Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sergio A. Mims - Kino Lorber's ‘Pioneers of African-American Cinema' DVD/Blu-Ray Set Coming Out July 26

Francine Everett in Spencer Williams’ 1946 film Dirty Gertie from Harlem USA

Sergio A. Mims writes:

I thought you might be interested in this article I wrote


Recently on a film business/review podcast, I called Kino Lorber’s upcoming 5 disc DVD set, “Pioneers of African American Cinema,” “Historic,” and I meant it. There would be no black cinema today if it wasn’t for these films and the filmmakers who made them.
Nearly 500 independently produced black films exclusively made for black audiences, better known as “race films”, were made in the United States between 1915 and 1952 and shown in over 1000 movie theaters across the country, though most of them are now lost due to  neglect and poor preservation.
Black filmmakers such as Oscar Micheaux, Spencer Williams, Zora Neale Hurston, and James and Eloyce Gist (as well as white filmmakers) wanted to present an alternative, more realistic and honest images of African-Americans than what Hollywood was presenting of black people at the time – as criminals and simple minded “layabouts and lecherous savages.”
The Kino set, which is executive produced by Paul D Miller (aka DJ Spooky) and curated by historians Dr Jacqueline Stewart of the University of Chicago and Charles Musser of Yale University of 25 films, were restored from HD masters (transferred from archival elements preserved by several leading archives, including the Library of Congress), and is the first major collection of these race films to be remastered.
Though most of the films may fall short in terms of production values when compared to contemporary Hollywood studios films of the same period, these films are important because, according to Prof. Stewart, “I’m hoping that people will be able to see the films on their own terms… That it won’t be [seen as] a nebulous footnote that African Americans were making films during this period. I want people to let these films wash over them, and to put them in dialogue with the mainstream Hollywood films we’re more familiar with from that period.”
Now after previous dates have passed, Kino has officially announced that the set will finally be available on July 26 on both a blu-ray edition and standard DVD version.

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