105 years ago this year, the birth of Black independent cinema commenced when Oscar Micheaux released his silent feature The Homesteader. While that 1919 film, along with most of the pioneering director’s silent work, has been lost, 17 of Micheaux’s films, including seven new restorations, are now coming to theaters with Kino Lorber’s new retrospective Oscar Micheaux and the Birth of Black Independent Cinema. Presented in partnership with the Library of Congress, the retrospective kicks off on May 3 at Film Forum before touring to other cities nationwide, and we’re pleased to exclusively launch the trailer. Kino Lorber will also release the Micheaux collection on home video later this year.

One of the earliest filmmakers to depict the Black American experience with nuance and depth, Oscar Micheaux directed more than 40 films between 1919 and 1948, working in both the silent and talkie era, exploring a range of complex, often taboo subjects that included religious hypocrisy, interracial marriage, police violence, and lynching, frequently with all-Black casts and producers. Micheaux’s films were also the first made by a Black filmmaker to be shown in white cinemas, and they were often hugely successful, with Micheaux working directly with theater owners to finance, distribute, and market them. 

The series features his earliest surviving feature Within Our Gates (1920), which is considered his most provocative, controversial film, with sequences deemed so incendiary that the film was repeatedly cut by censors, until the Library of Congress restored the film as close to the original as possible in 1992. A major additional highlight is a live performance of the original score for Body and Soul (1925), which featured Paul Robeson’s first on screen performance, by DJ Spooky on May 4.

Watch the exclusive trailer below and get tickets here.

“Oscar Micheaux and the Birth of Black Independent Cinema” takes place May 3-9 at Film Forum and will tour cities nationwide.

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