Racists learn that the land a negro owns lies over a vast oil field, and threaten his life when he refuses to sell.Racists learn that the land a negro owns lies over a vast oil field, and threaten his life when he refuses to sell.Racists learn that the land a negro owns lies over a vast oil field, and threaten his life when he refuses to sell.
Director Oscar Micheaux made the most of a low budget, and his story telling is quite good, switching back and forth between characters and keeping up a good pace. The scenes between Iris Hall and Walker Allen, who become unexpected neighbors when her character sets out to claim inherited land, are not a sweeping romance, but they're strong nonetheless. Him finding her in the woods standing disconsolate before a tree, her dreaming of him in the night, and the two of them in each other's arms, confronting another aspect of race - these are all very nice moments.
Perhaps more importantly, I loved how the film was not one-dimensional, and broached the topic of racism within the community. A man of mixed-race who has passed for white in the film is especially hard on black people regardless of how light-skinned they are, instead of being sympathetic to them. It's like he's made it into the 'club' and wants to make sure no one else does. In this I see some of the brutal honesty Micheaux showed us with some of the characters in 'Within Our Gates,' and also just how arbitrary and ridiculous racism is. If your skin tone is a few shades too dark or you're otherwise detected for black, you're a lower form of being. You sleep in the barn, and you best stay in line or else the Klan may descend upon you.
I see this as an important, powerful film, particularly if you can see it through the lens of a minority at the time it was made. It's sad to me that's average rating as of this writing (3.1 Letterboxd, 5.7 IMDb), is on a par with 'The Birth of a Nation' (2.6 Letterboxd, 6.4 IMDb), even if one factors in Lillian Gish, the production value of a big studio, and the considerably higher budget ($110,000 vs. shoestring) for the latter.
- Oct 22, 2019