Pioneers of African-American Cinema

Watch Pioneers of African-American Cinema

  • 2016
  • 1 Season
  • 5.9  (18)

Pioneers of African-American Cinema is a groundbreaking documentary TV series that first premiered on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in 2015. The show is a compilation of a vast array of feature-length and short films by black American filmmakers from the 1910s to the 1940s. It highlights a period when African-American cinema was in its infancy, and black artists had to fight tooth and nail to make their films.

The show is a collection of seven episodes that focus on different aspects of African-American cinema, highlighting the struggles and triumphs of black filmmakers of the time. Each episode is a cinematic time capsule that takes the viewer on a journey through the world of black cinema in its earliest days.

The first episode introduces us to the earliest filmmakers in the African-American film industry. It features the works of legendary filmmakers such as Oscar Micheaux, Spencer Williams, and Richard Maurice, and explores the complexities of being black in America and the challenges they faced.

Episode two focuses on the rise of all-black casts in Hollywood films during the '30s and '40s. The episode celebrates the contributions of black actors such as Lena Horne, Ethel Waters, and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. It explores the barriers that these black actors faced in Hollywood and how they overcame them.

The third episode takes a closer look at the 'Race Pictures' era of African-American cinema. The era refers to the period between 1915 - 1950 when a significant number of black-owned film companies made films that specifically targeted black audiences. These films tackled issues such as racism, discrimination, and segregation, and pioneered the birth of black cinema in America.

In episode four, the focus is on the roles of black women in the film industry. It highlights the works of black female filmmakers such as Zora Neale Hurston, who, at a ripe age, made groundbreaking ethnographic films that documented various aspects of African-American life. The episode also features the works of pioneering female documentarians, including Eloyce Gist, who made numerous documentaries about black life.

The fifth episode explores the rise of black movie theaters, which catered to black audiences exclusively. These theaters provided a safe space for black people to enjoy films without encountering the racism that existed in mainstream theaters. It features interviews with those who owned or worked at these theaters, including those who managed them.

Episode six showcases the resilience and sheer determination of African-American entrepreneurs during the early days of Black cinema. It recounts the stories of trailblazers like the Johnson Family, who started the Lincoln Theatre Chain, William D. Alexander, who founded the Alexander Theatre Circuit, and Noble Johnson and his brother George, who started the Lincoln Motion Picture Company.

The last episode of Pioneers of African-American Cinema showcases the works of previously unsung black filmmakers who made low-budget independent films. These filmmakers were often relegated to the margins of the film world and did not receive recognition for their significant contributions to cinema. The episode also features black filmmakers who used their films to explore taboo subjects such as homosexuality and interracial relationships.

In conclusion, Pioneers of African-American Cinema is an essential documentary series that takes us on a breathtaking journey through the birth and development of African-American cinema. It celebrates the bravery, creativity, and resilience of black pioneers who laid the groundwork for contemporary African-American filmmakers such as Spike Lee, Ava DuVernay, and Ryan Coogler. The show provides insight into the struggles African-American filmmakers encountered and celebrates their triumphs. It is a must-watch for anyone who wants to understand the rich and diverse history of cinema in America.

Pioneers of African-American Cinema
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Hell-Bound Train
1. Hell-Bound Train
July 26, 2016
In this parable, sinners of all kinds board a hell-bound train conducted by Satan, while others choose not to board or leave and repent.
  • Premiere Date
    July 26, 2016
  • IMDB Rating
    5.9  (18)