Film series to accompany Black cinema exhibit

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Wave Staff Report

LOS ANGELES — A film series organized to accompany an exhibition on Black cinema that begins next month at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has been announced by museum officials.

The series will begin Aug. 25 with the world premiere of a new restoration of “Reform School,” a 1939 film that starred Louise Beavers.

The film series is meant to accompany “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971,” an exhibit which opens a nearly eight-month run at the museum Aug. 21. The exhibit is designed to expand the understanding of U.S. film history by highlighting the work of African-American filmmakers, including those who worked independently of the Hollywood studio system, museum officials said.

The film series accompanying the exhibit will run through Sept. 29 and will feature more than 20 screenings programmed by Bernardo Rondeau, senior director of film programs for the Academy Museum.

The series will cover the same 70-plus year span of the exhibit, from cinema’s infancy in the 1890s to the early 1970s, showcasing silent era pioneers such as writer-producer-director Oscar Micheaux’s dramas to the groundbreaking allegories of Spencer Williams and the independently produced, genre-defying works of innovators such as Melvin Van Peebles.

Audiences also will be introduced to stars largely unknown to mainstream moviegoers — Ralph Cooper, Clarence Brooks, and Francine Everett — alongside iconic screen legends Paul Robeson, Josephine Baker, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Lena Horne and others.

“It’s been an amazing journey arriving to this first chapter of our film programming to complement the game-changing exhibition ‘Regeneration: Black Cinema, 1898–1971,’ which offers a more expansive version of American film history,” Rondeau said. “The screening series will offer audiences the chance to discover the films highlighted in ‘Regeneration,’ hopefully deepening their experiences of the exhibition.

“It is incredible to be able to present films that have not been seen in decades, and I am thankful to our partners, especially the Academy Film Archive for their tremendous efforts in rediscovering and restoring a number of these films making them available like never before to new audiences.”

Other films that will be screened as part of the series are “The Flying Ace,” a 1936 film about a World War I pilot, even though there were no Black pilots in World War I; “The Emperor Jones,” a 1933 film starring Paul Robeson; “Princess Tam Tam,” a 1935 film starring Josephine Baker; and “Murder in Harlem,” a 1935 film directed and produced by Micheaux.

The series also will feature “No Way Out,” Sidney Poitier’s first film; “Stormy Weather;” “Native Sons;” “Odds Against Tomorrow;” “A Raisin in the Sun:” and “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” Melvin Van Peebles’s second feature film in 1971.

The museum’s exhibit, “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898–1971,” explores the visual culture of Black cinema from its early days to just after the civil rights movement. The exhibition offers an in-depth look at Black participation in American filmmaking, highlighting the work of African-American filmmakers.

The exhibit is co-organized by Doris Berger, senior director of curatorial affairs for the Academy Museum; and Rhea L. Combs, director of curatorial affairs for the National Portrait Gallery.

The exhibit received the 2018 Sotheby’s Prize, which honors museum exhibits that break new ground by exploring overlooked or underrepresented art history.

“Regeneration” was funded by major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Academy Museum is the largest museum in the United States devoted to the arts, sciences and artists of moviemaking. It opened last September on Wilshire Boulevard.

Exhibition galleries are open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

For more information on “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971” or the accompanying film series visit academymuseum.org.

 

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