Oldest Surviving All-Black Film

Steven W. Thrasher writes: ‘Sometimes I sit down to watch a black and white film and immediately feel depressed as I think to myself: “Everyone I am about to see is dead.” But I felt an unmitigated sense of joy – before, during and after – watching the recently restored dailies of a 101-year-old feature film with an all-black cast. Produced by Biograph Studio in 1913 and starring Caribbean-American star Bert Williams (pictured), the never-finished, never-released film (awkwardly titled Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day) is showing in the Museum of Modern Art’s 12th annual To Save and Project festival. It is a gem of a movie which moved me to tears a couple of times, but which also slapped an irrepressible smile on my face during most of its flickering frames. The film is also significant because it is the oldest film of any kind with its “daily rushes” (multiple unedited takes) intact, allowing us to see what was happening behind the scenes, including two white co-directors and a black stage manager directing an interracial cast.’

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