Within Our Gates – Oscar Micheaux (1920).

Cinema can be a powerful tool.

projector

It can uplift broken communities as seen in the race-films of the 1920’s, or be used to dehumanize the powerless so callously and artistically expressed in DW Griffith’s epic

birth

Unlike Birth and others like it, there were no destructive stereotypes portrayed by white actors in black-face seen in the silent feature Within Our Gates.

Birth+of+a+Nation

The Birth of a Nation (1915)

Rather, the director Oscar Micheaux (pronounced Me-Show), employed influential black artists of the time who crafted scenes of honesty, dignity and affection.

Blues singer Evelyn Preer in her breakthrough acting role.

Blues singer Evelyn Preer.

Emerging within motion pictures we’re stories about African-Americans seen through the lens of black filmmakers.

OM

Oscar Micheaux used the screen to show his audience a greater world.

By creating intelligent and independent lead roles for women and men, he served to end the hideous caricatures rife within America.

jolly

Many artists stood as great advocates for the abolishment of ignorance.

sportofgods_300dpi

Micheaux’s writing explored characters who broke free from destructive chains of oppression through hard work, perseverance and education.

Paul Robson - singer, sportsman and civil rights activist in his debut performance.

Paul Robson – singer, sportsman, actor and civil rights activist.

Although under-financed the integrity of his films were never compromised. As a director he rarely attempted to boast scenes of technical hoorah because that’s not the point of social commentary.

poster

This is an inspiring example of story being used with compassion to critique negative behavior and drive forth positive change.

I don’t pretend to understand the discouragement a young Oscar faced while trying to be heard as an ambitious filmmaker, but I believe he was driven by an unflinching belief in the potential of cinema.

The lesson Oscar Micheaux and artists like him leave behind is this –

Your voice is important.

If the movies being made don’t reflect what you love about cinema, pick up a camera and be the change you want to see in the world.

Oscar Micheaux (1884-1951) –  Warrior, Entrepreneur and Filmmaker

Oscar Micheaux (1884-1951) –
Activist, Entrepreneur and Filmmaker.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s