The Oscar Museum vindicates the African-American cinema that Hollywood forgot for decades

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is located in the city of Los Angeles (EFE)

From the first productions of “racial cinema” for segregated theaters in the 1920s to the success of the blaxploitation in the 70s, Afro-American cinema is the protagonist of an exhibition in which The Museum of the Film Academy remember the stars and directors forgotten by the big Hollywood studios. under the title of Regeneration: film noir 1898-1971the hollywood academy opens this Sunday an ambitious journey through the hidden history of the seventh art at a time when a good number of filmmakers worked independently, sometimes clandestinely, to shoot stories that reflected the black community in the United States.

“African-Americans have been present in the cinema since its very beginning. Now, for the first time, we can admire its history in all its richness and exuberance”, affirmed the director and producer Ava Du Vernay (selma), during the presentation of the exhibition.

Despite what a first description might suggest, the museum has tried to move away from pure political vindication in the collection of scenes, posters, scripts and costumes that it has put together. The tour opens with a kiss. the one they recorded Saint-Sutlle Y gertie brown for a scene from the short Something good – Black kissof 1898, considered the first display of affection between an African-American couple shot on film. The shy show of affection between the two interpreters marked a turning point when it came to representing the African-American population without the stereotypes and prejudices that prevailed at the time. And although the film fell into oblivion, in 2016 a copy was found in the US and later another in Norway.

The exhibition on Afro-American cinema is entitled "Regeneration: Film Noir.  1898-1971" (EFE)
The exhibition on Afro-American cinema is entitled “Regeneration: Black Cinema. 1898-1971” (EFE)

From then on, a genre emerged, known as “racial cinema”, by which independent production companies began to shoot films specifically for African-American audiences. The first company that opted for this type of tape, The Lincoln Motion Picture, opened in Los Angeles in 1916, “outside the Hollywood studios” and seeking financing in alternative ways, he reminded EFE Raul Guzmanone of the curators of the museum. “They were shown in independent theaters or at special times for African-American viewers. Also in churches and community centers. They became very popular,” he added.

In the midst of racial segregation, the plots of many of these films told stories of overcoming such as The colored American who wins his lawsuit (1916), whose protagonist was a freed slave who bought his owner’s land, but also fulfilled one of the main functions of cinema: escape. “There were many themes: dramas, mysteries, horror movies… and a great interest in religious-type plots. They also showed more complex characters than those that appeared in Hollywood cinema”, explained the curator. However, the poor conservation of many of the celluloid has led to promotional posters being, in most cases, the only sign that this type of cinema existed.

The sample "Regeneration: film noir 1898-1971" explores the Afro-American visual culture of the 20th century (EFE)
The exhibition “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971” explores the Afro-American visual culture of the 20th century (EFE)

Sidney Poitierthe first black actor to win the Oscar for best actor for lilies of the fieldin 1964, also has an important place in the tour. His victory, in the midst of the fight for Civil Rights, coincided with a stage in which the big studios saw their monopoly disappear in favor of television, while the purchasing power and freedom of the black community increased. Thus, in the early 1970s, the blaxploitationY boom with which films directed by and starring black filmmakers began to enjoy higher budgets, promotion and commercial exhibition, thanks to promoters such as parks gordon, Melvin Van Peebles Y Ossie Davis.

The exhibition fits in with the tone of a museum, inaugurated a year ago, in which the institution in charge of delivering the Oscars not only celebrates its most successful films, but also recognizes its mistakes, embarrassments or unfairly ignored works.

Portraits of great African-American men and women of the United States cinema during the 20th century (EFE)
Portraits of great African-American men and women of the United States cinema during the 20th century (EFE)

Other galleries remember the names of people like josephine bakerthe first black actress of color to star in a blockbuster (mermaid of the tropicsin 1927), or the nicholas brotherswhose dance for stormy weather (1943) is considered one of the greatest musical numbers in film history. “Since we began to prepare the galleries, it was always important to rescue people from the cinema who were forgotten,” he said. Guzman.

Source: EFE.

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