A Century Of Black Cinema
C+ Sound: C+ Extras: D Episodes: B
years, the early, hidden years of African Americans in cinema have found
themselves being rediscovered, uncovered, restored, and debated in a whole new
light. Though it covers it early on, the
two-part A Century Of Black Cinema
(1997) is a very well-rounded, entertaining, and loaded with great trailers,
behind-the-scenes footage and film clips.
You also get exceptional interviews done especially for this program.
early, alternate Black cinema is covered, the program goes full swing into the
specific presence (especially lack thereof) in the actual Hollywood studio system. It begins with the many problems of the films
of D.W. Griffith, continues with films before and after Gone With The Wind, then figures in the effect of the rise of Rock
Music and the Civil Rights movements and how TV responded.
based on the purely mechanical, referential cinematic content alone, this is a great
collection that copyrights will not allow us to see too often anymore. Also, some of the stars here have become even
more popular, successful, and hit even newer artistic highs. Add all the people who are discussed and
contribute vital information and you have a solid archival DVD.
part of this involves films that have been too forgotten, namely daring films
that are already getting some revisionist thinking like Richard Fleischer’s Mandingo (1975) and the interesting
Horror genre contributions and appearances (though they missed Ganja & Hess). When all is said and done, you realize how
vital African American contributions to cinema (outside of whatever was
highjacked and both parts skip that type of analysis) were.
is a mix of color and monochrome, with some letterboxing of film materials
towards the end of Part Two. Otherwise,
this is a full screen presentation and some of the film footage starting in the
mid-1950s is not letterboxed correctly, but that is typical of all such
documentaries, because many film prints used for promotion (especially on TV)
were often disregarding of such accuracy.
That is also the norm for most of TV history. The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound is essentially
monophonic, though later films were multi-channel by the 1950s! The audio is fine for a documentary and there
is never a problem understanding spoken words.
There are no extras, but the two-parts are so packed with information,
it will not matter as much.
result is one of the most well-rounded programs about the slow, long road to
success and glory in the cinema. It also
proves how undervalued and influential African American contributions to film
have been beyond explicit revival interest spurred on so well by Quentin
Tarantino. A Century Of Black Cinema is great history at its most
- Nicholas Sheffo