Race Film : The Great And Only Essay

Better Essays

Chapter One
Race Films as a Genre in American Cinema
“Most people pronounced his last name ‘Mee-show,’ though some who knew him insist it was ‘Mi-shaw.’ The correct pronunciation of his name is only the beginning of the ambiguities and mysteries associated with Oscar Micheaux”
Patrick Mulligan—Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only: The Life of America 's First Black Filmmaker

From the very beginning of the early stages in American cinema, African Americans had a presence on the silver screen. The twentieth century created a new era of cinema that consisted of films produced for and targeted to an all-Black audience. “Race films” which existed in the United States for over thirty years (1913-1948), were films produced by African Americans that focused on Black themes and highlighted the talents of African American directors, producers, scriptwriters, and actors.
However, according to African American film scholar Thomas Cripps, these early films were not truly Black because their function, more or less, were to enlighten and mollify White people’s curiosity concerning Black culture. The argument presented by Cripps creates an opportunity for speculation on how to categorize a well-known group of films about Black people that in most cases included the participation of White filmmakers. How do we define the term “race film”? Moreover, can these films be considered a “genre” or are they imitations of similar narratives produced by White filmmakers such as comedies,

Get Access