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Crowdfund This: Campaign to Fund Ambitious Anthology of Independent African American Cinema From 1916-1944

Crowdfund This: Campaign to Fund Ambitious Anthology of Independent African American Cinema From 1916-1944

Considering conversations we’ve long had on this blog about efforts to collect the lot of “black films” from yesteryear (especially those considered *lost* to history, unseen or rarely screened publicly) and making them widely-accessible in one complete set, digitally restored (HD) and remastered, this is one message, one campaign that S&A certainly approves of. 

Coincidentally, starting this Friday, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, kicks off its own groundbreaking series, “Tell It Like It Is: Black Independents in New York, 1968 – 1986,” programmed by Michelle Materre and Jake Perlin, and co-presented by Creatively Speaking. The below collection from Kino Lorber will cover the years 1914 to 1944. 

I recall attending an Oscar Micheaux celebration some years ago, and in speaking to the curators, learned the challenges they faced in hunting down prints of as many of his films as they could get their hands on. It was interesting to learn of how scattered ownership of each was. Not rights specifically, but rather where each physically resided. For example, a print for one of his films (I can’t recall which title it was right now) was tracked down all the way in France, and, as I remember, it was the only one in existence.  

So this is all quite ambitious!

I’d love to see an effort like this for continental African cinema – past through present. It would be quite an undertaking. Prints for those films would be even harder to find.

Video pitch and further details follow:

On Wednesday, February 4, Kino Lorber will launch a 45-day fund-raising campaign to support its most ambitious archival release yet undertaken.

The four-Bluray collection “Pioneers of African-American Cinema” will showcase the works of such influential figures as Oscar Micheaux, Spencer Williams, Zora Neale Hurston, James and Eloyce Gist, and others to be confirmed, “Pioneers” will include eight feature films, several shorts, fragments of “lost” films, and rare documentary footage. Context will be provided by videotaped interviews with film historians, performing artists, archivists, and filmmakers, who will discuss the history and enduring influence of these nearly-forgotten innovators.

Pioneers of African-American Cinema” is one of the flagship projects of Kickstarter’s new Film Preservation and Restoration Initiative, and was announced at a live event Thursday, January 29. A partial list of films and other details of the campaign are listed on the project’s Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kinolorber/pioneers-of-african-american-cinema

The $35,000 target goal will support the creation of HD masters (transferred from archival elements preserved by several leading archives, including the Library of Congress); the production of interviews, the recording of new scores for the silent films.Kino Lorber will offer a wide range of perks to reward contributors to the campaign, including copies of the finished four-disc box set, bundle packages of select Blu-rays and DVDs from the Kino Lorber library, and an exclusive spin session with DJ Spooky.

Working with contemporary classical, hip-hop, and techno artists, executive producer Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) will curate contemporary musical scores for the silent films encouraging viewers to look at film history with fresh eyes and ears, and perceive a more seamless transition between the history of film and our modern digital media era. Miller has had an abiding interest in historical film, as evidenced in his innovative remix of D.W. Griffith’s infamous The Birth of a Nation. [Note: For those who prefer a more traditional viewing experience, historically-accurate keyboard scores will also be provided.]

Pioneers of African-American Cinema” is curated by Charles Musser (Yale University, co-editor of “Oscar Micheaux and His Circle: African-American Filmmaking and Race Cinema of the Silent Era”) and Jacqueline Najuma Stewart (University of Chicago, author of “Migrating To the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity”), who will edit a 40-page booklet of program notes.

The series producer is Bret Wood, who supervises Kino Lorber’s archival releases, and whose work includes Stanley Kubrick’s “Fear and Desire,” Orson Welles’s “The Stranger,” “Edison: The Invention of the Movies,” “The Erich von Stroheim Collection,” “Gaumont Treasures,” and “Griffith Masterworks.”

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