Cinema can be a powerful tool.
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…
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.
Rather, the director Oscar Micheaux (pronounced Me-Show), employed influential black artists of the time who crafted scenes of honesty, dignity and affection.
Emerging within motion pictures we’re stories about African-Americans seen through the lens of black filmmakers.
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.
Many artists stood as great advocates for the abolishment of ignorance.
Micheaux’s writing explored characters who broke free from destructive chains of oppression through hard work, perseverance and education.
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.
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 –
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.