Sunday, February 02, 2014

Black History Month:
Black Shadows On A Silver Screen

Welcome to Black History Month... Or maybe this is African American Heritage Month, which I think is the same thing, just with some new PC lingo... but “African American Power!” just doesn't sound the same. It is still the shortest month of the year. And we throw in a bunch of other holidays and events, which makes that short month seem even shorter. We have Ground Hog Day and Valentines Day and Presidents Day and...

I'm not Black and I'm no historian, so I'm going to use this month to talk about some of my favorite films which just happen to star people with darker pigmentation than myself. Years ago I did a blog entry about how stupid race was, since it's just a pigment gene, the same as having blonde hair or green eyes. Why would anyone care what color your skin is? There are blonde jokes, but never in the history of our country were there drinking fountains with signs that said NO BLONDES or restrooms where there were no blondes allowed or hotels and swimming pools with a No Blondes! policy. Or even cinemas that didn't allow Blondes inside.

Yes, just as everything else in the USA was segregated up until the 1960s, so were cinemas. There were Whites Only Cinemas or cinemas with sections for African Americans (the crappy seats). This lead to an independent cinema movement where Black people made movies for Black people... which played in Black Cinemas. Many of these films are gone now, but back in 1975 there was a great documentary on the History Of Black Cinema called BLACK SHADOWS ON A SILVER SCREEN. I saw the doc back then, and was amazed at all of the types of films that were made throughout the history of cinema by and for African Americans. Westerns? Detectives film? Musicals? Adventure films? Horror films? You name the genre, and there were movies! So I wanted to start with that documentary, except... well, it seems to not be on DVD or BluRay or anything else. Last time it popped up, was on VHS!

And this doesn't surprise me, much. The weird thing about any sort of "minority cinema" is that not enough people seem to care about it to keep it available. A few years back for Black History Month I was going to post my favorite films (like this year) but right out of the gate I found that many of theme were not on DVD... just unavailable! Movies like SOUNDER, not on DVD! One of the reasons why I'm taking another stab at this is that SOUNDER *is* on DVD now...

But BLACK SHADOWS is not. It was narrated by Ossie Davis, and had amazing clips and interviews. So, my wish for Black History Month 2014 is for someone to release this on DVD and BluRay.


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