This collection of the works of America's legendary first African-American filmmakers is the only one of its kind. Funded in part by a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, the packaged set includes no fewer than a dozen feature-length films and nearly twice as many shorts and rare fragments. Subject matter includes race issues that went unaddressed by Hollywood for decades.
* Curated by Charles Musser (Yale University) and Jacqueline Najuma Stewart (University of Chicago). Executive producer: Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky
* New digital restorations of over a dozen feature films, plus shorts, fragments, trailers, documentary footage, archival interviews and audio recordings
* Contemporary interviews with historians and film preservationists
* 80-page booklet with essays and detailed film notes
* Musical scores by DJ Spooky, Max Roach, Alloy Orchestra, Samuel Waymon, Makia Matsumura, Donald Sosin and others
* Theatrical runs in New York, Seattle, DC and more
* Five-disc Blu-ray or DVD edition released July 2016
* UK video release Fall 2016 (British Film Institute)
* Produced in association with the Library of Congress, with the cooperation of the British Film Institute, George Eastman Museum, Museum of Modern Art, National Archives, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Southern Methodist University, and the UCLA Film & Television Archive
Disk-by-Disk breakdown of packaged set:
Disc One (Total Running Time 282 minutes): Two Knights of Vaudeville Ebony Film Co., 1915. 11 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin Mercy the Mummy Mumbled (BLU-RAY ONLY) Ebony Film Co., 1918. 12 minutes. Music by the Alloy Orchestra. A Reckless Rover Ebony Film Co., 1918. 14 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin. Within Our Gates Oscar Micheaux, 1920. 73 minutes. Music by Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky. The Symbol of the Unconquered: A Story of the KKK Oscar Micheaux, 1920. 59 minutes. Music by Max Roach. By Right of Birth Lincoln Motion Picture Co., 1921. 4 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin.Body and Soul Oscar Micheaux, 1925. 93 minutes. Music by Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky. Screen Snapshots (Micheaux footage, 1920, 1 minute) Bonus: An Introduction (7 minutes) Bonus: The Films of Oscar Micheaux (8 minutes)
Disc Two (Total Running Time – 259 minutes): RegenerationRichard E. Norman, 1923. 11 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin.The Flying Ace Richard E. Norman, 1928. 65 minutes. Music by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. Ten Nights in a Bar RoomCPFC, 1926. 64 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin. Rev. S.S. Jones Home Movies Rev. Solomon Sir Jones, 1924-1926. 16 minutes. Music by Andrew Simpson. The Scar of Shame Frank Peregini, 1929. 86 minutes. Music by Makia Matsumura Bonus: The Color Line (5 minutes) Bonus: Ten Nights in a Bar Room – An Introduction (4 minutes) Bonus: About the Restoration (8 minutes)
Disc Three (Total Running Time – 253 minutes): Eleven P.M.Richard Maurice, 1928. 60 minutes. Music by Rob Gal. Hell-Bound Train James and Eloyce Gist, 1930. 50 minutes. Restored by S. Torriano Berry. Music by Samuel D. Waymon.Verdict Not Guilty James and Eloyce Gist, 1934. 8 minutes. Restored by S. Torriano Berry. Music by Samuel D. Waymon.Heaven-Bound Travelers (BLU-RAY ONLY) James and Eloyce Gist, 1935. 15 minutes. Restored by S. Torriano Berry. Music by Samuel D. Waymon. The Darktown Revue Oscar Micheaux, 1931. 18 minutes. The Exile Oscar Micheaux, 1931. 78 minutes.Hot Biskits Spencer Williams, 1931. 10 minutes.
Disc Four (Total Running Time – 272 minutes): The Girl from Chicago Oscar Micheaux, 1932. 70 minutes. Ten Minutes to Live Oscar Micheaux, 1932. 58 minutes. Veiled AristocratsOscar Micheaux, 1932. 48 minutes. Birthright Oscar Micheaux, 1938. 73 minutes. Bonus: Veiled Aristocrats Trailer (4 minutes) Bonus: Birthright Trailer (4 minutes) Bonus: We Work Again(BLU-RAY ONLY) – WPA Documentary (1937, 15 minutes)
Disc Five (Total Running Time – 243 minutes): The Bronze Buckaroo Richard Kahn, 1939. 58 minutes. Zora Neale Hurston Fieldwork Footage (excerpt) Zora Neale Hurtston, 1928. 3 minutes. Commandment Keeper Church, Beaufort South Carolina, May 1940 (excerpt) Zora Neale Hurston, 1940. 15 minutes. The Blood of Jesus Spencer Williams, 1941. 56 minutes. Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A. Spencer Williams, 1946. 60 minutes. Moses Sisters Interview Pearl Bowser, 1978. 32 minutes. Bonus: Texas Tyler Promo Film with Ossie Davis (1985, 6 minutes) Bonus: The Films of Zora Neale Hurston (2 minutes) Bonus: The Films of Spencer Williams (7 minutes) Bonus: The End of an Era (4 minutes)
Available from Indiana University Press: Oscar Micheaux and His Circle
African-American Filmmaking and Race Cinema of the Silent Era
Pearl Bowser, Jane Gaines, and Charles Musser, Editors and Curators
Great job with the Pioneers bluray collection. Ordered it for the Pratt library and am teaching the Zora Neale Hurston and Hellbound Train in my hybrid cinema class. Students are getting more diverse every year and showing the same old white people movies year in and year out and pretending like that was the only cinema that existed feels kind of trumpian....
