Tonight’s film is a treat. Oscar Micheaux’s 1919 film Within Our Gates is the earliest surviving film by an African-American director. This version does not have sound, but honestly, if you put any classical or jazz album on while playing this, it will add a lot to the experience. This is my experience anyway with silent films without a soundtrack or, occasionally, a soundtrack I find terrible. I remember the first time I watched Birth of a Nation, in college, the soundtrack on this particular version was basically a hockey organ and it was almost as distracting as the horrifying racism. However, if you subscribe to The Criterion Channel, you can watch there with a new soundtrack by DJ Spooky and it’s quite good. The movie itself is also fantastic for a silent, with a great deal of narrative complexity and some extremely intense and horrifying depictions of what happens when black people challenge white supremacy over their lives. The only bad things I can say about this are the terrible glued on facial hair and a very bad ending, even though said bad ending fits into the DuBois position on race and patriotism in World War I.
Anyway, enjoy this one!