Film Center is open for viewing throughout the evening. Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates (1920) presented with Columbus Jazz Orchestra live accompaniment.
Learn more about the Pioneers of African American Cinema series at Gateway Film Center here.
About the film:
Within Our Gates (1920) is the earliest surviving feature film by an African American director. It was Oscar Micheaux’s second film (after 1919’s The Homesteader, now lost), and involves an idealistic young woman named Sylvia Landry (Evelyn Preer, one of the first great stars of the race film) who attempts to raise money for an elementary school to serve the black community (a premise that would be echoed in Micheaux’s 1938 film Birthright). In the course of navigating the racial politics of both the black and white communities, Sylvia’s past is revealed in a series of flashbacks that contain the film’s most notorious sequence: the lynching of her parents by a white mob.
Micheaux’s staging of the scene is startling in its bluntness and speaks volumes about the director’s fearlessness and willingness to address taboo subject matter. The film touches upon other themes that would recur throughout the controversial filmmaker’s career, such as the promise of rural life vs. the corruptive influence of the city, and the use of religion as a means of misleading the black community.
This presentation of Within Our Gates (1920) is mastered in HD from 35mm film elements preserved by The Library of Congress, acquired by the American Film Institute from the Filmoteca Española, Madrid. New musical score composed by Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky.
About the filmmakers:
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 Within Our Gates (1920), The Symbol of the Unconquered (1920), Body and Soul (1925), and Birthright (1938), presented at the Film Center in March as part of Pioneers of African American Cinema.See our upcoming films