One in a Crowd: Pioneers of African-American Cinema

Kino Lorber to curate remarkable historical document

"The Flying Ace", one of the many overlooked but pivotal titles in the upcoming Pioneers of African-American Cinema set

There are many lost and secret corners of cinema. With their next big restoration project, DVD house Kino Lorber aims to give a whole swath of lost movies and a pantheon of early filmmakers their due respect with Pioneers of African-American Cinema, a four-disc retrospective of a little-known part of American movie history.

This was a scene led by outsiders in cities away from Hollywood, where African-American creatives were restricted to dancing parts, sidekick roles, and racist depictions of tribal natives. As for writing and directing, that was an impossible dream, so instead some took matters into their own hands, and made films on their own terms. Many were the earliest of the true regional indies, such as Detroit-based director and union activist Richard Maurice, and the first major independent African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, whose textured depictions of race relations in the era of Jim Crow were critical and commercial successes.

However, many of these films have either been lost or simply ignored, and Kino Lorber will collect eight of them, including Micheaux's Within Our Gates, and rare documentaries such as Commandment Keeper Church by Their Eyes Were Watching God novelist Zora Neale Hurston. There will also be films by white directors featuring African-American casts, such as the work of Richard E. Norman, whose Jacksonville-based Norman Studios undermined racial stereotypes in films and serials such as the two-fisted adventure The Flying Ace.

The films are already in archives, along with a large number of shorts and partial fragments of lost titles. However, many are in poor condition, and long overdue for restoration. Kino Lorber aims to spend the next year creating new masters of all these films and preparing for a February 2016 release date, just in time for Black History Month.

That's where the crowdfunding comes in. Not only will the films be restored and preserved, but there will also be new video interviews and newly commissioned essays, intended to put these movies back into their cultural and historical contexts.

Since many of these films date back to the silent era, the studio is working with DJ Spooky (aka cultural and and civil rights activist, and SXSW Eco speaker, Paul D. Miller) to curate contemporary scores for the entire project. There will also be historically accurate keyboard scores for the traditionalists in the audience.

You can contribute via their Kickstarter page, or found out more about the project at www.kinolorber.com/pioneers


One in a Crowd is a series intended to showcase Texas film and tech projects that are crowdfunding their way to a goal, be it distribution, a prototype, or production costs. If you have a project that we should know about, email us at filmflam@austinchronicle.com.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More One in a Crowd
Watch Austin Horror
Watch Austin Horror "Conversion Therapist" Raise Its Funds Sunday Night
Short film has last-ditch backer party tonight (with queso)

Richard Whittaker, June 24, 2018

The Best Little Arthouse in Texas
The Best Little Arthouse in Texas
The Austin Film Society expands and asks you to help

Marjorie Baumgarten, Nov. 4, 2016

More Pioneers of African-American Cinema
Exploring the Auteurs of Early Black Cinema
Exploring the Auteurs of Early Black Cinema
AFS screens rare and influential selections from the Pioneers of African-American Cinema

Kahron Spearman, Feb. 17, 2017

More by Richard Whittaker
Watch The First Trailer For Rooster Teeth's <i>Gen:LOCK</i>
Watch The First Trailer For Rooster Teeth's Gen:LOCK
New show starring Michael B. Jordan debuts next week

Jan. 18, 2019

Sundance, Slamdance, SXSW, and More Austin Film News
Sundance, Slamdance, SXSW, and More Austin Film News

Jan. 18, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

One in a Crowd, Pioneers of African-American Cinema, crowdfunding, Kickstart Your Weekend, Kickstarter, Kino Lorber

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle