Nothing But a Man (1963)
Movie InfoA landmark independent film, Nothing but a Man is the first dramatic story featuring a largely black cast created for an integrated audience (the work of black filmmakers such as Oscar Micheaux was intended for audiences who patronized black-only theaters). White filmmakers Michael Roemer and Robert M. Young traveled through the South in 1962 in search of ideas for a fiction feature set during the growing turbulence of the civil rights era. Their story, based in Alabama but shot in southern New Jersey, is only tangentially related to the movement toward equality. Duff, an itinerant black railroad laborer (Ivan Dixon), romances and marries Josie, a small-town preacher's daughter (Abbey Lincoln). Duff insists on being treated with respect, but his stance is personal rather than political. After he settles down in the town with Josie, he comes up against white bosses who want to make sure he knows his place and black men such as Josie's father who don't want to rock the boat for fear of losing what little advantage they have. Duff's relationship with his own father (Julius Harris), a broken-down drunk living in Birmingham, teaches him valuable lessons about dignity and self-worth. The film was lauded at both the New York and Venice festivals but received limited release in theaters specializing in foreign and independent film. However, word of mouth in the black community (where Nothing but a Man was for years a staple on the 16 mm rental market, in the days before VCRs) and continued attention by film historians have ensured the status of Nothing but a Man as a pioneering and enduring work. ~ Tom Wiener, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for Nothing But a Man
So astute about the economic and racial politics of the Jim Crow South, and particularly about the trauma suffered by black men struggling for respectability, that it's hard to believe it was made by two white guys ...
The title almost suggests manhood as something trifling. The film, however, confirms it's a mighty hard ideal to reach.
Its historical import as a peripheral civil-rights document can't be understated.
[Roemer] and his collaborators create images and sounds, characters and situations, that embody the title's existential affirmation.
The performances are so fresh and natural - yet so subtle and delicately judged. The direction is superb in its control and the cinematography creates a gripping docu-realist vision.
In addition to its marvellous performances and perspicacious treatment of difficult themes, Nothing But a Man is a technical triumph.
As a political statement, it's wholly implicit, without a hint of the soapbox.
Roemer had little more than his wits and good intentions to work with, and that DIY attitude makes the movie reverberate like a blues chord.
It can't be overstated just how Nothing But a Man is militantly tone-deaf to the Hollywood muzak of race relations.
Audience Reviews for Nothing But a Man
I became engrossed with Nothing But a Man recently, which is the story of a young, black man in Alabama of the 1960's and his journey in becoming a strong and responsible husband and father. In a way, it feels as though you're watching a documentary. Excellent work from Ivan Dixon (Kinch...for those familiar w/ Hogan's Hero), Abbey Lincoln, Gloria Foster, Julius Harris and Yaphet Kotto with bit parts for Moses Gunn and Richard Ward.More
A man trying to make a voice while making inner changes for himself. I thought the main character's father (Harris) played an outstanding role for being an alcoholic father who never cared about his son.More
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