“Race film” is a term coined to refer to films with Black casts created for Black audiences during the time period from 1915 to 1950. Some of these films were directed by white directors, but the form also created opportunities for Black filmmakers like Oscar Micheaux. These films also enabled Black performers—such as successful stage actors Paul Robeson and Charles Gilpin—to eschew the stereotypes and stock characters normally found in Hollywood fare in favor of better-defined characters that often lived and worked within Black communities. These films would frequently focus on the tension within these communities as well as social issues such as education and economic mobility. While more than five hundred short and feature-length race films were produced, less than one hundred survive today, and only a portion of those are silents. This summer, the Dryden Theatre presents four silent feature-length race films as they were meant to be seen—on film, with an audience, with live accompaniment.
Events in this Series
Race Films This key work of the Black silent period tells the provocative tale of the downward spiral of Joe Morgan (Charles Gilpin), a man who turns to alcohol for escape, and soon, completely out of control, devastates his friends and family in a series of violent explosions. Live piano accompaniment by Philip Carli.
Race Films In this classic silent film, maverick African American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux tackles the upheaval of Reconstruction after the American Civil War. Jasper Landry (William Stark), a Black sharecropper, is framed for the murder of a wealthy white planter and finds himself on the run from a lynch mob.