Pioneers of African-American Cinema (1915-1946)
There are some who think black films didn't start until the mid-1980s with the appearance of Spike Lee and his debut "She's Gotta Have It." Some others may think that black movies didn't exist until the advent of the blaxploitation films of the early to mid-1970s, while others may believe it started with the "L.A. Rebellion" group of black filmmakers from UCLA Film School of the '70s and early '80s, such as Julie Dash ("Daughters of the Dust") and Charles Burnett ("Killer of Sheep," "To Sleep with Anger").

The reality is that black films started with the popularization of cinema 100 years ago. In fact, some 500 or so black films, better known as "race" films, were made and released between 1915 and 1952.

These films were created by pioneering white and black filmmakers to provide entertainment and make a buck or two from the under-served audience of black filmgoers, most of whom saw these films in segregated theaters in the South. But, especially for early black filmmakers such as Oscar Micheaux and brothers Noble and George Johnson, these films represented something deeper.


They saw them as an alternative to the usual movie images of African-Americans that black people were forced to see in degrading and humiliating stereotypes—these films were an attempt to present a more balanced view of black life and culture. Though many titles were, in effect, low-budget copies of white films that were being made at the time, it was still a revelation and a relief for black audiences to see themselves on the screen larger than life, being heroic, charming, intelligent, brave and romantic. They were detectives, musicians, soldiers, cowboys, professors and teachers—men and women of position and prestige. Films dealing with the educated middle class and well-to-do black people on the screen was a reality for some, but for many others it was something to aspire to.

Many of these films also dealt with issues unique to black audiences. They addressed issues such as racism, lynchings, colorism and poverty among other problems, covering a whole wide swath of genres from dramas to comedies to westerns to musicals, and even a couple of horror films as well.

After years of painstaking restoration work, even establishing an online crowdfunding campaign to help with the financing, Kino Lorber has released their outstanding and groundbreaking five-disc DVD and Blu-ray set, "The Pioneers of African-American Cinema." For the first time, a collection of race films, about 26 features and shorts, have been wonderfully restored and placed into their proper context in regard as to their importance and meaning.

Disc 1:

• "Two Knights of Vaudeville" (1915, 10:56)
• "Mercy, the Mummy Mumbled" (1918, 13:29)
• "A Reckless Rover" (1918, 14:07)
• "Within Our Gates" (1920, 73:41)
• "The Symbol of the Unconquered: A Story of the Ku Klux Klan" (1920, 59:15)
• "By Right of Birth" (1921, 4:40)
• "Body and Soul" (1921, 93:01)
• "Screen Snapshots" (1920, 1:40) – Taken from newsreel footage of Oscar Micheaux on the set of "The Brute."

Bonus:
• "An Introduction" (7:30) provides an overview of disc content, featuring film historians Jacqueline Najuma Stewart and Charles Musser.
• "The Films of Oscar Micheaux" (8:49) returns to Musser, who discusses the work of the pioneer moviemaker.

Disc 2:

• "Regeneration" (1923, 11:33)
• "The Flying Ace" (1926, 65:48)
• "Ten Nights in a Bar Room" (1926, 63:56)
• "Reverend S.S. Jones Home Movies" (1924-1928, 16:11)
• "The Scar of Shame" (1929, 86:36)

Bonus:
• "The Color Line" (5:17) supplies Musser's thoughts on racial collaboration in film.
• "Ten Nights in a Bar Room: An Introduction" (4:14) – Musser offers a BTS explanation for the short.
• "About the Restoration" (8:06) provides an overview of the recovery effort, hosted by Bret Wood. Also of interest are examples of moviemaking mistakes that remain in the pictures, with disc producers resisting the urge to correct these admittedly humorous issues.

Disc 3:

• "Eleven P.M." (1928, 66:42)
• "Hell-Bound Train" (1930, 50:57)
• "Verdict: Not Guilty" (1933, 8:41)
• "Heaven-Bound Travelers" (1935, 15:18)
• "The Darktown Revue" (1931, 18:26) – Subtitles are included.
• "The Exile" (1931, 78:26) – Subtitles are included.
• "Hot Biskits" (1931, 10:03) – Subtitles are included.

Bonus:
• "Religion in Early African-America Cinema" (6:45) returns to Stewart, who offers historical perspective on depictions and criticism of faith in the collected films.
• "Eleven P.M.: An Introduction" (3:04) – reunites with Musser for a brief discussion of the Richard Maurice film.
Interview (5:08) with film historian S. Torriano Berry inspects the work of James and Eloyce Gist.

Disc 4:

• "The Girl from Chicago" (1932, 70:43) – Subtitles are included.
• "Ten Minutes to Live" (1932, 57:58) – Subtitles are included.
• "Veiled Aristocrats" (1932, 44:10) – Subtitles are included.
• "Birthright" (1938, 13:39).

Bonus:
• Trailers for "Veiled Aristocrats" (4:07) and "Birthright" (3:52) are included.
• "We Work Again" (1937, 15:11) is newsreel focusing on WPA projects across America.

Disc 5:

• "The Bronze Buckaroo" (1939, 58:03) – Subtitles are included.
• "Zora Neale Hurston Fieldwork Footage" (1928, 3:02)
• "Commandment Keeper Church" (1940, 15:41)
• "The Blood of Jesus" (1941, 56:29) – Subtitles are included.
• "Dirty Gertie from Harlem, U.S.A." (1946, 60:24) – Subtitles are included.
• "Moses Sisters Interview" (1978, 32:05)

Bonus:
• "Tyler Texas Black Film Collection" (1985, 5:57) is a promotional film hosted by Ossie Davis.
• "The Films of Zora Neale Hurston" (1:50) welcomes Library of Congress employee Mike Mashon, who discusses the discovery of a forgotten filmmaker's work.
• "The Films of Spencer Williams" (6:58) reunites with Stewart, who identifies creative accomplishments from the former star of "Amos 'n Andy."
• "The End of an Era" (4:42) closes out the set with additional thoughts from Stewart.

5 x BD50 | 1080p AVC | 1178 minutes | 214 Gb + 3% rec
Language: English
Subtitles: English
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, War, Music, Musical, Mystery, Comedy, Drama, Romance, Documentary, Short

Download Pioneers of African-American Cinema (1915-1946) 5 x Blu-ray:

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