Abandoned by her fiancé, an educated black woman with a shocking past dedicates herself to helping a near bankrupt school for impoverished black youths.Abandoned by her fiancé, an educated black woman with a shocking past dedicates herself to helping a near bankrupt school for impoverished black youths.Abandoned by her fiancé, an educated black woman with a shocking past dedicates herself to helping a near bankrupt school for impoverished black youths.
*** (out of 4)
Oscar Micheaux's response to Griffith's The Birth of a Nation faced its own share of controversy when originally released and was banned in black communities all over the country. The film was thought lost until a print showed up in Spain in 1993 and this remains the oldest surviving feature from a black director. A light skinned black woman, living up North, travels to the South to teach at an all black school. Since the government isn't helping to educate black kids, the woman goes back North to try and find rich white folks who will help in her cause but she's met with racism, from blacks and whites and a secret from her past might catch up to haunt her.
As with the Griffith film, you could overlook all the controversy surrounding this film and judge is for what good it does do and its historical importance. Watching the film with today's standards and politically correct nature, it's still easy to see why so many black folks were offended by a film that was made to have a moral tale. Micheaux shows racism going from black to white and white to black but, unlike the Griffith film, he also shows that races can show hatred toward their own race. Not many people have viewed this film, which is a real shame because it's heart is certainly in the right place and if you take the historic importance away from the Griffith film, more folks should be checking out this movie instead of that one.
Technically speaking it's rather amazing at how well Micheaux pulled this low budget film off. The editing is very good and really helps build up the suspense towards the end of the film. The story could have been worked on and a lot of the performances are quite poor but that doesn't take away from the film's message. The ending involves the backstory to our main character and this includes a lynching scene as well as a rape scene. Both of these scenes are very well done and pack quite a punch for a 86-year-old film. This sidestory, which is basically a remake of the ending to the Griffith film, has some over the top moments, which weren't needed but again, the film's heart and message is in the right place so hopefully more will seek this film out and let the other one die.
- Mar 7, 2008