"The wonderful legacy of African-American filmmaking is largely unknown to even the most passionate film buffs. This landmark boxed set marks the first serious effort devoted to collecting and preserving feature films and shorts produced for black audiences, mostly made by African-American filmmakers, between 1915 and 1946. Independent director-producer Oscar Micheaux, the most prolific black filmmaker of his day, directly confronted race and racism in such movies as Within Our Gates (1920), which broaches the then-taboo subjects of miscegenation and lynching; The Symbol of the Unconquered (1920), Micheaux’s response to Birth of a Nation; andBirthright (1938). This compilation includes nine features and one short from Micheaux, including his most famous film Body and Soul (1925), starring Paul Robeson in his film debut. Also included here are two feature films and a short by actor-director Spencer Williams, including his hugely successful directorial debut The Blood of Jesus (1941). The scope of the set embraces drama, slapstick comedy, music, adventure, and documentary, with the latter represented by Zora Neale Hurston's landmark ethnographic films chronicling life in rural African-American communities. Other highlights include The Flying Ace (1926), with its black aviator hero; The Bronze Buckaroo (1939), featuring longtime Duke Ellington singer Herb Jeffries as a singing cowboy; and the amateur films of African-American evangelists James and Eloyce Gist, whose allegorical dramas combine religious and folklore imagery with messages of faith. Arguably the most historically important home video release of the past few years, this excellent collection (the Blu-ray edition includes four exclusive shorts) features extras including numerous interviews with historians and archivists, as well as an 80-page booklet. Highly recommended. Editor's Choice." (Four stars)
"Pioneers Of African-American Cinema is also hugely impressive. No wonder Martin Scorsese is proudly touting this set with a quote on the front of it: this is an historic release. Yes, it’s important and scholarly and worthy of praise. But with a dozen feature length films and more than 20 shorts and fragments, just a small sampling makes clear that it’s damn entertaining. Paul Robeson is just one of the many notable names appearing in or contributing to the wide range of movies, including melodramas, westerns, comedies, musicals and more."
"This very special collection illuminates one of the most fascinating and unjustly neglected corners of American movie history. Every film included in Pioneers of African-American Cinema has been lovingly restored, and every one is essential viewing."
"From the perspective of cinema history — and American history, for that matter — there has never been a more significant video release than 'Pioneers of African-American Cinema.'”
"The new five-disk set 'Pioneers of African-American Cinema' (Kino Classics) is a landmark in the history of the art form..."
"'Pioneers of African-American Cinema' is an essential and groundbreaking Blu-ray set. It's more than worthy to be considered one of the most important and valuable releases of the year, as it brings to light an important aspect of black and cinema history that must not be forgotten or ignored."
"One of the year’s most exciting and historically significant archival projects"
THE BOSTON HERALD
"Fascinating cinematic history...a look at independent cinema before that term came to suggest movies that would be film festival favorites at Sundance, Telluride and elsewhere."
RogerEbert.com (Blu-ray review):
"one of the most important and valuable releases of the year"
"This is an historic release. ...for all its landmark status it’s a pleasure to report that your first real response will simply be pleasure...No wonder Martin Scorsese is proudly touting this set with a quote on the front of it: this is an historic release."
"Kino Lorber's Pioneers of African-American Cinema set is ready to dazzle film buffs with its extraordinary archive of rarely seen cinematic treasures."
"Starting in 1915 and going through the early 1940's this set not only gives film buffs a chance to see what movies African-Americans were making, but also to see what they had to say about their society....This is a great collection.... Highly Recommended."
"The new box set is both a necessary contextualization of a cinematic movement and a counter-narrative to American film history."
"I was blown-away by this package and watched transfixed hour after hour... Very strongly recommended - especially to fans who may not be initially interested - there is an absolute treasure-trove of value here."
"This collection of films is a must own for cinephiles, and a worthwhile purchase for those with other sociological interests."
IN THESE TIMES
"Rough, passionate and unconcerned with Hollywood conventions, these films constitute a bedrock of pre-civil rights era culture...A fastidious and earnest piece of history-keeping, with a plethora of newly commissioned essays, documentaries and musical scores."
2016 Film Heritage Award - National Society of Film Critics