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“Through contemporary eyes, the static shots and urban milieus of Black Girl seem to solidify Sembène’s filmmaking as an aesthetic neighbor to the emotionally-walloping neorealism of the Italian De Sica. Black Girl may not evoke the immediate adoration of something as universally beloved as De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves, although the latter film’s deft interweaving of personal-is-political social commentary with the rueful, everyday messiness of the lives of the marginalized working class began a storytelling tradition that is gloriously carried on by Sembène. Black Girl has all the skillful stylistic simplicity of your typical piece of neorealism but also packs a sharper bite and it’s electrifying to watch Sembène craft a twisty drama with the piano-chord tautness of a thriller that is nonetheless coated in such a rare and wryly intimate form of humanity.”

Read more: OUSMANE SEMBÈNE’S BLACK GIRL IS ONE OF THE YEAR’S MOST IMPORTANT CINEMATIC EVENTS by Matthew Eng

npr.org
Restored 'Race Films' Find New Audiences
Some of the earliest movies by African-American filmmakers from the 1910s through 1940s languished in film archives over the years on poor-quality film prints. Now some have been digitally restored.
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Gay Desire in Film: A Valentine’s Day Celebration

An Edwardian Color Film Hiding In Plain Sight

A couple months ago, I made a post about a little bit of film history hiding in plain sight in a documentary… and much to my surprise, it happened again!

I was watching a documentary on the Hope Diamond and this little clip caught my eye:

Notice the localized flickering, and the slow motion. I did some contrast correction, and then tinted the frames in alternating red-cyan, and then this happened -

Another bit of Kinemacolor film hiding in a documentary! The way this worked was that the camera had an alternating red-green filter, and shot at twice the usual speed of 16 frames per second. The filtered black and white film was screened with an identical filter in the projector, also at twice the regular speed, creating a color picture… albeit with some rather nasty flickering. Technicolor this ain’t, but it gives an idea of the what the scene really looked like.

Given the history of the company, this clip dates back to at least 1914. I gotta watch more documentaries about the era.

History Time!

I said I would, so today I’m going to talk to everyone about German Expressionism, a distinct cinema style that emerged from Germany in the 1920s.

But first, a brief introduction to film history:
Before the 20s filming was mostly a novelty hobby. A few feature films did exist, some pioneering complex editing techniques (like we’re used to now; in the beginning it was just one shot of something happening until the film ran out!). By the time World War I rolled around, film cameras were used mostly to make recordings of the war or were dropped altogether (people quickly saw the use of film for propaganda reasons). But after the war ended, it became more of an art form and was really used for self-expression.

Now for a brief look into German history:
World War I was settled through the Treaty of Versailles, which made Germany responsible for paying back all the war debts to France and England. Germany was driven into economic ruin and debt and closed its borders in a period of isolation. 

Classic German Expressionism arose from the anguish of the people. Their money was worthless and they felt isolated and trapped within Europe. 

Sets like this (from the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, dir. Robert Weine, 1920) were common in Expressionist films. They were shot at low, odd angles with a high contrast between very light and very dark. The sets themselves were very Tim Burton-esque, being odd and distorted. Nothing seemed real, but this was reality in the film: dark and twisted.

(From Nosferatu, dir. F.W. Murnau, 1922)
German Expressionism also uses a lot of shadows and silhouettes to build an eerie kind of suspense and thrill, making it the ancestor of the modern horror/thriller movie. The use of contrast and shadows also makes it a predecessor to American detective films (Film Noir), but it is most notably the birth of the horror film. 

Essentially what directors were trying to do was share to the world what the German people felt; they felt helpless and alone, gripped at the throat of the rest of Europe.

In the 1930s with the rise of the Third Reich, films became most widely used for propaganda and very few Expressionist films were being made in Germany. However, most German Expressionist filmmakers fled Europe for America and brought their ideas about film with them, allowing for these dark and suspenseful themes to become part of American cinema (examples include F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang).

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“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

We need the wisdom, leadership, and perseverance of Martin Luther King, Jr.​, now more than ever.

Here is what we can learn from Ava DuVernay’s inspirational and electrifying MLK drama Selma, by Matt Barone.

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In 1963, Sidney Poitier became the first African American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Lilies of the Field. When presenting Poitier with his Oscar statuette, the actress Ann Bancroft congratulated him with a kiss on the cheek, a gesture that caused a mild scandal among the show’s most conservative audiences. Poitier accepted his award with grace and said in his speech “…it has been a long journey to this moment.” [x]