Help Fund The Restoration of Forgotten Black Cinema

Still from 'The Pioneers of African-American Cinema' Kickstarter video

Kino Lorber have been restoring and distributing classic cinema for thirty years but this is the first time they’ve turned to Kickstarter for help. Pioneers of African-American Cinema will be a Blu-Ray and DVD release comprising features, shorts, fragments and interviews from an (unsurprisingly) neglected chapter of American film history.

From the 1920s to ‘40s, African-American filmmakers like Oscar Micheaux, Spencer Williams and Richard D. Maurice – and women like Zora Neale Hurston and Eloyce Gist – were at the forefront of a new, distinctly African-American cinema. These aren’t the so-called ‘race films’ - made by white directors within the Studio System for black audiences - but were actually “funded, written, produced, directed, distributed, and often exhibited by people of colour” outside Hollywood. Moreover, they weren’t derivative but demonstrate a visual and narrative language “that were uniquely their own”.

With the help of DJ Spooky, the silent films will be re-scored. Some of these scores will replicate their contemporaneous equivalents but some will be distinctly modern to avoid historicising and petrifying these important works. There’ll also be a photobook, programme essays and interviews with cultural historians but, to be honest, the biggest reason to help out is the films themselves. Films like:

Eleven P.M. - Richard D. Maurice’s bizarre mix of spiritualism and sentimentality “follows an impoverished violinist who tries to protect a young girl from entering a life of sin”. See the poster above for more details.

Commandment Keeper Church - a 40-minute ethnological documentary directed by Zora Neale Hurston examining the practices of a black church in the Deep South.

Verdict Not Guilty - The first film co-directed by an African-American woman (it was the husband-and-wife team of James and Eloyce Gist) was intended to be shown, not in a cinema, but in a church right before the sermon.

So there you go, a documentary from 1940 made by an African-American woman, an absurd morality tale dressed as a B-movie, and a radical intervention in African-American society…These are artefacts worth rescuing; this is a Kickstarter worth funding. 

[via The Dissolve]

Unconventional by Tradition

Discover how urban creatives helped us design our new packaging.

Read more