Sunday, February 25, 2007

how come I've never heard of this guy?

Oscar Micheaux

I was wandering around my twelve channels yesterday afternoon, the television a wasteland of dudely sports (golf, car racing, basketball, blah), and I ran across a short documentary on Oscar Micheaux, independent black filmmaker. The most prolific indie filmmaker of the early 20th century, who did everything from write the screenplay to casting, production, direction, distribution, and when he had to, town-to-town PR at each black theater. He produced a direct response to Griffiths' Birth of a Nation, the pro-Klan epic that is cited in nearly every film survey as the Great Birth of Cinema, though the racist narrative is usually glossed right over. He was one of the first directors to successfully jump from silents to talkies. The dude was a one-man movie industry.

How come I've never heard of this guy?

Oh, right: he was a black filmmaker. He made movies starring black people, for black people. Un-frackin-believable, the stuff that's buried skin-deep in this country.

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