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Exhibit Featuring Earliest-Known Feature Film Made w/ Black Actors Now At MoMA (NYC). See It!

Exhibit Featuring Earliest-Known Feature Film Made w/ Black Actors Now At MoMA (NYC). See It!

An FYI for those of you in New York; I forgot to remind you of this when it actually opened on the 24th of October.

The Museum of Modern Art is presenting its discovery of previously unidentified, 101-year-old film footage, which is said to be the earliest known surviving feature film with a cast of black actors. The unedited daily rushes, which are comprised of multiple “takes” shot each day during production, were found among a trove of 900 negatives from the pioneering Biograph Studio, that were acquired by MoMA’s founding Film curator, Iris Barry, in 1939, just prior to their scheduled destruction, following the closure of Biograph’s Bronx facilities.

Though a few other movies from that period featuring black casts, such as William Foster’s “The Pullman Porter” (1913) and Hunter C. Haynes’ “Uncle Remus’ First Visit to New York” (1914) are known to have been filmed, all are considered, sadly, lost.

The discovery of the 1913 rushes launched a multi-year research project to identify the production, its actors, and its crew, led by Ron Magliozzi, Associate Curator, and Peter Williamson, Preservation Officer, Department of Film, MoMA.

Starring the legendary musical theater performer and recording artist Bert Williams, the seven reels of untitled and un-assembled rushes were filmed at virtually the same time that D. W. Griffith began “The Birth of a Nation.”

Selections from the film, along with research findings, archival materials, and film stills went on exhibit on October 24, 2014, in the Roy and Niuta Titus Theater Lobby Galleries, as part of the exhibition “100 Years in Post-Production: Resurrecting a Lost Landmark of Black Film History” which runs through March 2015. So you’ve got some time. But don’t procrastinate, and end up missing it! 

The world premiere presentation of the assembled rushes happened on November 8, 2014, in MoMA’s annual film preservation festival, which I unfortunately, missed. And sadly, there are no further plans to screen the assembled footage. But I will definitely be checking out the un-assembled rushes before they leave. Also, the film preservation festival continues through November 22, 2014; there are other restored *lost* films to see, like the banned South African Blaxploitation-inspired action film I wrote about this morning, titled “Joe Bullet,” which is scheduled to screen there this Thursday.

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