Within Our Gates (1920)
Movie InfoThis film is one of the earliest surviving examples of a film by an African American filmmaker. Sylvia Landry is engaged to a black soldier, but her rival Alma Pritchard arranges for him to catch Sylvia in an innocent but compromising situation. No longer engaged, she moves to the South to work as a teacher in an all-black school. When the school has financial problems, she returns to Boston to raise money for it. There, she is befriended by a white doctor, Dr. Vivian, who falls in love with her. In a flashback, her rival tells the doctor how Sylvia lost her family. Sylvia's father was unjustly accused of murder, and her parents were lynched. Micheaux was not a great artist, but his films are important because they dealt with issues that the mainstream "white" studios ignored. The only surviving print of Within Our Gates was found in an archive in Spain, and the titles had been rewritten in Spanish. When translated back to English, plot points may have been lost. On the other hand, the last third of the film is a haunting flashback to the death of Sylvia's parents. The scenes of the lynch-mob beating one man to death and hanging Mr. and Mrs. Landry are still powerful today, and the film is highly critical of blacks who betray their race to earn favor with the white dominant society. ~ Bruce Calvert, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for Within Our Gates
Though the narrative structure is somewhat choppy, director Oscar Micheaux otherwise demonstrates mastery of the silent form, using supple compositions and careful editing to amplify the characters' emotions in a manner that makes sound seem superfluous.
Within Our Gates is full of surprises, following a multitude of characters and plotlines without settling into predictable allegiances.
Audience Reviews for Within Our Gates
This is a film that will forever be famous for the fact that it is the oldest surviving film directed by an African American. It will forever be shown in retrospectives of African American cinema and as a counterpoint to D.W. Griffen?s The Birth of a Nation. It is probably destined to be more of a historical artifact than as a work of art, but is that such a bad thing? I?ve always been fascinated by history and seeing this film?s context is more than interesting enough to justify a two hour watch. But all this isn?t to say that this is a bad movie in and of itself. It?s a perfectly competent movie from a filmmaking perspective, and while the story is a bit preachy I think that?s probably fair enough, when you?re fighting against the likes of The Birth of a Nation you sort of need to shout.More
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