Among the most fascinating chapters of film history is that of the so-called “race films” that flourished in the 1920s - ‘40s. Unlike the “black cast” films produced within the Hollywood studio (such as Stormy Weather or Green Pastures), these films not only starred African Americans but were funded, written, produced, directed, distributed, and often exhibited by people of color. Entrepreneurial filmmakers such as Oscar Micheaux, Spencer Williams, and Richard D. Maurice not only built an industry apart from the Hollywood establishment, they also cultivated visual and narrative styles that were uniquely their own. Defying convention and operating outside the studio system, these filmmakers were the forefathers (and -mothers) of the French New Wave, the L.A. Rebellion, and the entirety of American indie cinema. Anything but imitative, these Pioneers of African-American Cinema were purely innovative.
Curated by film historians Charles Musser and Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, and presented by executive producer DJ Spooky, Pioneers of African-American Cinema will showcase not only the works of MIcheaux and Williams, but lesser-known filmmakers such as James and Eloyce Gist, as well as rarely-seen footage shot by writer Zora Neale Hurston. It will also include selections of “race films” made by white directors, such as Richard E. Norman and Frank Peregini. Without a doubt, it will be the most comprehensive collection of early African-American cinema ever assembled.
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After the triumphant success of his true-life Arctic adventure Nanook of the North (1922), director Robert J. Flaherty journeyed with his wife Frances and their children to the South Seas island of Savai'i to capture on film the exotic lifestyles of the Samoan people.
It was in a 1926 review of Moana that the word "documentary" was first used in a cinematic context (John Grierson commented that the film had "documentary value"). While Moana may not have been a documentary in the purest sense of the word—the Flahertys "cast" the leading roles and required them to wear traditional clothing, and restaged certain rituals that had, by 1923, already become obsolete—what the filmmakers achieved was even greater. The Flahertys resurrected the recently vanished customs of the Samoan people while they still lingered in the minds of the elders, and dramatized these struggles for survival just before modernization permanently altered the cultural landscape of the island.
In 1975, the Flahertys' daughter Monica ventured back to Savai’i, with documentarian Richard Leacock, to record a new audio track comprised of the sounds of the island and voices in the regional dialect—completed in 1980 and released as Moana With Sound. This edition of Moana With Sound, restored by Bruce Posner and Sami van Ingen (great-grandson of the Flahertys), marks the first time Monica's soundtrack has been married to a pristine 35mm print of Moana and allows the landmark motion picture to be seen—and heard—in its full glory.
Director: Robert Flaherty, Frances Hubbard Flaherty
Subject: Classic Films
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Length: 98 min
Worldwide Rights Available in HD
Restoration of Moana with Sound
MOANA WITH SOUND: A Short History