Another Oscar

Feb 5, 2009

"Around the time that the KKK rode to victory in The Birth of a Nation (1915), Al Jolson applied burned cork to his face in The Jazz Singer (1927), and scores of African-American actors bowed, scraped, shucked, and jived in Hollywood productions, an alternative cinema was thriving,” writes Melissa Anderson this week for Artforum, in a preview of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s two-week, thirty-five-film series Faded Glory: Oscar Micheaux and Black Pre-War Cinema, which starts today. Anderson singles out for praise “[Paul] Robeson’s scorching bow in Body and Soul,” a Micheaux film that can be found in Criterion’s box set Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist.

The series also inspired Moving Image Source to reprint a 1994 article by David Schwartz, “Life Comes Through: The Bizarre Genius of Oscar Micheaux.” Asks Schwartz: “Is he a revolutionary genius whose films defy Hollywood convention in favor of an Afrocentric aesthetic; a reactionary charlatan who reinforced negative stereotypes; an inept amateur whose clumsy films fell laughably short of Hollywood standards; or an unintentional genius who produced films of astonishing formal invention?” Read the full piece here, and if you’re in New York, go see for yourself!

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